21/02/2021 – Automation /materials management
Traditional company prepares for the future
How Zeller+Gmelin achieves a sustainable increase in productivity through comprehensive automation measures in the field of materials management.
The lubricant manufacturer and solution specialist Zeller+Gmelin from Eislingen in Swabia, Germany, does not leave its economic future to chance. The eventful history of the 150-year-old company has already shown this on several occasions. Where will we be in ten years? This is the question the managing directors and division managers are constantly asking about technology, operating material and equipment. As an answer to this they formulate both short- and long-term goals for production and storage capacities.
The planning of production capacities holds long-term economic perspectives for companies. “Already today, we wonder, where we will stand in 10 years,” says Ilija Lucic, project assistant of the technology management at Zeller+Gmelin. “What are the future needs? How can we remain competitive and how can we achieve consistently high product quality and absolute production and delivery reliability for our customers?”
The answers are not provided by reading tea leaves, but only by precise planning with regard to production and storage capacities, material flow and production processes. In 2019 alone, Zeller+Gmelin is investing in several infrastructural measures aimed at further developing production and making the site Eislingen competitive for the future: This includes the expansion of the tank farms as well as the installation of two agitator vessels in the lubricant and grease production.
More tank volume for the site Eislingen
Several new storage tanks are to be installed on the factory premises by October 2019. Various engine, chain, hydraulic and formwork oils are stored in the tanks, which are then tailored on fully automatic filling lines. “Zeller+Gmelin has extremely diversified and cross-industry products,” explains Ilija Lucic and proves this with figures: “Our product portfolio comprises more than 4000 products for the lubricants, industrial greases and chemicals sectors.” This diversity must be moved efficiently, both in terms of storage and provision as well as logistics and sales.
In addition, the company premises at the site Eislingen are geographically limited: The north-south axis is limited by the road on the one hand and the railway lines on the other. And the east-west axis can no longer be extended either. “The major skill required by our planning is to come to terms with the existing restrictions and to use them to our advantage,” says Ilija Lucic. “We see the railway line right next to our factory premises as a good opportunity for the future. Our approach is therefore to make maximum use of the existing buildings in order to modernise our production and optimise the logistic processes in the company.”
Achieve higher productivity through automation
Maintenance of raw materials and the optimisation of the material flow and supply are only one side of the coin when it comes to planning the production capacity for the next ten years. A high degree of automation also plays a major role in the battle for product quality and customer satisfaction. In the filling line of Zeller+Gmelin, state-of-the-art technology is already the standard today: The filling and packaging areas work together in a highly automated manner and are supported by future-proof robot technology. But one thing is important to Ilija Lucic in this context and here he also emphasises the attitude of his company: “Automation does not mean cutting any jobs – on the contrary: we use the high degree of automation to secure jobs and create new ones.”
New agitator vessels for grease production
Zeller+Gmelin also wants to cover the soon increasing demand in the market for greases by an increased degree of automation, for example. “The market demands greases: industrial greases, lubricating greases, low-noise greases,” says Ilija Lucic. “This is why our grease production capacity has been increased. We have decided to invest in larger and more modern agitator vessels in order to increase our batch sizes.”
Two new agitator vessels are to be installed in grease production before the end of this year. The process control at the vessels is fully automated. In the past, there would have been individual control boxes directly on the vessel. These have now been replaced by a modern process control system that digitally maps the properties of the containers. For example, the employee can conveniently control vessel cooling via a touch panel on the PC. Sensors provide precise information about the actual state of the greases in the vessel, about temperature, mixing ratio or degree of filling. “The advantage of modern technology is that we have significantly fewer rejects than before,” says Ilija Lucic with satisfaction.
However, this is only a fraction of the measures that Zeller + Gmelin fathoms, plans and implements every day. “From the factory structure and the analysis of data, we can identify short-term goals which we implement in order to remain competitive in the long term,” says Ilija Lucic.
Zeller+Gmelin GmbH+Co. KG
73054 Eislingen/Fils, Germany
Contact person is Andreas Rascher
Tel.: +49 7161 802-352
About Zeller + Gmelin
Zeller+Gmelin GmbH+Co. KG, founded in 1866, employs more than 900 employees worldwide, nearly half of them are working at the headquarters in Eislingen. With its 16 subsidiary companies, the medium-sized company operates worldwide. The product portfolio is divided into the company divisions Lubricants, Industrial Chemistry and Inks. The high-quality products are at the forefront of the international market. Thus, Zeller+Gmelin offers individual and comprehensive solutions from a single source from research and development to production. How high the share of R+D is, is reflected that around 20 per cent of the employees in Eislingen work in this area to constantly develop and optimise the innovative products according to the requirements of the market and costumers.
Zeller+Gmelin in short
Headquarters Eislingen, Baden-Württemberg (Germany)
Employees: over 900 worldwide
R+D share: approx. 20 per cent of the employees