German Galvanizing Plant Invests in Compact KUKA Welding Cell to Boost Efficiency and Local Production
By bringing production back to Germany, the plant saves thousands of transportation kilometers, addresses skilled labor shortages, and fulfills new customer orders.
It is unusual for a galvanizing plant to weld steel parts. The core competence of galvanizing plants lies in hot-dip or centrifugal galvanizing to protect steel parts from corrosion. Verzinkerei Sulz, based in Sulz am Neckar in the Black Forest, employs 65 people and now also has a compact welding cell from KUKA in operation.
The KUKA KR CYBERTECH nano robot integrated in it precisely joins an octagonal prism to a compact plate of steel with the aid of the welding device. After just 90 seconds, two welding processes are completed. An employee removes the finished products and replaces them with two new ones. "One welding process takes less than a minute," enthuses Bernd D. Euschen, managing director of Verzinkerei Sulz GmbH. Depending on the type of steel base plates, Euschen calculates that 5,000 to 10,000 components are galvanized per month.
Automation brings production back to Germany
In the past, Euschen reports, these assemblies were delivered to the galvanizing plant with welds of varying quality. But there were also changing subcontractors responsible for this and sometimes welding was done by hand, sometimes with robots. For this purpose, the customer had the components transported by truck to Eastern Europe for welding. After welding, the truck transported the welded assemblies to the Black Forest, to the Sulz galvanizing plant, for galvanizing, assembly and shipping. "So our customer had to send 40 tons on the road twice a week," Euschen reports.
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The initial assessment is positive: "We had calculated that it would take 2.5 years to achieve a return on investment, but we are confident that we will have achieved this after one and a half to two years. Because the fact that we can now also weld is now bringing us additional galvanizing orders. We've been able to strengthen our core pro-cesses." In times of a shortage of skilled workers, Euschen finds that there is no way around automation for many small and medium-sized companies. "You can say quite clearly: the investment costs are manageable, but the opportunity to take the first steps with it, build up know-how and land the first good customer orders is very high."
Christoph Welle from KIWI-Automations GmbH & Co. KG has been a system partner of KUKA since 2016 and implemented the solution for the galvanizing plant: "For us as a system builder, this project is a very good pilot project to show other companies that getting started with automation does not have to be difficult. That you don't have to be inhibited, but can slowly grow into it, even as a small company." This solution also benefited from the fact that KIWI-Automations already works with many companies in the sheet metal processing industry and is very familiar with the sector. In this way, the right solu-tion was found for the Sulz galvanizing plant and its customer.