Robots Automation is key to higher investment returns and better order planning
Sacmi Imola is specialised in mould making for rigid packaging production. To further automate and digitise its production, the Italian company invested in robotic systems from Erowa to make machining and EDM operations more efficient.
Established in Imola in 1919, today running 80 production, distribution and service companies with approx. 4600 employees in 27 countries — these are the impressive benchmark figures of the Sacmi Group. The parent company, Sacmi Imola, is home to the R&D activities and, in particular, the mould-making department for the Rigid Packaging Technologies division. Here, process automation and control are part of the philosophy.
The more than a century old company based in the famous North Italian tile region, is a leader in the design, production and development of machines and complete systems for the ceramics industry. Besides tiles this also covers sanitary installations and cutlery. However, the crown caps which close millions of beverage bottles worldwide are made by machines from the house of Sacmi. The product was invented in the 1950s and resulted in the company’s global monopoly position. Since the 2000s, solutions to the development of capsules, containers and preforms have been added to this. The core activities of the machine and mould development of Rigid Packaging Technologies take place at the same location in Imola, the heart of research and development of the entire Group.
Technology for rigid packaging
Marco Fattorini, Head of Production, is the master of the 4000 square meter mould making department for the Rigid Packaging Technologies business unit. “We employ around 90 people here and the same number of machine tools,” he explains. “We spend a total of 250,000 hours a year on high-precision machining processes in the micron range.” The company supplies multinational beverage producers and produces machines for the manufacture of capsules, preforms, containers, and also entire assembly systems and fixtures for cutting and folding safety seal tapes. “Our mould making department carries out all the machining here,” explains Marco Fattorini. “It ranges from internal and external grinding to hard turning and from high-speed milling to die-sinking and wire erosion. Additional capabilities include manual polishing, deburring and vacuum heat treatment all while maintaining quality measurement and control. With some of these processes, Erowa has become an important partner by now.”
The philosophy of total automation
“Our company recognised the present signals of the market early on and knew how to react to them accordingly,” explains Marco Fattorini. “They point in the direction of digitalisation and total automation. We’ve made this approach into an integral part of Sacmi’s entire operation, from design to sale and beyond.” Thus Erowa’s manufacturing philosophy and products are an excellent match for the company’s strategy, which aims to improve the quality of products and the diversity of the machines. “Our production islands run almost 24/7, and thanks to automation and control, unmanned operations are continually being extended,” says Fattorini. These automated processes are part of a superordinate smart factory idea: “The smart factory is already reality at Sacmi, in a market that is constantly evolving.
An increase in investment yields and an improvement in order planning by its integration into the company’s ERP system are among the main advantages.
Intelligent and interlinked processes also mean for us that new products can be developed in next to no time while additionally guaranteeing customers the best quality. One example of this are the so-called tethered caps. According to an EU precept, these sealing caps must, in the future, also remain firmly attached to the beverage bottle after opening to prevent them from getting into the environment. We supply what it takes to make it easier for our customers to cope with the technological switch-over.”
Erowa’s technology was introduced into the company in 2000, initially with mechanical fixtures. In 2017, they were followed by a Robot Compact 80 on a GFAC laser machine. Finally, in 2019, the linear solution Robot Dynamic 150L was installed, which supplies three Mitsubishi EA8 EDM centers. Marco Fattorini is convinced that “this was a decisive step, for besides the superior quality and versatility of the solution, which enables us to reduce guaranteed tolerances even further, the system is outstanding on account of its scalability and modularity.” The linear Robot Dynamic platform is characterised by the possibility of integrating additional machining centers into the existing production cell. “And that’s precisely what we’ve already planned. A fourth EDM center will soon be integrated!”
Furthermore, an Erowa Robot Compact 80 was integrated into the department in 2020, which was combined with a Röders high-speed milling center. Here, too, the magazine capacity and thus the performance of the cell is intended to be extended in the medium term. “The Erowa technology has made a crucial contribution to Sacmi’s strategy of increasing product quality and the versatility of the machines in that it has enabled us to conceptualise production islands that run around the clock even when no operator is present,” emphasizes the head of department.
Complete traceability ensured
Every part that leaves the mould-making department of Sacmi Imola has be identified with a numerical code and a QR code which provides essential information about its production (production plant, order number, change status, part number, etc.). From the perspective of quality, Erowa is a valuable partner with its JMS 4.0 process control system. The system is used both for EDM and in the milling island. “An increase in investment yields and an improvement in order planning by its integration into the company’s ERP system are among the main advantages,” explains Marco Fattorini. “The JMS 4.0 panel provides operators with all the relevant process parameters. The software enables us to plan the various processes efficiently and optimize them at all stages. In addition, the system supplies valuable information about the operating life of the materials used, from tools to electrodes. This is a fundamental aspect when you work with tolerances in the micron range, in which critical problems and deviations in the processes have to be identified in advance. The result is that the department has had a fault rate of less than one percent for years and has constantly been able to increase its performance parameters.”
Efficiently into the future
Marco Fattorini is satisfied: “Sacmi has attained its current goals. Efficiency throughout the production process has been greatly improved. In this context, we also speak of OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). This measurable factor consists of the performance parameters of our plants with regard to versatility, availability and the simultaneous reduction of error sources. This information is also displayed on the dashboard of Erowa’s JMS 4.0 control system. These results fit precisely with the “spirit” of smart production. Of course this is a process that is still ongoing and which the company will continually engage with in the years to come.”