Anyone who thinks that automation pays off only when producing large quantities is actually missing the point. Because an automated Stopa storage system connected directly to the machinery ensures tidiness and optimizes processes, even when manufacturing small batches. Convincing proof of this comes from Schink Blechbearbeitung, located in Bad Rodach.
Günter Schink comes from a family of blacksmiths. Metal-working runs in his blood and his heart always yearned for being his own boss. At long last, in 1995, he took the plunge. He quit his job as plant manager at a furniture manufacturing company and, together with his wife Edda and son Stephan, founded his own firm: Schink Blechbearbeitung & Metallbau, located in Coburg. “It wasn’t easy to set up a business in those days,” recalls Stephan Schink. High investment requirements for the first 2.6 kW laser cutting machine and a shortage of equity made life diffi cult for the young newcomers. “It was only with the advice of a good corporate consultant, a logical business plan, and assistance rendered by the good contact we established with TRUMPF’s help that we succeeded in persuading a bank to finance the business,” explains the 43 year-old.
Our focus is on our customers
In the following years this highly involved job shop managed to build up a regular clientele. Schink supplies not only customers in the mechanical engineering, automotive, medical technology, furniture, appliance and housing sectors — but
also the tradesmen from around the corner. In addition to reliability and quality it is, above all, the willingness to change that distinguishes Schink.
“In recent years our customers’ quality requirements have become markedly more stringent. Customers take it as a given that all their parts are carefully labeled and packed. A scratch will trigger a complaint,” says Günter Schink. And they had to adapt their portfolio to the marketplace in order to remain competitive. “Nowadays a simple lasered part — perhaps with a bend — is nothing to write home about,” explains Stephan Schink. This is why the job shop currently offers complete component assemblies.
Making difficult matters simple
Many people think that automation really only makes sense in high-volume production. Stephan and Günter Schink, however, see this opinion as biased. “We work with batch sizes of from one to short series. In spite of this, we decided last year to upgrade to automated manufacturing and storage,” recounts the company’s owner, now 63 years of age. They focused their thoughts on a desire to improve quality and optimize processes. Schink’s Stopa storage system has over 180 spaces for standard sheet and a further 36 shelves for oversize sheeting measuring 4,000 × 2,000 millimeters. Both of their laser cutting machines — a TruLaser 3030 of the newest generation and an older TruLaser 3040 — are linked with a LoadMaster in the storage area. The LoadMaster gently and automatically conveys the sheets from the loading station to the pallet changer and deposits them there. “The benefits are manifold,” explains Stephan Schink. “The machine operator used to transport the sheets to the machine with a forklift truck. But he first had to find the right material in the inventory. Given the structure of the orders we receive, this occasionally meant that the machine was down during this period.”
Today automation gives the machine operator the time he needs to concentrate on his core skill.
Mistakes made when selecting or returning material to storage blocked our processes and led to discrepancies in stock levels. “Nowadays, automation gives the machine operator the time he needs to concentrate on his core skill — optimizing cutting results. And this leads to both less expense for reworking and greater customer satisfaction,” says Schink. Stock levels and material flow are controlled by a TruTops Fab Storage Module, Stopa soft ware and a PPS introduced some years ago. “When we decided to buy the Stopa storage system, the major consideration was to ensure that the interfaces between these different systems worked smoothly. And that’s what they do,” confirms a satisfied Stephan Schink.
A well-though-out relocation
Then in 2000 the Schinks moved their place of business from Coburg to Bad Rodach. In 2014 the groundbreaking ceremony was held for a new production hall which served as the back-up storage facility while the existing hall was being converted. This was necessary because the foundations in the existing building had to be beefed up to accommodate the Stopa storage system. “Then we installed the Stopa and the new TruLaser 3030. Ultimately, we moved the existing flat-bed laser machine to another spot inside the hall and connected it to the new storehouse,” recalls Stephan Schink. The whole process — from the time the order was placed until the facility was commissioned — took about five months, including relocation of the sheet stores. “This could be managed only because everybody involved worked hand in hand — a really great achievement,” Schink raves. 2014 was an intense year for the family-run operation. “But it was worth the effort,” sums up Günter Schink. The wish for ongoing optimization of material flows and improved component quality has been fulfilled. “The quota of good parts has now reached 98 percent and, in addition, furthermore we are saving lots of time and money,” he explains. However, the most important factor is that customers are satisfied. To make sure things stay that way, Günter und Stephan Schink are continuing to work on their range of services. They both agree that laser welding is definitely at the top of the agenda.
Taking on responsibility
Starting in 2005, youngsters have had the opportunity to become apprentices at Schink Blechbearbeitung, working toward their journeyman’s certificate as steel construction fitters. “We regard it as part of our responsibilities as employers to train juniors as well,” explains Stephan Schink.“We even ask kindergarten groups to pay us a visit so that even the very young ones can get a feel for metal. They are always greatly impressed by laser-based machining,” adds Günter Schink. The company is regularly on hand at apprenticeship fairs and has plenty of other ideas on how to offer something special to future apprentices — who are few and far between in the greater Coburg area. For example, last year Lukas Amberg, an apprentice at Schink’s since September 2011, participated in a competition called “Working Together”, part of a program sponsored in Bavaria to attract trainees. Their task was to design a cardboard foosball table, in collaboration with a partner school.“Our expertise is in the field of sheet metal and, even at the risk of missing that target entirely, our apprentice, together with the pupils, mastered the challenge with a metal design,” recounts Stephan Schink. Successfully, too: The foosball table from was awarded first prize for all of Bavaria.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in April 2015.