Mobile robots to increase efficiency by facilitating mould change in footwear factory

Procalçado, established in 1973, is one of the largest European producers of footwear components and moulded footwear. With its more than 350 employees Procalçado produces annually over 4 million pairs of soles and footwear in its 18 000 m2 premises in Pedroso, Portugal. 

The growth of Procalçado has been enabled by regular improvements of manufacturing processes, most importantly the moulding of rubber and plastics. Changing a mould, however, has remained manual. The selected mould is lifted on a trolley, pushed to a moulding machine and pre-heated. All this takes up to around 60 minutes.
The L4MS experiment offered an opportunity to find out how to use AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) to automate the transportation of moulds as well as raw materials and products.
“It's not about the future of business, but about today. More and more companies have access to automation in their industrial processes, and it is important for Procalçado to be among them,” says José Pinto, CEO at Procalçado.

3D simulation to demonstrate ideas and to facilitate planning

The Portuguese service company EWEN is specialized in energy efficiency and aims to expand into production efficiency by means of automation. Before the experiment they were new to the field of intra-factory logistics and AGVs and eager to lower the threshold with OPIL tools.
Specialists at EWEN first created a digital twin of the mould changing and raw material handling processes and presented it to Procalçado.
“The 3D simulation was absolutely fundamental for us to perceive and validate the effective reduction of the production time. It also helped us engage our customer during the process,” says Luis Ribeiro, General Manager at EWEN.

More automation by connecting OPIL with SAP

In the solution proposed by EWEN moulds are automatically delivered to operators just in time, so that they can be preheated without interrupting the moulding process. 
“With the help of OPIL modules our development work ran fast and we were able to concentrate on developing an additional application, EL2OPIL, Event Logistics to OPIL. It acts as an interface between the OPIL application and the SAP system, which Procalçado uses for production planning,” Luis Ribeiro says. 
Operators can follow intra-factory logistics with the OPIL application on their tablets, but they are not required to request or dispatch AGVs, as this is done automatically by SAP via EL2OPIL.
“This experiment has provided us a unique opportunity to enter the intra-factory logistics market. We feel confident about extending the solution to our solid customer base in industries such as cork, glass, tobacco, textile and plastics,” Luis Ribeiro says.
To get the full benefit of the solution, Procalçado still needs to automate the storing of the moulds, so that AGVs can autonomously collect them.

Faster production with less incidents

All the expected benefits were reached during the experiment. Operators avoided all muscle injuries which can happen when moving moulds. They were also able to concentrate on the moulding process without interruption which resulted in a productivity increase.
- More than 50% of time was saved in setting up the moulding machines
- Productivity of the machines was increased by 5%
- Accidents were reduced by more than 70% 
EWEN estimates the cost of the solution to be around EUR 150 000 including software, AGV and implementation.

OPIL modules used in the Procalçado solution by EWEN:

- Digital twin: the external 3D simulation tool Visual Components
- Task Planner
- Human Agent Node
- Sensor Agent Node

Partners in the L4MS experiment:

- Factory: Procalçado S.A., manufacturer of moulded footwear components
- Solution provider: EWEN, an energy service company


RAMP is the digital marketplace for robotics capable of accelerating productivity in Small and Medium-size Enterprises and of broadening markets for Technology Solution Providers. We achieve this by making it easy for SMEs and Solution Providers to work together in ways that benefit both parties: As a manufacturing SME you gain access to robotics and digitisation technologies to improve efficiency and productivity. As a Technology Solution Provider you reach customers faster and enjoy access to a far larger market.
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