“Mechanics in Motion” – this is the slogan under which Mechtop AG, based in Wangen near Olten in Switzerland, specialises in systems, components and services mainly for the food industry. The orders could hardly be more different and therefore require a high degree of flexibility. With two automatic tower storage systems and a band sawing machine from Kasto, Mechtop has therefore recently made its production and intralogistics much more efficient and powerful.
Strict hygiene standards, tough international competition and corresponding time and cost pressures: the demands in food production are high. Manufacturers must be able to deliver their products reliably and in perfect quality at all times – otherwise customers will quickly lose confidence in a brand.
The machines and systems used must therefore also meet special requirements. Malfunctions or even failures can lead to expensive downtime, which is a no-go especially when handling perishable food.
Mechtop AG, based in the Swiss town of Wangen near Olten, is very familiar with the conditions in the industry. Founded in 1995 as a one-man business, the company now employs more than 50 people and specialises in materials handling technology, plant and special machine construction, pipe and steam pipe construction, metal and steel construction and tank and apparatus engineering.
Most of the customers are from the food industry. Mechtop also supports them with assembly, maintenance and servicing as well as the supply of spare parts. “Our motto is ‘Mechanics in Motion’ and refers to both our product range and our competent and flexible service staff,” describes Dominic Felice, member of the management.
Time is often short in manufacturing
In addition to the team that works for its customers all over Switzerland, Mechtop’s machinery is also an important pillar of its continuing success. “We mainly make one-offs, micro and small batches,” Felice explains. “This often has to be done quickly – for example, when it comes to urgently needed spare parts.” To achieve this, the company needs machines that are both powerful and variable in their application. The same applies to internal logistics: “From the delivery of raw materials to the dispatch of finished products, we try to make every process as efficient as possible,” Felice continues.
The most commonly used materials at Mechtop are stainless steels. Finally, the manufactured systems and components must be suitable for use in hygiene-sensitive food production. Both sheet metal and long products such as bars, tubes and profiles are processed. In the past, both were stored in manually operated cantilever bearings.
“However, this was extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive,” Felice describes. “Employees had to first find the items they needed and then laboriously remove them by hand or forklift.” Mechtop therefore decided to modernize and automate its warehouse technology – and to do so, relied on the compact Kasto tower storage systems Kastoecostore and Unitower.
The good reputation preceded
The saw and storage technology specialist, based in Achern in southern Germany, had been a familiar name to those responsible at Mechtop for some time. “Kasto has an exceptionally good reputation and stands for reliably high product quality,” says Felice, explaining the decision. “Together, we looked at different possible solutions and then selected the most appropriate one.”
Both storage systems are space-saving tower storage systems with loading heights specially designed to meet customer requirements. The Unitower is designed with 108 storage cassettes to accommodate long goods up to six metres in length, the cassettes are lined with aluminium for the storage of stainless materials. The Kastoecostore offers space on 26 pallet compartments for sheets with formats of up to 3 x 1.5 metres.
The two tower bearings are attached to the outer wall of the existing production hall at Mechtop. The shelf block of the Unitower was designed with a substructure to which the roof and façade panels were directly attached. For optimal space utilization despite the officially limited building height, the plant was installed in a 3 m deep pit. The long goods warehouse has an external storage station which can be accessed directly by the delivering trucks.
Sheet metal is brought into the hall through a roller door and transferred to the internal storage and retrieval station. A lifting mechanism then automatically brings the pallets and cassettes to the appropriate storage compartment and provides the required articles according to the “goods to man” principle. An additional lifting device such as a forklift truck is not required to retrieve the system pallets. This ensures short access times and an ergonomic way of working.
More space and better overview
“The automated storage systems offer us a whole range of benefits,” Felice explains. “We’ve gained a lot of valuable space, a better overview and more control over our inventory, and we can work much more efficiently and productively.” The tower bearings are extremely robust and reliable – and if a malfunction does occur, it can usually be remedied quickly and easily by the Kasto experts in Achern via remote maintenance.
“As a rule, however, the operation runs smoothly – also thanks to the simple operation via touch display,” Felice reveals. “Our inventory management is done in SAP. However, the two warehouses are not connected to it, even though this would have been possible from Kasto without any problems. Given the diversity of our orders and the small batch sizes, this step did not seem necessary.<
The two Kasto warehouses have been in operation at Mechtop since the beginning of 2020. At the same time, the company also invested in an automatic band saw from the manufacturer: the Kastomicut A 2.6 is designed for efficient cross-cutting and mitre cutting of pipes, profiles and solid material.
With a cutting range of up to 260 millimetres in diameter and continuously adjustable mitre angles from -45 to +60 degrees, the swivel frame bandsaw offers enough scope for a wide range of different components.
The intelligent additional equipment enables largely unmanned operation: “On the Kastomicut, we mainly process parts in very small and small batches of up to about 20 pieces,” explains Felice. “We particularly benefit from the automatic material feed, which allows the saw to process such jobs independently.”
The sawn sections are transported via a chute to a container where they can be collected by the employees.
A total package that convinces
The saw band tension is electrically monitored on the Kastomicut and is infinitely adjustable via a hand ratchet. Hydraulically operated horizontal clamping vices enable optimum workpiece clamping as well as the cutting of short remnants. An integrated pushbutton automatically detects the end of the material, eliminating the need for manual presetting.
The heavy cast-iron saw frame also ensures high cutting quality – even with materials that are difficult to cut. With a cutting accuracy of ± 0.1 millimetres per 100 millimetres of material height, the Kastomicut works very precisely.
The smallest cut-off length is only six millimetres, and with a residual piece length of 30 millimetres, Mechtop can make almost complete use of the material to be sawn. “Kasto has really delivered a total package here that makes our daily work much easier,” Felice finds.
The management at Mechtop is completely satisfied with the cooperation with the saw and storage technology specialist. “A big advantage is certainly the short response times – also because Kasto is only a few kilometres away with its Swiss branch in Rheinfelden,” he explains. “Service technicians and spare parts are with us in no time at all when needed” – a unique selling point with which Mechtop also scores points with its customers. “The Kasto solutions help us to respond flexibly to their requirements and solve their problems at short notice – precisely what distinguishes our ‘Mechanics in Motion’.”