Pallet Pools vs. Flexible Automation
A pallet pool is an easy-to-buy, easy-to-implement automation solution for machine tools. It increases the lights-out manufacturing periods and machine tool utilisation by up to 65% – no wonder it’s such a popular option.
That said, before investing in automation, it’s reasonable to evaluate not only the needs of today, but also the needs of tomorrow. In this post, we will share six key value-adding functions of Fastems’ flexible automation. Find out what extra value Fastems’ flexible automation offers compared to pallet pools.
- Extendibility for more machines
The part mix rarely remains the same for years. These days, customers want more customised products at a faster pace, meaning that production needs to adapt quickly. With a pallet pool, you always need a new system with a new machine tool. In contrast, flexible automation can run multiple machine tools, and can be extended later for future needs. Furthermore, in flexible automation all the machines and pallets operate under one control. This means that one operator is able to run many machine tools, which in turn generates savings in both investment and operative costs.
2.Pallet production order adapts to changes
When you load a pallet pool, you also fix the production order: pallet 1, pallet 2, pallet 3, and so on. In flexible automation, however, the order is not fixed. The control of flexible automation, Manufacturing Management Software (MMS), constantly prioritises the machining order of the pallets based on real-time customer orders. This ensures that every customer gets their orders reliably and on time, even if an order has been placed last minute. In turn, this enables optimal machine utilisation, combined with manufacturing the right parts at the right time.
Manufacturing Management Software – Work Cell Operations
- Predictive production scheduling
MMS has real-time visibility over the entire production process. This includes orders and due dates, as well as machine tools and capacities. Different resources, like cutting tools, raw materials, fixtures and NC programs are also taken care of. MMS knows what needs to be done and when, and what machines and resources will be needed. The control sends alerts about ‘to-be-missing’ resources in advance, so that operators have time to prepare them before the machine stops. Nevertheless, should a resource problem that cannot be fixed occur, MMS will re-do the production plan so that the second most important orders get done next. This is a drastic difference to typical pallet pools, and enables operators to eliminate hindrance, as well as small (and large) production stops.
Read more about Fastems’ MMS.
MMS manages part, NC program, tool, pallet, fixture, raw material and order data. It gives real-time visibility over the entire production process.
- Higher pallet capacity with smaller footprint
In a pallet pool, the number of pallets used per machine is limited. In contrast, having a pallet storage with two to five levels allows flexible automation to store machining and material pallets in a very compact floor-space. The more machines (and pallet pools) you would need, the more space savings flexible automation can provide.
- Maximise and ensure lights-out capacity and reliability
It’s true that pallet pools enable longer lights-out production times. That said, one pallet pool can run only one machine tool and has a smaller pallet capacity compared to flexible automation. As a result, flexible automation does not only multiply lights-out production times – it also makes sure there won’t be any unpleasant surprises during nights and weekends. This is because MMS instructs in advance which production resources need to be prepared before the manned shift ends. If something goes wrong, flexible automation makes sure the most critical work is still carried out.
- Real-time production monitoring
With pallet pools, you only get information about one single machine tool’s utilisation. With flexible automation however, you get real-time statuses and KPI reports of the overall production. This allows you to easily see how well your capacity is utilised and what the possible bottleneck resources are. In addition, you see how your performance indicators look like, enabling you to make continuous improvements in production.
A solution for even the simplest of productivity needs
As you see, flexible automation can be a superseding option compared to pallet pools, even for the simplest of productivity needs. After all, keeping your options open for future expansions is increasingly important. Interested to know more or have a chat around this topic? Give us a call or message.
“In the past, we needed larger manufacturing batches for these machines to be productive. Now we can manufacture very small batches economically.”
– CEO, Kytola Instruments, using Flexible Pallet Container (FPC)