Hasborner Mühle started as a family business in 1702. The products are purely mechanically produced natural products: Flours, grist and bran. The grain is sourced locally within a radius of 50 km. Small to medium quantities are produced for direct sale as well as for bakeries, which are also supplied.
The aim of the cooperation in the COTEMACO project is to identify and analyse the challenges of the company in order to develop recommendations for action and solution concepts. On the one hand, the production is semi-automated in which, for example, the wheat grains are filled into a silo with the help of loading machines. On the other hand, a large part of the work is characterized by maintenance and monitoring of the existing machines and production lines. In packaging and removal, the focus is on heavy physical work, especially on the transport routes of the packed flour sacks. The following challenges were in the focus as the company entered the project:
– digitisation of mainly manual documentation tasks
– more efficient deployment of the existing employees as well as ergonomic improvements, as well as a higher economic efficiency through semi-automation.
Two processes were considered as the main focus of the project:
- The transfer of know-how over the entire production process. Up to now, the production steps and maintenance work are often documented manually and on paper/analogue, for example how and when specific machines, such as the drive belt of the grinding mills, are serviced. Checklists and maintenance schedules need to be created so that operations can be maintained over the long term. The digital documentation should support a quick overview of the production steps and equipment. This also makes it possible to quickly train new employees. In addition, the process recording serves as quality assurance.
- The filling process of flour into 25 kg bags, as well as further transport under ergonomic and economic aspects. The flour bags are filled from large silos via a weighing system. There, 25 kg sacks are filled and transported by a hand-operated trolley to the warehouse and later to the truck. From the truck to the destination, the sacks are transported by hand or often carried over the shoulder. Handling aids are to be found and presented for this ergonomically and physically strenuous process, which support either selectively at a station or the entire process.
- Boundary conditions for the implementation of the documentation were worked out as follows: It must be possible to use the system in a dusty environment; the system should be easy to use; the content should be clearly stored, for example with pictures and checklists; the transfer and storage of the results on a PC should be ensured in order to share the results with the work preparation department., etc.
- In order to be able to provide targeted support, the holistic process of filling into flour sacks, storage and onward transport to trucks as well as the further transport chain is considered. Implicit and explicit restrictions are worked out, e.g. is it possible to switch storage to pallets, what space requirements would a new system have, what transport guidelines apply to transporting the sacks on pallets. From this, a concept was developed.
- According to the requirements, different tablet models and management tools were presented. The elaborated boundary conditions serve as a basis for decision-making in the (pre)selection of the presented solutions.
- In order to concretize the technical solution, the owners were made aware of the field of robotics/ automation, i.e. which support tools for the workers are available on the market? But also what are the challenges and concerns for the implementation of a higher automated system? Concepts for ergonomic improvement were developed to enable automation step by step.
Through the intensive analysis of the production process and problems, a number of potential improvement points were uncovered, and internal processes were initiated and reconsidered. COTEMACO was able to successfully set impulses and educate about new technical solutions.
- The process documentation is implemented step by step. In this way, knowledge management is built up. Process steps and maintenance work are documented and scheduled in order to include them in the knowledge management. For example, the reasons for a grinding plant standstill, which immediate measures are to be taken and which solutions are suitable. Also, which operating resources are required and a detailed description of the actions to be taken is provided. Through constant documentation, a database is developed that helps new employees to understand the links between the processes and not to forget any step during maintenance work. The customer database can also be digitized to enable faster access to specific contacts or to address specific target groups separately.
In summary, the introduction and use of the tablet enables new employees to be trained more quickly and plan capacities better. This allows a changeover to other product segments to be planned better and more holistically. A better competitive situation due to the acquisition of new target groups – the company is planning a small sale to farm shops.
- Based on the analysis and the requirements, technical solutions for the different tasks were identified. A detailed concept was developed to reduce the workload of the employees handling the 25 kg bags. This includes a changeover from individual transport of the bags to a system with pallets. Additional ergonomically assists for the employees at the individual stations, for example at the weighing and packing station, by means of lifting aids. Technical solutions available on the market, such as an exoskeleton or a pneumatic balancer with a vacuum gripper, were presented and discussed. Both the advantages and the challenges of the changeover to a pallet system were named and the boundary conditions, such as necessary building modifications or the new situation of load securing in the truck, were addressed. In conclusion, an overall concept for implementation was developed and presented, including a cost model.
Whats expectations did you have in advance of the project?
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Have these expectations been met?
Briefly explain what has been implemented in your case.
Which advantages do you have now?