Panel processing and the integration of machines and technology were discussed in a recent webcast. Broadcast recently, “Panel Processing in the 21st Century,” addresses a number of developments including panel sizing, edgebanding, material handling systems and software. Presented by Rene Fritz, Midwest sales manager at IMA Schelling America, and John Liedl, president of Eurosoft, the webcast can be heard on-demand at WoodworkingNetwork.com/webcasts.
Mass to Batch Production
“There has been a rising demand for new manufacturing technology in North America, similar to what we have seen implemented in Europe,” said Fritz. “Wood manufacturing has changed from mass production of large quantities in one style to made-to-order manufacturing, with smaller batches, often referred to as batch one productions, delivered just in time.”
In order to adjust and serve the marketplace, woodworkers require new production methods and technology to streamline processes and avoid chaos on the production floor. These include automated distribution and/or sorting of cut-to-size parts for subsequent processes such as edgebanding, drilling, assembly and more. Today manufacturers can use state of the art processing equipment in conjunction with sophisticated software for controlled data management or MES: Manufacturing Execution Software. Custom designed systems can be linked together using standard components which leads to transparency of processes and ease of control.
“On one side is the machinery and on the other side is the software that drives the machinery. Shops can operate 24/7, in a lights-out, automated way. We plan today for what we produce tomorrow. The processes can include linked storage and retrieval, and production of stacks of like material or unlike material. Sizing equipment and the panel saw are connected and integrated into the storage retrieval system,” providing speed as well as flexibility in the production line.
Software Integration Is Key
“Software is not more important than manufacturing, but it is a key element,” added Liedl. “If you take out the software the modern manufacturing line would come to a screeching halt.”
For example, Liedl noted that software plays an important role in the storage and retrieval system, which can become “self sufficient once it knows what to do.” Programming information is obtained and includes such factors as storage and label printing.
“Labels or RFID tags are essential and the glue of automation,” Liedl said. “They give every part and product an identity and make tracking possible so there are no MIA parts.”
Another “must” in an automated environment is panel saw optimization. “It also generates the data for other equipment and downstream tracking [and] needs to be synched with storage and retrieval. Parametric programming [also] adds flexibility and versatility. Software for material handling tells what goes where and the sequencing of parts, plus the building of manageable stacks to facilitate assembly and collecting parts as units for assembly.”
Liedl added, “Data comes in from an ERP engineer and other data sources and comes out as optimization. Data from the ERP needs to be connected to all and synchronized — data has to be perfect,” said Liedl, “not just ‘close enough.’”