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Sinteplast relies on robotics to maintain growth trajectory

Brett Brune
By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing
Lucila Dana Smith
By Lucila Dana Smith Contributing Editor, Smart Manufacturing magazine

SPECIAL REPORT: Innovation in Argentina

Holidays and weekends are sacrosanct in Argentina. So asking people to labor when they had plans to barbecue with amigos is seriously bad form. Nobody knows this better than Martin Muller, production planning and distribution manager for Sinteplast.

Sinteplast’s new high-bay warehouse allows for 18,000 pallet positions, on 23 levels—which are scaled by speedy robots, said Martin Muller, production planning and distribution manager.

“We used to work on Carnival!” he said. But the holiday and weekend work stopped the minute the maker of paint and other coatings finished building its high-bay warehouse. That feat was accomplished in October 2019.

In the years leading up to Sinteplast’s largest Industry 4.0 project so far, “during the high season, we were working six days a week—even some Sundays and holidays,” he recalled. “The storage capacity was above 92 percent. We needed preparation, storage and dispatch capacity, and we didn’t have a lot of free surface on this land,” which is situated about an hour’s drive south of Buenos Aires.

Sinteplast needed to go vertical.

The old warehouse was 11 meters high. The new one rises to 38.5 meters. And it allows for 18,000 pallet positions, on 23 levels—which are, of course, now scaled by speedy (as in 200 meters per minute) robots.

The $24 million investment doubled the warehouse’s distribution capacity.

“We also gained a lot of efficiency, in part by eliminating the operator walking across the warehouse and chatting with others along the way,” Muller said. “We increased our overall productivity more than 20 percent. And in the peak season, we gained more than 60 percent.”

The company revamped “the concept of picking goods,” he said. “We used to have men go around collecting goods with a much slower picker. Now, the pallet comes to the picking post, so the goods come to the man.”

Sinteplast chose a turnkey warehouse-management system from ULMA Handling Systems, in Spain. That included Daifuku´s stacker cranes and sorting transfer vehicles (also known as STVs), which can be seen taking pallets from the warehouse to the picking zone (starting at 0:55) in this video:

The company expects to recoup its investment over nine years.

Meanwhile, its “intelligent warehouse” lets Sinteplast grow as expected—15 percent a year—via acquisitions or through internal and export market development, Muller said. The company in recent years bought a trademark called Casablanca, from BASF, as well as a smaller paint company called Polacrin to gain more market share in Argentina.

The new picking system is designed to scale, he said: “If we need to increase our flow or throughput, we can add up to five additional stacker cranes. We can also build up to four more picking posts. And finally, we can add STVs to the circuit: We currently have 13 STVs but the circuit can handle up to 24.”

That all adds up to greater legitimization of Sinteplast’s advertising slogan “Sobre todo, esta Sinteplast,” which translates to “Sinteplast covers everything.”

Including time off.

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