Hovuma Magazijnstellingen B.V., a Dutch production company of warehouse racks, put a new Valk Welding robot welding system into use last year.

Hovuma Magazijnstellingen B.V., a Dutch production company of warehouse racks, put a new Valk Welding robot welding system into use last year. “The purchase of a new cell with two Panasonic TAWERS welding robots is perfectly in keeping with our efforts to achieve maximum safety in the warehouse systems that we produce", explains general manager Piet Sanders. The investment was preceded by an in-depth study, talks with several robot suppliers and feasibility studies. The principal conditions for investment were flexibility, a doubling of production, consistent welding quality and cost-price reduction.

The robot welding system

The 28 metre robot welding installation comprises 2 Panasonic TAWERS TA1900WG welding robots on a track, which serve 6 welding stations independently of each other. Piet Sanders: “To be able to use the welding cell as flexibly as possible, it has been placed on the dividing line of 2 production halls. Girders with a maximum length of 4 metres can be welded at four welding stations on one side, while two uprights or crossbeams with a maximum length of 11 metres can be welded on the other. “Because we supply on a customised, order-driven basis, flexibility is of paramount importance to our production process. Our programme of requirements was therefore clear: Consistent weld quality had to be guaranteed for the safety of our racks, which we take extremely seriously. The flexibility that manual welding gave us, also had to be guaranteed with robots. Another condition was that the production capacity had to be at least doubled, and there had to be a cost-price reduction too”.

Clear choice for Panasonic

Hovuma has already been using Panasonic welding robots for the welding of individual components since 1988. "There are various reasons why we have now opted for Valk Welding’s Panasonic welding robots to weld the girders and crossbeams", says Piet Sanders. “Panasonic specialises in welding equipment and offers a complete system that covers the robot, welding equipment, wire feed and programming. Everything is integrated in a one system, which avoids communication problems.”

Safety and durability

Hovuma stands out for its safety and durability in the market for warehouse racks. Piet Sanders: “We are one of the few companies supplying welded racks, which stand out from the competition for their safety. Whereas the consequential damage to the competitors’ warehouse racks caused by forklift truck collisions is over 10%, with Hovuma warehouse racks that is less than 1% of the purchase price. Damage caused by forklift truck collections is often seriously underestimated. Warehouse racks can be seriously damaged by these collections, and that can be critical in the case of a fully loaded rack. Welded warehouse racks minimise the chance of collapse.” “The high level of durability also ensures that these racks can easily last for 30 years. There is also a good market for used Hovuma warehouse racks. The additional costs of our warehouse racks easily pay for themselves", says Piet Sanders.

Catch-up effort

Before Sanders took over the company in a management buyout, there had been no investment for 13 years. In mid-2005 Sanders started a catch-up effort with the purchase of a super-modern powder coating line. The next big investment was to robotise the production process. “We really didn’t have a choice”, says production manager Ger Zetsen. “It’s impossible to find qualified welders these days, and the peaks in the order flow mean that its very difficult to hire qualified people at short notice. We were also forced to opt for further robotising by the more frequent recurring work, such as when around 20,000 girders have to be welded, combined with the need to produce more cheaply. Everything is running to our complete satisfaction at the moment. Our expectations have been met, flexibility is guaranteed, the cycle times are being achieved and production is 100% faster. Were we used to have 4 welders at work, the entire robot welding line can be operated by two people. The only weak link in the chain is the handling for the girders. But everything is much faster now than manual welding. There is no doubt that there will be further automation in the future.”


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