From one to another!
A pig for each pipeline
There are 4 million kilometres of pipeline all over the world. Serious hazards may result from damage – either from corrosion or external collisions.
ROSEN Group protect people and the environment with advanced technologies by detecting variations on and in pipelines at an early stage. The technology company develops and builds in house the inspection devices for this purpose and even ensures utilisation by teams all over the world. To step up the in-house production depth and be able to respond faster and more flexible, ROSEN at first invested in four C 42 U machining centres from Hermle with a robot-based automation solution. The milling centres including the RS 2L robot system was convincing and three years later Hermle was asked to install the same combination again. That way ROSEN can be sure that quality and precision are right and the measuring systems work absolutely precise and reliable.
"Finally our concern is the data," Nico Goolkate, Alternative Manager Shop Floor Machining at ROSEN Technology and Research Center GmbH sais. He is talking about measured data collected by pigs: These are technologically most sophisticated inspection devices on which the greatest variety of measuring technologies from ultrasound to eddy current are used. They are the core business of ROSEN Group. The family-owned company was founding in 1981 by Hermann Rosen, graduated measuring and control systems engineer. At that time he responded to the growing demand for inspection solutions for pipelines in the oil and gas industries and developed appropriate measuring systems.
Over time ROSEN grew to a technology group operating in over 120 countries with more than 3,300 employees. In addition to inspection and cleaning of miles long pipelines the service provider ensures the safety of tanks, pressure vessels, wind turbines, trains and antenna masts. "We use predictive maintenance to find damage which is so small that it is not yet damage-relevant but may become a defect in the long run," Goolkate explains.
Research and manufacturing on site
The technological heart beats in Lingen. The location on the river Ems is consistently growing and meanwhile reflects almost the entire development process of the inspection devices as pigs for example – from the creative think tank up to final installation. "High in-house production depth is our objective to make sure that we can guarantee the best-possible quality, remain flexible and can respond quickly," the production manager explains. The pigs are unique products because every pipeline and every industrial plant is unique. In case of failure for example both spare parts and new inspection devices have to be available short-term. "It is almost impossible to implement this in another way because we have very short lead times," Nico Goolkate adds. In addition the components are inspected after each manufacturing step to assure quality. The very small numbers result in very expensive subcontracting of manufacturing orders which is almost impossible in combination with the time factor.
The challenge: Manufacture faster and more flexible
"Our in-house production depth is 85 to 90 percent," Johannes Bolmer, Deputy Production Manager sais. This is also thanks to the investment in the total of eight 5-axes machining centres from Maschinenfabrik Berthold Hermle AG with an adapted automation system. "In 2016 we faced the task to increase the output with the same personnel deployment. At the same time our manufacturing was intended to become faster and more flexible." Former manufacturing on the existing stand-alone machines – among them a C 20 from Hermle – satisfied the high demands on quality and precision – but offered too limited capacity.
"Hermle presented its automation solutions at a trade fair. Fittingly, this input coincided with our search," Goolkate remembers. What convinced him and his team: The automation solution is often bought in by the milling machine manufacturers what does not result in a homogenous system. "In contrast, Hermle as a single-source suppliers meets our requirement: All is from a single supplier and this is why we receive consistent and competent support from the beginning to the end," the Production Manager sais. "Hermle exactly offered us just at the right time what we needed."
In 2016, that was four 5-axis machining centres type C 42 U connected by the RS 2-L robot system to form a fully-integrated flexible production cell. The Soflex software solution collects the machine and operating data, arranges for making available the operating materials, and takes charge of detail planning and job control. The program communicates both with the machine tools and the in-house CAD/CAM and ERP systems.
Step-by-step to the complete system
Installation took place in steps. ROSEN at first used the four C 42 U as stand-alone machines only. After six months the RS2 robot including linear system and pallet storage with pockets for up to 250 pallets of different dimensions was to follow. "Familiarisation with the C 42 U went smoothly. For operation of the robot system we used both in-house training courses and the option of production monitoring by Hermle," Nico Goolkate explains.
From that time on 70 to 80 percent of special steels, and also Inconell, titanium, aluminium and plastic are machined – around the clock on seven days a week. "The only problems which occurred since then were software faults. There are no complaints as to the machine," Michael Schnittker reports. As the Process Professional Factory at ROSEN Technology and Research Center GmbH he is in charge of the automation team of 18. Five to six operators per shift are responsible for the linear system with the robot. After the second shift the system continues to operate unmanned overnight. Here another advantage of the Hermle machines takes effect: "24/7 machining with materials difficult to machine calls for steady machines. The C 42 Us do not vibrate and operate with high precision any time," Schnittker adds.
Turn four into eight
ROSEN manufactures all the milling parts for the inspection system on the Hermle machining centres – from the sensor carrier to the sensor housings – and hopes to triple its output by the automation system. These expectations were surpassed and consequently the decision-makers planned the next expansion stage – four further C 42 U with RS 2 L robotics and tower rack. "We produce about a quarter of a million of parts a year. As before, we have to subcontract some of them which costs us time and flexibility," Deputy Production Manager Bolmer continues. Above that, the unrestricted high precision and quality of the parts as well as the cooperation with the machine manufacturer were also decisive factors. "Hermle is always receptive to us and the competent service was always available any time," the Production Manager sais.
The process today is running smoothly: The creative idea is produced in close cooperation between the innovation centre and the Factory. The design is passed to the Hermle machines by CAD/CAM programming. The next day the ordered component is ready for use. The second robot system is still in progress. But it will be commissioned soon and further ensure that ROSEN builds pigs moving through pipelines all over the world, collect data and that way ensure trouble-free and efficient system operation.