Consistent Digitalization of Production and Filling Processes
Seat shells in football stadiums in the clubs' colors and with perfect flame protection. Auto parts that neither charge statically nor emit any odors. Food packaging with an integrated oxygen barrier to protect the perishable contents. Wherever plastics are used nowadays, the material has to have very specific properties. This is possible with the masterbatches made by Gabriel-Chemie Group, based in Gumpoldskirchen, Austria. Masterbatches are a type of concentrate in granular shape, which the customers of Gabriel-Chemie later add to natural plastics, the so-called raw polymer.
This process can best be explained by comparing it to how lemonade is made: The soft drink can be produced by mixing fruit juice, sugar and flavoring agents with water. Alternatively, you can use a syrup which contains all coloring and flavoring additives in concentrated form and then add a little bit of water in just the right proportions. This is far more convenient.
Ten Thousands of Individual Recipes
"We keep a large number of raw materials. With the production process standardized to a considerable extent, we have to combine these raw materials to make an individual product of which customers tend to make very high demands," says Helmut König, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of Gabriel-Chemie Group. For this purpose, they already have ten thousands of recipes that can be used for production. They are the family business's trade secret. In order to be able to ensure optimum control and map such a sophisticated production process, the SME opted for the comprehensive ERP solution proALPHA in 1999. With this decision, Gabriel-Chemie also paved the way to Industry 4.0.
"Of course no one called it that back then," says head of IT, Fritz Bauer. But the goals at the turn of the millennium were the same: reduced costs, increased quality, shorter delivery times and higher customer satisfaction thanks to extensive automation. As the central element for planning and controlling, proALPHA continues to lead the way here.
- Custom-made products tailored to the customers' needs
- Significant increase in quality secures pole position in market
- Delivery times reduced by up to 70 percent
- Costs cut by 20 to 30 percent
proALPHA ERP Supports Sophisticated Production Process
The groundwork for the smart factory was laid by a graphic control station, developed by Gabriel-Chemie based on proALPHA. Then the Siemens process control system was connected to the ERP system at various points. For example to the process measuring and control technology used for providing the raw polymer and for weighing the powder pigments and additives. "Today all our machines communicate with proALPHA in real time," Helmut König points out.
The production process for the individual masterbatches starts in various silos, where the most important raw polymers are stored and transported to the respective weighing and mixing stations via pipes. On the graphic control station's screen, every silo has a number which corresponds to the storage location in the Materials Management module in proALPHA. The numbers of the pipes and tubes leading to the appropriate weighing and mixing stations are also displayed here.
Once the pipes have been connected to the silos, the weighing process can start. Based on the recipe stored in proALPHA, the target quantity required is automatically delivered to a scale. proALPHA also determines which weighing process needs to be carried out using which scale.
The scales have various tolerance limits depending on how accurate the ingredients need to be weighed. This ensures both quality and reproducibility of color mixtures and end products. Once the correct quantity of the raw polymer has been moved to the mixing tank, the corresponding inventory postings are triggered in the system. After the work orders planned for a mixing machine are selected in the so-called scales cockpit, the display shows the current version of the bill of materials for the recipe. There the pigments and additives to be mixed with the raw polymer are already displayed in the corresponding quantity and the right order, so that they can be dosed without error. The quantity weighed here is also posted in proALPHA. Then the mixing process starts, after which the customized masterbatch can be filled into bags.
"Our precise weighing and mixing processes are certified by ISO standards. Our customers benefit from this since certain steps in delivery control thus become obsolete, saving them process costs," Fritz Bauer says proudly. To Gabriel-Chemie, this is a clear advantage over the competition, because not every competitor is available to provide such a service.
Helmut König, Chief Technical Officer, Gabriel-Chemie Group