Organized down to the smallest detail, in continuous technological evolution, the production site in Salvaterra of Modula, the System Group company, is an example of how automation principles according to the industry 4.0 concept can find perfect application in Italian manufacturing, generating also employment growth.
More than a factory, it feels like an atelier: white walls, wide and illuminated spaces, polished floors shining like mirrors, plus brand new machines, automated islands in which groups of robots move efficiently and silently, and staff that work in a precise, surgical manner in elegant black uniforms. The Modula factory in Salvaterra di Casalgrande, in the province of Reggio Emilia, is a concrete demonstration of Industry 4.0 (today Enterprise 4.0) and of what all Italian manufacturing could become: efficient and competitive with a high level of technology and automation.
This is possible, provided that it has a vision which is projected towards the future and concrete like that of Modula, a company which is part of the System Group, world leader in industrial automation, founded in Fiorano Modenese in 1970 by Franco Stefani. It’s an enterprise that develops and produces for the international market unrivalled products and processes for the ceramics industry and the intra-logistics sector. In this organization, Modula develops a specific product, the Modula automatic vertical warehouse, a modular drawer storage system, as its name suggests, extremely compact, rapid and efficient.
Every drawer has a net capacity of up to 990 kg and every single warehouse can contain dozens, handled vertically with a solution similar to that of an elevator, but extremely rapid and efficient, allowing for more than 100 cycles per hour. The project has turned out to be so well conceived that Modula warehouses have not only been adopted in all industrial sectors, but are used in any application where it’s necessary to store material in a simple and rapid way, saving space and reducing picking errors to zero.
THE DRIVE TOWARDS ROBOTIZATION
A further processing line, equipped with an LT8 Laser Tube machine made by BLM Group cuts the tubes into the square sections used for the structure. Two robotized lines, each furnished with 4 Comau anthropomorphic robots deal with the welding of the pieces, according to a configuration developed by the SIR system integrator on the basis of a design and engineering process conceived in its entirety by System.
A further team of two Comau robots perform a complex process for the assembly, on the Modula warehouse drawers, of the inserts that allow them to slide along the system’s runners. Assisted by artificial vision, this solution makes it possible to insert a pin in the drawer structure and screw it in with maximum precision, finding automatically every time the correct position for carrying out the operation. In all these phases the products move according to a production planning supervised by a central control system and by a personalized management software that makes it possible to plan different types of product accessories. Every warehouse under process is accompanied by precise instructions that indicate the configuration of the product, which is then transported to its destination, broken down into elements that are subsequently assembled on the spot by specialized teams.
LOGISTICS AND COMFORT
Another wing of the factory brings together operations still performed manually, which relate to a number of components of the structure and the electrical part, and organizes material for the shipment of products to be delivered or incoming supplies. The various workstations are served by four Modula warehouses, which we have, therefore, been able to see in operation in all their speed and precision.
The latter are served , in turn, and supplied, by special shuttles on tracks that pick up the various pieces in a large vertical stacker warehouse fully automated and developed by System Logistics, in a long narrow space that separates the two wings of the plant. The manager of this area showed us the Copilot touch-screen display, the latest-generation industrial PC, developed and produced by System Electronics, which, besides being present in the factory in various workstations, is used in the Modula warehouses as an industrial management PC.
With regards to the goods handling area, the Copilot reproduces the layout of the warehouse, the trolleys on tracks and the four Modula structures, controlling in real time all movements in the plant. Every production phase is organized and performed with maximum precision in a comfortable, safe, well-lit environment, also on a winter’s day like the day on which we visited the structure fitted, moreover, with an underfloor air-conditioning system according to advanced energy efficiency principles.
Article of Riccardo Oldani featured in the Italian magazine Tecn’è March 2018