For the French kitchen furniture manufacturer FOURNIER HABITAT, IMA Klessmann developed and designed a high-capacity wood processing plant with the dual capability of maximum productivity in diversified small batches or high-volume single component manufacture. The mission was to ensure maximum availability and waste-free production. With new ideas, state-of-the art technologies, system redundancy and a throughfeed rate of 12 000 parts per shift at Fournier, IMA has set a unique benchmark for the industry.
The French family owned and operated company Fournier is one of the two big kitchen manufacturers in France. In the past three years, Fournier expanded its production at the Head Office in Thônes and changed the production completely into custom production. Today the company operates on two edge banding lines, each consisting of four fully interlinked Combima machines and the upstream and downstream panel storage, panel cutting and handling & assembly equipment.
The projects were planned and managed by IMA – both the batch-size-1 production line of 2007 and the new work cell which was commissioned in 2017. “In the past years, we have continually expanded and evolved from a pure kitchen manufacturer to an interior designer. Hence, a flexibilization of our production was urgently required”, the Fournier project managers explain. They were placing great demands on the new work cell: coping with limited available surface area, integrating the new line while the plant was operating, ensuring trouble-free operation and a waste-free production that also offers process security, and – typical of processing plants in France – satisfying the need for equipment redundancy in order to be able to continue production even in the event that a defect or fault occurs. That was really the biggest challenge: providing redundancy taking account of the transport paths in the workcell.
The IMA project designers mastered the challenge by applying proven technology in ways that even the machine designers had not envisaged. The result is an innovative panel cutting and storage concept and two high-volume edge banding lines including buffer storage systems. Today the work cell, which has been operating for two years already, produces up to 12 000 parts per shift, i.e. ten times the normal throughfeed rate in a conventional batch-size-1 workcell. This production rate is a class of its own and has not been reached so far.
In the panel cutting area, IMA used multi-blade rip saws and cross-cuts saws which were originally designed for laminate cutting with setup operations at very long intervals. Adapted to the requirements of kitchen furniture panel cutting, five saws operating in two lines – i.e. main cutting for carcase elements and secondary cutting for special components – achieve a production capacity of 12 000 parts per shift. Each saw can set itself up for new panel sizes within fractions of seconds and accomplish four raw panels per minute in longitudinal cutting – although no packages but only single 2800 mm x 2100 mm half-size panels are fed to the saw.
The third cut is performed by an IMA panel sizing saw of the FBA type. The FBAs have been equipped with a workpiece infeed system that ensures a high production capacity even when panels are processed in transverse orientation and hence comes up to the high throughfeed rate of 25 parts per minute achieved by the upstream saws. Other saw technologies could have been a conceivable solution but would have required significantly more floor space. Through the combination of multi-blade saws and FBAs, IMA has obtained an extremely high throughfeed rate on a given area, which was one of the main reasons why the order for the construction of the new work cell was placed with IMA. In fact, the multi-blade saw for secondary cutting is overdimensioned, but it is necessary due to the need for redundancy in order to replace the rip saw for main cutting if required.
IMA designed the Fournier panel cutting zone with a rolling system of panel optimisation.
In this process, not only the parts of the corresponding production run (commanded parts) are cut to size, but also the so-called facultative parts, which allows maximum utilization of the raw panel. In this way, offcuts are minimized and movements of residual parts are also reduced to a minimum; small residual parts are not produced. An increasing number of manufacturers decide to use this type of panel optimisation for good reasons. They must, however, provide the required logistic conditions such as their own storage area for facultative parts. In the case of Fournier, the storage areas for residual parts and facultative parts have redundancy functionality, and hence they can guarantee trouble-free production even when one of the storage areas breaks down.
Each third-cut saw is followed by a pre-sorting cell. Here, the parts are prepared for fully automatic stacking with optimized layer formation with the aim to store stacks of maximum height (up to 1600 mm) on the downstream roller conveyors. Through this stacking with optimized layer formation, IMA achieves approximately five times the storage capacity of conventional manual stacking methods – in a fully automated process.
In the pre-cutting cell, a roller conveyor carries the cut pieces with labels to storage racks where they are randomly stored by two vacuum suction cups. Between two storage racks, two further suction cups move to take the parts out of the racks in the order of their arrangement in the stack layers and to bring them on the way to the stacker where they are stacked on coded base boards.
The finished stacks are intermediately stored on an accumulation roller conveyor with a storage capacity that corresponds with the number of parts produced in two shifts.
The accumulation roller conveyor feeds parts to the existing edge banding line as well as to the new edge banding cell. In this process, the barcode of the base board is read automatically. It contains all the information on stack contents, production run (batch), etc., required by the plant control system for individualized edge banding. The feeder of the edge banding line singulates the parts from the stack and feeds them to the edge bander. The finished parts are then sorted in the order of the parts in the applicable production run for final assembly.
The edge banding is performed on two lines, each consisting of four interlinked single-side edgebanders of the Combima type and four buffers. The buffers downstream from each edgebander have a crucial function. In the event that a tape fault occurs, they allow the workcell to be emptied without producing rejects due to edge banding faults. This is a big advantage specifically for custom production, since every faulty part means refabrication and hence inhibits the production process in the final assembly area.
The third and forth edgebanders of each line are equipped with drilling and doweling units.
In this way, ready-to-assemble construction shelves for kitchen cabinets can be manufactured so that holes need to be drilled only into the sides directly before the final assembly.
The need for equipment redundancy was one of the main challenges the workcell design was faced with. Two sorting cells – i.e. one downstream from the panel cutting zone, one downstream from the edge banding line – , one accumulation roller conveyor between the panel cutting zone and the edge banding line, as well as the small buffers between each of the edgebanders, and the intermediate conveyors such as conveyor belts, turning devices, etc., were placing great demands on the designers. But with the help of the IMA system toolkit, they mastered the challenge without problems.
“The work cell is not only extremely productive. It also enables furniture with a much higher number of different carcase colours and special dimensions to be produced without any need of using intermediate storage areas,” the project managers sum up the situation.
Founded 1907 in Thônes in Haute-Savoie, the French family owned and operated company Fournier Habitat today is one of two big kitchen manufacturers in France. Having specialized in the fabrication of fully integrated kitchen furniture, Fournier continually invests in new technology for its production. The company, which also successfully manufactures tailor-made bathroom furniture, space storage systems for the entry areas and open kitchens as well as living room and bedroom furniture, today employs nearly 1200 people.
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