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Logistics give itself a shake
Article taken from "Automazione Industriale", issue 112, December 2003 - January 2004

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Multistep System

Thanks to Automa's development system, Azzali Elettronica developed a supervision and control software which manages safely Metalmeccanica Spaggiari's automatic warehouses.

By the Editorial Team

Metalmeccanica Spaggiari operates from 1976 in the engineering sector, particularly in the heavy and bulky materials lifting, warehousing and handling. Even if being a small company (about 20 people) the company is considered as avant-garde because of the importance level given to research just to meet its flexibility objectives. The company contributed, for example, with and for ENEA in the development of technologies for components handling of a future thermonuclear reactor to support the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) according to the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA). To satisfy market needs regarding operators and heavy and bulky materials handling, in the last years Metalmeccanica Spaggiari worked successfully in the planning, development, marketing, assistance support and certification of automatic handling which manages bar profiles and, moreover, long and cumbersome materials. The benefits brought to the production cycle by using this solution are numerous: time reduction, reduction of materials handling risks for operators; automatic stock update which allows to obtain materials order plans and stocktake situations always updated accurately; optimization in work oders management which facilitates a quick investment return; recuperation of areas dedicated to warehousing thanks to automatic warehousing: they are developed in height while in the traditional ones long and cumbersome materials are usually left to operators to be safely controlled. The new Systema AS Multistep is composed of interconnected modular frames managed by an automatic stacking crane. Each frame has numerous drawers or loading units which can contain up to 4.000 kg and 4 different material types, all of them managed and recognized according to weight and type. The plant was developed to facilitate operators at the most in loading/unloading operations, assuring operators and materials safety. Thanks to HMI software it is possible to control the work progress status and the plant good functioning, pick orders issued by management systems, optimize and complete them with the real weight of materials loaded from warehousings. The user-friendly software determinates materials type, code and quantity to pick up. At this point the crane picks up the loading unit containing the requested product and positionates it in the operating bay which may manage four loading units simultaneously in order to reduce useful time needed to render loading units available.

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Working bay

The working bay is also equipped with servosystems which pick up simultaneously materials contained in the loading units allowing packet stacking without the help of other pick up machines.The software is able to determinate the weight of picked materials and update stocks automatically thanks to the integration with a weight system which recognizes materials loading/unloading operations automatically updating consequently warehousing quantities. The peculiar characteristics of Systema AS Multistep are numerous. The plant is equipped with 150 loading units which may contain up to 4.000 kg each for a total of 600 tons: a considerable weight for a structure not needing accessories regarding building work (foundation plinths). The supervision and control software is reliable and easy to use. The plant has an absolute reference system which renders the machine immediately active for switch-on without waiting long reset times. Thanks to a particular shrewdness the system is noiseless. Along with bar profile management, it is possible to use the same system for materials parts warehousing: in this case each loading unit is subdivided in 25 square and rectangular microsectors and dimensions may be determinated from operators directly through touch-screen video.

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Storage material in pieces

The supervisor strategic role
The dialogue between end-users and machines is made easier thanks to a supervision and control software connected to a printer in order to issue stocktaking reports. Allen Bradley SLC-504 32K PLCs are used through Device-net fieldbuses which communicate with the supervision software. Azzali Elettronica took both business requirements (reliability, flexibility and communication with management systems) and warehousing operators requirements (easy to use and immediate understanding) into account to develop this software. The graphic pages are numerous: they show the system structure exactly through images and tables (the loading units and their contents, the crane position, the whole plant,ecc.).
The 32-bit development system used to create the supervision software is Super-Flash, which allows to generate HMI e SCADA applications for Windows and DOS operating systems, while all database organization and management was implemented with MicroC, Automa's C compiler which, thanks to a wide function library ,allows the expansion of Super-Flash functionalities. With MicroC, Azzali Elettronica was able to use driver technologies to speed database reading, writing and scrolling along with a program which updates warehousing real situations anytime.
Systema AS Multistep of Metalmeccanica Spaggiari was equipped with a specific supervision software because it is capable of executing the control typical functions and carry out activities usually integrated with management systems: warehousing operations planning, materials handling weight feed-back to order for accounting and automatic stock update. Azzali Elettronica, thanks to the use of Super-Flash and MicroC, products distinguished because of their flexibility and reliability succeeded in integrating in just one software three business information systems: PBC (PLC Based Control), HMI (Human Machine Interface) and EPS (Enterprise Production System).
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