The German company Wanzl required a customized solution for the loading, processing, and sorting of sheet metal – and relied on the expertise of Bystronic and FMG. This concentrated know-how enabled the world’s leading manufacturer of shopping carts to increase its production output.
Everyone uses them on a regular basis, but very view people know who produces them. The success story of the shopping cart started a good 70 years ago in Germany, in a time when small corner shops were being replaced by self-service supermarkets and the wheeled baskets became an indispensable shopping aid. Wanzl Metallwarenfabrik in the Swabian town of Leipheim is the pioneer and international market leader for shopping carts and produces some 2.5 million of the metal and plastic trollies every year. Approximately every second shopping cart in the world comes from the small town on the Danube. However, Wanzl has also successfully conquered other markets and product areas.
Wanzl’s luggage trolleys, access control systems, and room dividers are used in railway stations and airports around the globe. In addition, the company develops comprehensive shelving systems and equipment solutions for retail spaces of all sizes. Thus, over the years, Wanzl became a partner of the major supermarket chains. Wanzl is also researching products for tomorrow’s retail business, for example shopping carts with integrated RFID (radio-frequency identification). This technology registers and locates the position of all the shopping carts in the digitally networked supermarket. Upon request, customers receive personalized offers on their smartphone, and the store owner gains information about the customers’ walking routes, store traffic, and many other factors. And shop fitting is also a growth sector, because there is an increasing focus on turning shopping into an experience. Innovative market concepts, exclusive product presentations, and individualized elements are the key to success in this field. However, the competitive pressure is intense, says Jürgen Obeser, Chief Production Engineer at Wanzl. At the beginning of the year, Wanzl expanded its machine pool in order to keep up with incoming orders.
Bystronic and FMG developed the concept for Wanzl together: store, laser cut, sort. “We delivered a comprehensive system that enabled Wanzl to expand its production capacity,” says Paul Brändle, Head of Development at FMG. The laser cutting system was supplied by Bystronic, the high-bay warehouse with 75 storage spaces and the automation systems for the loading, unloading, and sorting by FMG. A Bystronic laser machine relies on the FMG high-bay warehouse to supply the appropriate metal sheets it requires. The 4 kilowatt fiber laser cutting system processes the metal sheet in a computer-controlled process according to the cutting plan. Since the beginning of 2018, Wanzl’s factory also boasts a fully-automated FMG Sort. Its robot arm uses a vacuum suction cup to pick up the cut parts and stack them on pallets sorted by part type. “The automatic sorting was a tremendous step forward for us,” Obeser says. Previously, they had to sort the parts manually during unloading.
In total, the production systems in Leipheim process some 8000 tons of sheet metal per year. The parts that are cut here, primarily made of steel, are used for many product lines in all of Wanzl’s fields of business. “This automation has made our production significantly faster and more efficient,” Obeser says. Thanks to the FMG Sort’s careful handling, scratched parts are a thing of the past. And it was also possible to minimize the laser cutting system’s waiting times that used to occur due to manual loading and unloading. The industrial mechanic Acikgöz Celal (21) is also impressed: “After a three-day training course, we received on-site support for five days. This helped us to rapidly become acquainted with the new system.” Operating the machine is almost as intuitive as using a smartphone. Thanks to the automated workflows, he can now keep an eye on several machines at once. And when all the machines are running, there is even time to take a short break.