Automated Distribution

Capacity increased and setup time decreased when a steel distributor invested in an automated solution


At the end of the 19th century, Heinrich Bieber was forced to give up his initial profession as a cobbler because his sight was no longer adequate to exercise his trade. Forced to leave his first profession, he founded a small steel distribution business that soon evolved into a successful company that today employs 290 people.

The Hessian steel distributor owns more than 40 delivery trucks to supply the steel and metal working industry in southern Germany with a complete range of steel products. Bieber + Marburg’s core customer base consists of mechanical engineering, plant construction, metal and steel construction, machining companies and locksmith shops.

The family-owned business supplies customers with a laundry list of products, which includes bar steel, tubes, structural steel, wide flange beams, flat materials, construction steel, bright steel, stainless steel, non-ferrous metals, reinforcing steel and steel mesh.

“We store 28,000 tonnes of steel here on 42,000 square meters,” says Marcel Finkernagel, who, as director of administration and organization at Bieber + Marburg, has extensive knowledge of the company’s facilities. “However, we have been more than strictly a steel distributor for quite some time. Our strength lies in processing, such as sawing, drilling, laser cutting in the 3-D area, blasting, bending and flame cutting.”

Because customer demands, particularly for sawing, have increased tremendously over the years, the steel distributor needed to examine how to expand in this sector and determine what technology should be incorporated. The conclusion was a new sawing center from Kasto, a sawing technology specialist based in Achern, Germany. Thanks to many years of collaboration, Bieber + Marburg was familiar with Kasto products and expertise so the company contacted Kasto to learn more. The advantages turned out to be quite impressive, especially the speed of the Kasto sawing center when demonstrated in a simulation.

“When we saw the possibilities the system offers,” Finkernagel explains, “it was clear that it was the optimum solution for our needs.”

Utomatic and Operator-freeE

The new sawing center is a Kastocenter varioplus 4, which is a combination out-of-storage system with attached sawing machines and sorting device. It offers impressive dimensions with a length of 50 m, width of 7 m and height of 9 m.

Bieber + Marburg’s team manager Alexander Volp values the advantages the Kasto sawing center offers, including working almost operator-free.

Finkernagel says the company now has about 1,500 shelves and space for materials up to 7 m long and 330 mm in diameter. The long goods are stored and retrieved by an operating gantry crane that travels above the shelf block at a speed of up to 60 m/min. A fully automatic production circular saw from the Kasto variospeed series and a Kastotec SC4 bandsaw with a connected pallet lift with space for eight Euro pallets are connected to the storage system.

At the circular saw, a Kastosort robot is responsible for container management. Eight pallet spaces on a carousel change automatically and the robot grips and loads the pallets independently.

“This can be carried out even on the weekends, operator-free,” Finkernagel says, “and the corresponding label is already in the bin, eliminating the need for employee intervention during this time.”

The employees at Bieber + Marburg value the products from Kasto as they already operate four fully automatic bandsaws and one Unicompact honeycomb storage system.

“The last expansion of the high-bay storage system was about six years ago,” Finkernagel says. “And two years ago, it was clear that to become more flexible when it comes to cutting products and minimizing setup times, we would need to invest once again.”

Meeting Demand

Finkernagel says the company wanted to increase capacities, process material at short notice and offer customers batch sizes of one.

“A faster material change and less manual effort were required to achieve this,” he says. “The Kastocenter varioplus 4 enabled us to reduce the setup time from approximately 15 to 20 min. to less than 2 min. – fully automatic and with consistent cut quality.

The new Kasto sawing center at Bieber + Marburg has about 1,500 shelves and space for materials up to 7 m long and 330 mm in diameter.

However, the current sawmill with its four bandsaws still has its rightful place at Bieber + Marburg for cutting parts with larger diameters that are too heavy for the new sawing center.

“Once a certain size is exceeded, the previous technology is still advantageous,” Finkernagel says. “In such cases, the setup time saved is not a factor.”

The upper limit for the new sawing center is 330 mm for round material. Anything exceeding this limit is processed on the older conventional bandsaws.

Fully Developed

The Kastocenter varioplus 4 has operated at Bieber + Marburg in Gießen since July 2020. After making some adjustments in collaboration with Kasto, the system has been fully developed since the end of 2020.

“We involved the employees at a very early stage,” Finkernagel says. “They contributed to the construction and ideal setup of the sawing center. That generated great acceptance from the very beginning.”

In the new sawing center, the Kastosort robot loads the pallets automatically; employees are only responsible for securing the load.

Very little training was required because the operators were already familiar with the Kastologic software used on the bandsaws. As a result, they can work flexibly on any system. Although the sawing center operates for the most part fully automatically, minor interventions, such as changing the saw blade and securing the load on the pallets, are still necessary. In the end, the team at Bieber + Marburg says the investment in the Kastocenter varioplus 4 has undoubtedly paid off.

“There is no comparable product like it that offers similar advantages,” Finkernagel concludes. “We wanted a quick material change, low setup times and easy access to the entire product range, and that’s what we got. Kasto accommodated all our requests and fulfilled our high demands put on our systems.”

Bieber + Marburg


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