Coil-fed punching machines: maximum efficiency in the metal sheet working
Written by Andrea Dallan
Upon arriving in June 2000, my father entrusted me with the management and growth of Dalcos, one of the companies he had founded in the meantime. He was used to working alone and I think he didn’t really know how to teach the trade to someone else. Perhaps he simply didn’t want me too close to him in Dallan.
He had recently commissioned a thesis, from the son of some friends, analyzing the roll former and punching machine market and it turned out that the punching, laser and bending machine market was ten to twenty times larger than that of roll forming machines.
The only problem was that this large market was based mainly on metal sheet-fed machines: nevertheless, we had an advantage.
We started to build the first numerically controlled coil-fed punching machines in the nineties, initially to increase the flexibility of our company’s roll formers.
Then, some customers began to ask if they could also buy these machines without roll formers, because they intended to complete the process using panel benders or other bending machines. After they bought the first one, they then bought the second and third.
The reason was that, compared to the metal sheet-fed punching machines they already had, they saved a lot of material – in some cases even 25%. Furthermore, since the process eliminated the loading and unloading of the metal sheets, they often took less than half the cycle time. In addition, Dalcos punching machines used widely available punching tools (standard – thick turret – tools) and this made the equipment very simple and cost-effective.
My father saw this new category of machines as a great opportunity and decided to focus Dalcos on this technology.
So – without knowing much about sales -, I started to tour Italy and Europe to offer machines that nobody knew anything about, from a brand that nobody knew anything about: Dalcos.
My father kept telling me it was great experience – I wasn’t so convinced of the fact at the beginning.
However, six years later, I had managed to increase Dalcos’s sales turnover from 2 to over 6 million and, today, I have to admit that it was a great result for someone with no experience in consulting, sales or project management.
In the meantime, I had married my wife Nadia and we had our first two children, Matteo and Vittoria.
During these early years, I also met someone, Giovanni Maffei, who became very important to me. It was Giovanni who, a few years later, coined the term “Zero Standard” for his production process.
Giovanni has a great special paneling company in the Parma area. He asked me for a punching machine that could be coil-fed and was parametric.
At the time, Giovanni, who created and produced his own company software, also worked with Salvagnini and every program, of every panel, was never programmed from a drawing in electronic format, but was based on mathematical rules that defined where the notches, punching marks and so on were.
Basically, the machines didn’t need a programmer, they only needed to know the parameters and the quantity of pieces via the company network. It was 2001 and Giovanni Maffei was already a pioneer of Industry 4.0.
We had nothing ready in this regard at the time. The program our machines used was very flexible, but not yet configured for parametric programming.
However, I began to discuss the request with our programmer, Domenico, who made plenty of changes to the old program and managed to find a solution.
I had no further contact with Giovanni, until I saw him in a corridor at the 2003 Lamiera sheet metal fair in Bologna.
I remember asking “Are you Signor Maffei?” and he was surprised because he didn’t expect me to remember him. After a long chat, Giovanni decided to order the first Dalcos parametric punching machine, a 1250mm wide line that – as I write – is still producing perfectly.
Giovanni began explaining how our coil-fed technology, used in this machine, is solving his main production problems.
Firstly, the high amounts of waste generated by metal sheet processing.
The panels that Giovanni produced had to adapt to the buildings where they were fitted. Therefore, the panels had to be punched from sheets using specific measurements: however, the sizes were always changing, meaning that the use of standard format sheets generated a lot of waste.
Giovanni, or rather his software, had divided production into panels with a standard width and panels with a special width.
Standard width panels accounted for more than 80 percent of the total and although they were different in length, they could be made from a coil using one hundred percent of the material.
The remaining special panels could continue to be produced from sheets: therefore, there was only 20 percent of sheet metal waste on 20 percent of production.
In short, combining sheet-fed machines with our coil-fed machine made it possible to reduce total waste from 20 to 4 percent!
The second big problem he faced was productivity. Working from sheets, the punching machine had to cut all four sides of each panel by means of punching or cutting, in addition the time spent loading the sheets and unloading the pieces – even if the machine had automatic storage.
Panel processing, from loading a panel to setting a piece down on the floor, took about 4 minutes.
Again, thanks to the analysis – which was basically a Pareto analysis – Giovanni transferred all the panels in the three standard widths to the coil-fed punching machine: that way there was no need to cut the panel along the sides, but only transversely and this operation defined the tail of one panel and the head of the next.
With just a few punches, using the coil-fed punching machine, the time needed for each of the standard panels was reduced to just over a minute, from piece down on the floor to the production of the next piece.
Since around 80 percent of the panels were standard and special panels were still produced using the sheet-fed punching machine, investing in the parametric coil-fed punching machine had increased overall productivity by about 85 percent!
Lastly, there was a third significant benefit.
Giovanni had another problem he needed to solve. Lots of panels had heights of over four meters and it was difficult, not to say impossible, to position and notch them using sheet-fed punching machines; obviously, the parametric coil-fed punching had no issues punching panels of four, six and even eight meters.
Giovanni had understood the solution to big production problems long before I even had the skills to put it forward to him.
Consequently, I felt the need to study a lot and to develop production flow analysis skills, which would allow me to help customers analyze their production processes and offer solutions capable of generating measurable benefits.
In this case: an increase in productivity, raw material optimization and time saving on machine programming!
Here is Giovanni’s account in his own words:
«I met Andrea almost twenty years ago. At the time I was working at Salvagnini and looking for a way to convince them to develop a coil-fed system when I met Andrea, who was still starting out, and Sergio, with whom I hit it off immediately.
I had introduced parametric programming to the company, which was studied and developed independently, and I was looking for a manufacturing company that could see the benefits of developing a new type of system.
It is not easy to find people who are open to innovation, but Andrea and Sergio are innovators in their industry.
Dallan’s new technology made it possible to process any order for panels that were larger than 4 meters – the limit of my sheet-fed systems – and even those over six meters. These lengths of panels made it impossible to store sheets, orders for these materials required a lot of time and moving these sheets was very difficult because they were easily damaged when being handled.
When calculating the order management time for these large panels, we literally went from hours of work to less than a minute for the product range of sheets over 4 meters! We managed – and still manage – to process orders for panels of any size practically in real time.
The warehouse costs reduced, we reduced sheet metal waste radically, we increased the quality of workmanship thanks to reducing the number of times materials were worked on and reducing the amount of handling.
We also created a new market for the production of panels over 6 meters in length that were simply unmanageable using pre-cut sheets in the warehouse, which would have generated tons of waste in any case.
Therefore: drastic reductions in delivery times, reduction or even elimination of production errors, zero damage to panels, drastic reduction in costs and significant increase in product quality.
When Andrea told me he was writing this book, I tried to explain that the benefits he focuses on most (automation, productivity, flexibility and material savings) are only a small part: the in-line production method offers much, much more.»
I want to thank Giovanni for allowing me to understand that my job was not to produce and sell systems, but to provide advice and solutions, above all.
Hence, the concepts of Efficiency and Productivity emerged for the first time, in addition, in this case, to the Flexibility of the numerical control punching process and the automation of parametric programming.
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