At the core of modern logistics
by Hans Diederichs
The development of KASTO storage technology
Achern – KASTO has already installed more than 2,200 automatic storage systems all over the world – despite the fact that this business segment is still relatively young compared to sawing technology. The success of the company’s storage systems division started in the 1970s and has since continued unbroken – not least thanks to ongoing development and innovations through which KASTO continually raises bar stock and sheet metal storage standards to new levels.
At the beginning of the 1970s, KASTO was already a well-known manufacturer of metal sawing machines, with an extensive portfolio of hacksaws and circular saws. In 1972, however, the company ventured into another segment with a completely new project – for its own production and that of a customer, KASTO developed a fully-automatic cantilever arm portal storage system which could store bar stock in long goods cassettes. This was the first step into KASTO’s extremely successful storage technology business.
The two storage systems already have integrated circular saws. The stored material is cut to size in fully-automatic procedures and residual pieces are also stored again in independent processes. KASTO designers used sliders on the cassettes to indicate the technical properties of the materials required by the saws. The sliders enabled the machines to access cutting speed and feed rates. Switch cabinets with step-by-step switching units provided for the control of the entire system – a milestone on the way to automated logistics and processing.
Simple solutions were more in demand at first
In the following years, however, KASTO storage technology developed more slowly than expected. It was obvious that the highly technical, complex storage systems were ahead of their time, so they were only suitable for a few technologically-advanced customers. The KASTO Sawing Center consisted of a cantilever arm storage system with a portal operating device, single bar stock handling and integrated sawing machines – and in 1978, the company presented it to the industry with resounding success.
In the years that followed, the company significantly expanded its product portfolio with a constant stream of pioneering innovations. For example, in 1986, KASTO presented the first storage systems with an overhead design, and 1993 saw the birth of the KASTO honeycomb storage system. A fully-automatic stacking yoke storage system was introduced in 2002, and an in-line storage system for sheet metal was marketed in 2004. The company is a pioneer in the development of all types of storage systems and sets new trends with ground-breaking ideas, such as the conversion to the “goods to the person” system. Evidence of the increasing importance of the KASTO storage systems division can also be seen in the company’s own production capacities: production facilities are being expanded and halls are being enlarged and adapted to the changed requirements. KASTO is also increasingly pushing the development of the required software in-house – and this has meanwhile become a unique selling point for the company.
Lighthouse projects set new standards
Together with its customers, KASTO repeatedly realises ground-breaking lighthouse projects that raise storage technology standards to a completely new level. The company creates systems with several aisles, different storage and retrieval machines on one rail and extensive peripheral devices. Yet another milestone was fully-automated order picking from the bar stock cassette, used for the first time in 2002. In 2013, the company presented a system that enabled the automated distribution of stored materials to truck routes, which proved to be a boon to the sector – and especially for steel traders.
The largest KASTO storage system to date is located on the Kicherer company’s premises in Ellwangen in Baden-Wuerttemberg. A total of six storage and retrieval machines, 10,000 cassette slots, two route distribution systems and the corresponding control and administration software ensure a smooth material flow. However, the company’s own logistics centre at its headquarters in Achern is also quite spectacular. It is a honeycomb warehouse for bar stock, sheet metal, bulky goods and Euro pallets, which are handled by a storage and retrieval machine and picked by a separate manipulator. A KASTOtec bandsaw machine and a KASTOvariospeed circular saw machine are also integrated into the system. The KASTOvariospeed machine is equipped with a robotic sorting programme, a deburring device and automated label supply and container management systems. The centre thus is home to all of the KASTO storage system division’s products.
Increasing demands require fresh ideas
The development of storage technology is an ongoing process at KASTO because the demands on the systems are also increasing. They have to maintain a powerful performance over a long period of time and their availability levels must always be extraordinarily high. Intelligent software solutions are required – they enable the systems to organise themselves, to work in a time and route-optimised manner and to be seamlessly integrated into the widest possible range of IT environments. There is also a trend towards automated material handling at the storage and retrieval stations, aimed at achieving an optimal level of unmanned handling. Combinations of storage facility and sawing centre are also increasingly in demand, not only for direct order picking of the material, but to realise a fully-automatic sawing process that includes sorting.
KASTO invests a considerable amount in its product development since this will enable the company to continue fulfilling the wishes of its customers in the future. Existing solutions are continuously improved and optimised, and the portfolio is constantly being expanded with new ideas. KASTO’s aims are to continually increase the output of the storage systems, to provide materials even more flexibly and to reduce the costs per access. The company is currently focusing on the peripherals, because robots and manipulators that can handle the stored or sawn material in fully-automated procedures offer customers significant process and cost advantages. The sector is eagerly awaiting more pioneering innovations from KASTO in the future.
Source and photo: Kasto Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG