When it comes to automation there are two questions that come up: is it necessary to automate production processes of pre-stressed hollow core elements? Will there be no more people working in production if we automate?
First, we need to understand where we stand today as regards industrialisation. It all began in 1760 with the steam power mechanisation; it later developed into mass production or so-called Industry 2.0, and from that to Industry 3.0, which was the first with computers. We are now living in the 4.0 internet, data analytics and connectivity era, and are entering the mass customization era of Industry 5.0 – an era where we will be working alongside machines.
Automation is much more than robots substituting humans.
The main purpose of automation is to reduce heavy and sometimes dangerous human labour, so to make the production more efficient and safer; and (against the common belief) without wiping out the need of humans entirely. Automation is the usage of specialized machinery and computers that can produce without needing human labour. The goal is an intelligent production plant using data for an automated production, where humans only manage the machinery and don’t need to work on the product anymore.
Data and machinery driven production
Data needs to be transferred to the machines. The planning quality is way higher with automated machinery, which is connected to the right software. Fewer human resources are needed – people who are machine operators and not heavy labourers. Given the work force crisis, especially for craft jobs, less human resources needed are a benefit. Also, manpower is one of the biggest costs, which overall needs to be kept low to stay competitively relevant.
The right data usage leads to less wastage and even mistakes can be reduced, which ultimately leads to lesser complaints and more satisfied customers. Efficiency increases as well as the quality of the end-products. Efficiency is achieved with up to 50% less manpower, capable to manage different stages of the production process with less manual work and no need for extra working hours. Quality is better because automatization improves consistency and reliability. With current prices and considering the goal of sustainable production, automation is the future.
Automated machinery and software solutions are efficient tools of modern production.
There is no automation without software
Data needs to be incorporated in the production. Storage control, stack planning and productivity reports as well as design planning, are the main areas of software in a precast plant. Stack planning is essential, as a company needs to know in which order the products need to be delivered, and therefore the order in which they need to be produced. With the right software solutions, productivity reports can be implemented, which help with the analysis on how to make the plant more intelligent. This is also a benefit of detailed design planning with the newest software solutions.
Automation in the production of pre-stressed hollow core products
Enhanced machinery automation can be achieved also with a concrete delivery system with flying buckets and automatic ordering of concrete, as well as automatic unloading of concrete in the production machine. With the production machinery running automatically, the machine operator can – during production - work on other tasks.
Tracing with the plotter (marking slabs for making the cut outs) needs extreme precision. It has to be accurate to less than a millimetre and cannot be achieved by hand. Using this machine, the wheep wholes can be drilled, though making openings still needs to be done manually (for now). The sawing of the cured slabs can again be done fully automatically, which makes the production flow safer, faster, and more accurate. This results in a cleaner factory, with less people in the production area, who will work more safely and efficiently with automation.