Thirty-six years ago Ton Van Bussel started his business in his garage: working as a craftsman, he built up a small company from nothing by doing welding work for farmers in his area. Originally he used mainly steel to build and fit-out livestock stalls. His close contact with his customers allowed him to move into building stainless steel mixing tanks for feed. These were his first steps into the foodstuffs industry. In 1994, Van Bussel Metaaltechniek moved into a new building in Asten, between Eindhoven and Venlo.
Today, Van Bussel Metaaltechniek BV is a reliable supplier of customer-specific stainless steel products. The company has three core activities: Machine building with in-house engineering, sheet metal work and machining.
Although the machining division was initially used only for in-house engineering, this activity has expanded in recent years into an independent business unit. By the end of 2013, the maximum capacity of the building on the Linieijzer road had been reached and a new building round the corner was bought in early 2014. The new building was thoroughly renovated and refurbished, and the Machining Division took up residence in September 2014.
Some 80% of all the turning and milling uses stainless steel. Van Bussel is also known for its extremely short delivery times.
In September 2014 an additional two Mazak machines were moved to the new location on the Kortijzer road, bringing the total number of machines, all of them from Mazak, to six after a period of one and a half years. Today, Van Bussel not only manufactures its own products, it also seems that other companies have a growing need for turning and milling work that can be performed flexibly. It was therefore decided to look at the potential for automation, initially for a Mazak Integrex i-400S.
There are, of course, considerable peaks and troughs in demand. Van Bussel wished to deal with the peaks via automation. Taking into account the highly skilled CNC operators who would have to operate the complex machinery, the company began a search for the right solution. For this, various criteria were established.
Thomas Waals, Commercial Manager: “For us it was important to use automation as widely as possible. By that I mean that the solution would have to be flexible enough to handle very different types of workpieces, ranging from diameters of 30 to 450 mm. Shafts should also be possible. The fact that we run both large and small batches means that the automation must be set up and reset very quickly. The aim of course is to deal with the peaks in demand, so you sometimes need high capacity, but you also need a system that can used for a few pieces with a longer cycle time. Finally, Van Bussel is a very transparent and approachable company, and we want to keep that principle in our machinery. It is therefore out of the question to provide huge casings or heavy fences.
In the course of our search we spoke to various parties, and this revealed RoboJob to be our best ‘match’. We saw their solutions for the first time at the Mazak Private Show in 2013. This showed the standard product to be already highly capable. Naturally, like any business, we have specific needs, and so sat down at the table with RoboJob. The thing that stood out from this was how much their philosophy appealed to us. They have a clear understanding of machining, since that’s where they came from themselves. So they understand our problem, and they think in terms of solutions rather than from the limitations of their products. So it didn't take us long.
Of course, we cannot know today what we will be making for our customers tomorrow. For us this meant that RoboJob should be able to do ‘everything’: the robot should be able to load anything you can make with the machine.
We finally bought a system with lots of whistles and bells: we can automate shafts as well as round pieces. And thanks to the Pallet-Load and Pallet-Unload options, the Turn-Assist is ideal for larger runs or larger workpieces.
During the purchasing process we could see that RoboJob could map out all the functionalities and processes very clearly. We now had a good picture of how the solution would look, along with what it could do. The great advantage of all this is that we could work flexibly with all the building blocks of our RoboJob automation: we could, so to speak ‘play’ with the table, with the various pallets and with the robot as well as with heavier products. With that we continually uncover new possibilities. We are very pleased with the way that RoboJob helped us to figure out a system that gives us the perfect solution.
The installation also went superbly: the RoboJob installation team consists of capable people with whom it is pleasure to work. The agreements were well respected, and adjustments were made on the spot where necessary. During the first weeks following installation we still had some contact with the RoboJob service department, but we really haven’t had to call them since then. We draw-up our own plan because the solution is now very easy to use. And that’s how it should be! We now use our Turn-Assist almost every day, from three or four pieces with a longer cycle time to exceptional orders of 1000 pieces.
It goes without saying that automation will have an important part to play at Van Bussel. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the last two years and can now allow ourselves a period of peace that will let us focus on our internal organisation. But it is clear that automation has earned permanent place with us.”
To find out more about Van Bussel Metaaltechniek go to: http://www.vanbussel.com