The manufacturer of precast elements Andernacher Bims-werk GmbH & Co.KG (ABI) manufactures precast floor plates for floor systems, double walls and solid floor slabs for industrial and private building at three locations in Germany. At the Bedburg location in the district of Rhein-Erft, Abi operates a high-capacity rotary production system. Over the years, the family enterprise, founded in 1950, built a good reputation beyond the borders of Germany. One example of this are the 12.000 m² Syspropart fair-faced precast floor plates from ABI used by the British Architect Sir Norman Foster in converting the former steel gauge factory in Manchester into an apartment complex.
“ABI’s good reputation as a reliable supplier of precast elements is no accident,” says Dietmar Kiene, Sales Manager at the plant engineering firm of Weckenmann Anlagentechnik GmbH & Co.KG in Dormettingen, Germany, “because ABI’s management is constantly seeking new possibilities to further improve its plants.” Kiene should know, because ABI has been one of Weckenmann’s most demanding customers for more than 30 years,” says the Sales Manager. Many plants and systems operated by ABI in two shifts in its Bedburg plant bear the blue Weckenmann logo of the engineering company based in the Dormetting. Among them the new fully automated magazine robot and the new transport roller conveyors that the specialists from Weckenmann implemented at ABI within the scope of a retrofit project.
Specialists for new plants and retrofitting
To ABI, Weckenmann is not only the company to contact for new machinery for precast production. At ABI, one knows about the high-efficiency of many years of experience the Swabian engineering company has in retrofitting, i.e. plant modernization. “Lowering unit costs, reducing cycle times, quality enhancement, increasing flexibility – the manufacturer of precast elements is facing the same challenges as we as plant engineers,” says Managing Director Hermann Weckenmann.“Our customers can meet these challenges either by installing a completely new production plant, or through targeted and carefully conceived modernization. We know, based on our experience, that strategic modernization is often more cost-efficient than a new plant.”
Weckenmann has been advising ABI for many years on modernization projects for which, amongst others, new shuttering pallets, lifting equipment and magnetic clamps were installed. ABI highly appreciates the experience and technical expertise of the Swabian plant engineering firm which has been developing shuttering robots and magazine robots for precast production since 1992.
ABI and Weckenmann: a good team
For the described retrofit proj-ects, ABI Bedburg had specified to reduce the cycle time and in this way to increase the output of the plant for floor plates and double walls. The existing shuttering area at the rotary production plant had consisted of two parallel shuttering pallets, a cross conveyor and a magazine for the shuttering panels. The existing shuttering robot had been in charge not only of shuttering the two casting tables, but had the additional task of in- and out-storing the forms. Following a careful analysis on location it became evident that a noteworthy production increase could be achieved only when the existing shuttering robot is totally freed from his magazining task. The decision was taken to install new roller conveyors between the two shuttering areas for feeding the forms from the magazine to the shuttering robot. And, as is typical wherever retrofit projects of this kind are involved, the work should cause the least possible disturbance to day-to-day production.
After the retrofit experts from Weckenmann had been awarded the contract for its concept for the project, detailed planning began and a precise time schedule was worked out. Dietmar Kiene described the cooperation between the teams of ABI and Weckenmann as highly constructive. “In particular when the customer himself takes on tasks of a retrofit project, everything must be planned to the last detail,” says the Sales Manager. “Everything was just right, at a human and technical level.”
Installation within only one week
Installation of the new components and start-up of the modernized plant at ABI in Bedburg proceeded as efficiently as the conception and construction of the new components in Dormettingen. The old components were dismantled and the new systems installed within just one week – during the Easter holidays – by the practiced ABI-Weckenmann team of engineers, fitters, chief erectors and machine operators. ABI was able to restart production seven days after the conversion and manufactures by now floor plates and double walls in three shifts. “The plant runs smoothly,” says Ulf Schumbrink, at ABI responsible for service and maintenance, “the magazine robot is really fast and shuttering robot can now exclusively concentrate on shuttering and plotting.”
The modernized plant has proven itself in day-to-day operation and ABI expects an increase in production of 15 %. “We expect a few additional percentage points once the system is optimally attuned to the new environment,” says Weckenmann Sales Manager Kiene.