As a little girl living in the Polish countryside, I was a very good sales person in the school’s candy shop. Of course part of the profit disappeared in my mouth, but that is a pleasant detail … And now I am in a completely other line of business, mesh products, a great learning experience. However, occasionally I feel like the little candy seller again, as one my most favourite things to do is to go to the factory. To me it feels like the excitement of a school trip, or even more, I feel like a character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the wonderful book by Roald Dahl. There is so much to see, and every time I discover something new. So today, I want to take you along on a trip to my favourite magic place, the one where our mesh panels are created.
The first ritual is to put on all the safety protection at the entrance to the production area. The sound of busy machines welcomes me already. Every time I see new things emerging, in this ever-advancing production site. Whenever I arrive at the production site for mesh panels, Eric welcomes me with a big smile. To be honest, he is the only human being around as the production is fully automated. Of course, the real process of production started a long time ago, when my customer made a drawing, placed the order and everything was sent down here without any human intervention (and – maybe unfortunately – there are no Oompa-Loompas present in the factory either).
The production is like a ballet of big machines, where everything has its function, position and timing. The panel consists of side and tube profiles, as well as longitudinal and transversal threads. It all starts with a simple coil of wire. Length and cross threads are straightened and cut to the intended length. They are then welded to a mesh of the desired format.
The side profile is manufactured from a sheet metal by being successively shaped into its geometry by a row of rollers. After moulding, the holes used to attach the panel to the post are cut. Finally, the profile is cut to the desired length. The side profile and the welded mesh meet in the machine and are welded together. The tube profile is shaped in the same way, it also starts with plate on a roll. It meets the net and side profile in the last welding process in the machine. It is a perfect cooperation of machines and robots. I have to say it is rather disappointing a robot does not look like R2-D2 or C-3PO at all.
The various components of the panel have now become just one panel, which travels further in the machine, now to a brush grading station where sharp edges are removed. Finally, the panel arrives at a station where it is calibrated. Now the panel is finished and is marked for identification This comes handy: whenever a problem occurs, it will be easily identified. After that the robot, let’s call her G3-D3, places the panels in an intelligent way on the pallets in order to save space.
So today we no longer offer standard products, we offer solutions. We realize our customers’ projects. The panel’s various parameters are determined by the customer: height, width, mesh size, thread diameter, hole specifications and colour. This means that we can manufacture a virtually unlimited number of panel variations. The production is dynamic; there is no set up time. However, in this amazing ability lies also the challenge. Where before we had standard programs for standard products, we now have to develop dynamic programs with the ability of self-learning.
When watching the production, I saw bright pink mesh panels passing by on the conveyor. Soon they will be picked up by the transport company, heading for Italy. Is it not amazing? Me, the Polish candy seller, watching things being produced in Värnamo, Sweden, of all places. Things which are then sent out to the rest of the world. It makes me feel a world citizen.