This large-scale installation concludes an ambitious five-year investment strategy outlined back in 2015, with the aim of making Alpha the foremost precision sheet metal fabricator in the UK. The focus of this plan was on utilising high-tech machine automation to realise a “smart factory” vision. Now, close to £4 million has been invested to secure Alpha’s position as one of the most technically advanced factories in the industry. The STOPA system has been integral to this, with the first installation taking place back in 2016 alongside a state of the art Trumpf TruLaser 3030 fibre-laser machine. This laser machine and an existing Trumpf TruPunch machine were integrated into the STOPA at the time.
The STOPA system allowed Alpha to begin the process of automating stock storage, movement and transfer between machines, with all raw sheet metal stored in the towers and able to be called on at the touch of a button. This had an immediate positive affect on Alpha’s performance in terms of efficiency and capacity with a dramatic reduction in WIP movement around the shop floor combined with significantly better stock control and management.
Since then, further investment has seen installations of more state-of-the-art automated sheet metal processing machines such as the Trumpf TruBend Cell 7000, TruPunch 7000 and Salavagnini P4 Lean Panel Bender to further bolster Alpha’s levels of automation. The final stage of the five-year plan was to extend the STOPA system further, increasing its storage capacity and removing all WIP from the shop floor. It was also integrated into all areas of production including laser cutting, punching and folding.
The entire system now runs 62 meters down the centre of the Alpha factory and houses in excess of 600 tonnes of raw material and part-processed items with a total of 207 pallet spaces available. The completion of the STOPA marks the culmination of Alpha’s journey to automation which now sets them apart within the industry.
Managing Director Paul Clews explains the strategy and what it now means in terms of Alpha’s service offering:
“We’ve achieved everything we set out to do and more, investing close to £4 million in the right technology and this final investment will take us to where we aimed to be in terms of automation and efficiency. We’re not unique in buying the best machinery, a lot of companies also have high spec technology. Where we aim to differentiate ourselves is in our operations, through the highest levels of efficiency and productivity. What this system gives us is the ability to identify, locate and deliver any piece of sheet steel, punched/laser part or folded sub assembly to any given location by the touch of a button. In doing this we will dramatically reduce the amount of waste from our current processes in terms of both movement of people and transportation of parts.”
With all planned investment as part of the five-year plan now completed, Alpha will continue working to best utilise the machinery and systems in order to achieve total stock/ material handling automation. A new Sage Enterprise MRP was recently implemented, further streamlining the stock replenishment and management process.