The custom nature of its store fixture designs means that the materials that Goebel works with are as different as their high-end retail display customers.
The company has to purchase and manage a wide variety of sheet materials, all of which need to be inventoried, stored, located and transported for cutting and processing. The more varied the materials, the more challenging and labor-intensive this process becomes
As Troy Rohach, plant manager for Goebel’s Minnetonka, Minnesota, location, explained, “If they can think of it, they’ll want it, and we have to figure out how to do it.”
Founded in 1935 as a furniture repair shop, Goebel has evolved into a respected brand in the business of high-end custom store fixtures and architectural millwork for luxury retailers. Based in Hutchinson, Minnesota, Goebel has helped to design, build, and install custom store fixtures for some of the most recognized names in luxury retail.
To meet the demands of their high-end clients, Goebel started researching ways to automate material sorting and handling in their Minnetonka plant. The way that materials were currently being handled was very labor-intensive and spatially inefficient, making productivity and efficiency difficult.
“At the time, we had a couple of older routers and all of our sheet stock was being stored vertically in racks,” Rohach said. “And on top of all that, using manual labor and a forklift system is just dangerous.”
Rohach knew that if Goebel wanted to remain competitive and reflect their commitment to continuous improvement, they needed to look at news ways to operate the high-end retail fixture plant.
After considerable research, the team narrowed the possibilities to two systems, the Homag Automation IntelliStore panel storage and handling system and a similar competing system. Ultimately, Goebel decided that Homag’s InstelliStore TLF 411 would best reflect the company’s commitment to future growth.
The IntelliStore system is suited for companies like Goebel that specialize in low batch volumes and use a wide variety of board types, colors and sizes. The IntelliStore can load, stack, retrieve, prioritize, evaluate, feed, sort and store panel materials, while simultaneously reducing labor costs, maximizing material yield, and eliminating damage to workpieces during production.
Also, the IntelliStore reduces the amount of floor space required for storage, forklift traffic, and manual material handling, something that was of importance to the Goebel team.
With the assistance and guidance of Stiles Machinery Inc., Rohach and his team carefully planned a two-week installation process that would not disrupt Goebel’s ongoing production schedule.
“We strategically planned it so that we could keep the panel saw and one CNC router in production,” Rohach said. “The ability to keep inventory in control, neat and organized is huge.”
Rohach also noted that his plant is currently only using about 25 percent of the IntelliStore’s available storage capacity. “So, there is a lot of room for future growth,” he said.
Less than a year after installation, Goebel is experiencing dramatic improvements in time, efficiency, safety and overall production flow; meeting the company’s business goals and exceeding their expectations.
“Our staff no longer has to lift heavy sheets or manually load them, it’s all done automatically,” Rohach said. “The (storage) area, which had required two or three workers, is now run by just one.”
Rohach said that additional staff has been moved to other phases of production, further increasing efficiency in those areas.
In the near future, Goebel plans to implement an ERP system from Global Shop Solutions that will integrate with the IntelliStore system, as well as add 3D modeling capabilities through SolidWorks CAD software. Ultimately, Rohach hopes to double the plant’s current production size.
“I think we could do that very easily with IntelliStore system along with the integration of another router,” he said. The The IntelliStore is part one of a multi-faceted improvement strategy that will allow the company to handle more materials, produce new types of products and increase their customer base, while simultaneously alleviating the seasonal ebb and flow of store fixture production.
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