At Meijer Metal, the welding robots continue to produce unmanned at night

When the employees at Meijer Metal in Sint Jacobiparochie, Friesland, start their workday in the morning, the welding robots have been producing all night long. Four welding robot cells are loaded and unloaded 24/7 unmanned by AGVs. In doing so, the company is building the factory of the future, in which much of the handling will be automated. “We have been able to shorten the lead time with this and we have been able to say goodbye to shift work with the robots,” explains Reinder Hoekstra, COO of Meijer Metal and Meijer Handling Solutions.

Meijer Metal

Meijer Metal is among the larger suppliers of metal products in the Netherlands, with approximately 175 employees. “It is not our ambition to be the biggest, but to be the one that can supply products with high quality and high delivery reliability at a competitive price. Thanks to our scale, we can serve our customers broadly and are able to grow with them.”

Automate welding production flexibly

Reinder Hoekstra: “Within our idea of the factory of the future, we prioritized the welding department because that is where we can add a lot of extra value and where the replacement demand was the highest. New welding robots do increase efficiency, but an operator still needs to be present to load the robot. We wanted to go a step further by also automating the logistics part with AGVs. In addition, we wanted to get rid of the shifts, so that we can have our employees working only in daytime shifts. We looked at how the automotive sector does it, but that is too inflexible for us. We want to be able to weld all products together and also in varying series sizes”.

Welding robots, AGVs and storage

“For the concept we had in mind, we approached several parties. Kuunders for the AGVs and Valk Welding for the welding robots came to the forefront. Both have worked together before, and both showed the commitment to work with us. Moreover, both suppliers are well advanced in the development of their software, which makes it possible to offer the right program to the robots together with the products to be welded. We ourselves took care of the communication between ERP and TMS (the transport management system of Kuunders), in which it is specified what has to be welded where with what priority. Valk Welding supplied the software tools with which we make the welding programs (DTPS), can search and scale them automatically (QPT) and Shop Floor Control software (SFC).”

No more hands at the welding robots

During the day, the parts are stitched, stretched in the mould, and placed in a storage tower. Around the clock, AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles), equipped with a product carrier, pick up the products from the tower, drive them to one of the available welding robots and place the product carrier with parts in the workstation. The robot then welds the parts. While one AGV removes the welded parts from the welding robot, another AGV is already bringing the next product carrier with pre-sealed parts. In this way, four welding robots and four AGVs work unmanned 24 hours a day.

Intelligence is in the robot

With Quick Touch Sensing (searching with the welding wire), the robot searches where the product lies, probes the length and width dimensions, whether the product fits within the program’s bandwidth and whether the jigs are closed. “This way we weld parametrically and control everything, using the intelligence of the robot and we don’t need expensive jigs,” explains Reinder Hoekstra.


From the beginning, Hoekstra set the requirement that production should not come to a halt when one link fails. “As soon as that happens, the rest must be able to continue working. It is therefore important that the redundancy* is in order. If one welding robot breaks down, the other welding robots take over”.

More work with the same people

“The automation has not saved us any FTEs, but it has enabled us to do more work with the same number of people. The challenge is to keep the supply and demand for preheating in balance. It is still quite a puzzle how many employees you need to deploy in order to stitch a sufficient number of parts and to have them ready in the storage towers.

Now that we have realized our idea in the welding department, we also want to roll it out to machining and bending.


Download the full Valk Mailing



We like to think along with you in finding solutions for your (welding) automation, welding wires and welding accessories. We are looking for the connection and prefer to be a partner rather than a supplier.