The robots move in…

At INDEX™23 in Geneva this April, it will be evident that plant automation is becoming a must for advanced manufacturers of nonwoven roll goods for the absorbent hygiene products (AHPs) industry.

The latest Industry 4.0 and robotics developments are now opening up many new opportunities for integrated and fault-free operations.
INDEX™23 exhibitor A.Celli Nonwovens, for example, is introducing the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) to bring a new level of flexibility and efficiency to plant operations.
As a specialist in the post-production preparation technologies for finished nonwovens for the AHP industry – including winders and slitters, flexographic printers and lamination and packaging machinery – the company, headquartered in Porcari, Italy, has designed the ASRS to provide real-time inventory management and full control of every single phase of product handling.
Optimised storage and retrieval of jumbo rolls, reels and bundles ensure that all products fully comply with a customer’s requirements at all times.

Automatic Guided Vehicles
The company’s R-Way packing system and automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) are responsible for the proper manipulation of products around the warehouse and plant and between individual machines, and perfectly synchronised with pre-set processing and shipping orders.
“The focus of the R-Way team is on flexible technologies for safely and efficiently handling master rolls and finished products, with payloads above five tons and a lifting height capacity of up to 8.5 metres for lightweight products and 6.5 metres for heavier reels,” explains A.Celli’s Sales and Project Manager Francesco Furzi. “We are also committing to a new generation of navigation systems, such as autonomous driving methods, that can reduce the impact on the infrastructure of our customers, while offering the utmost flexibility in reconfiguring and reprogramming the navigation flow.
We have access to the most efficient lithium batteries and recharging methods, and have built an impressive supply chain of the best brands in the market, in order to offer our customers a superior quality and an unlimited 24/7 support, with no bottlenecks.”

System manager
The ASRS system manager is an inventory management software consisting of a set of main modules for order, vehicle, traffic and layout management in the plant, capable of interfacing with other secondary modules specific to each individual application, as well as communicating directly with a company’s ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.
“Our ASRS system manager can simply integrate and effectively communicate with all of the most widely-used ERPs leading to improved productivity, accurate quality control, value chain certification and significantly reduced costs,” says Francesco Furzi. “An effective intralogistics automation system allows a company to invoice for orders on the same day, because the warehouse can automatically coordinate with the management system and the time between the administrative event and the movement of the AGV is reduced to the minimum possible.”
Because the production process and reel handling are managed digitally, it is also possible to obtain real-time information relating to what is happening to the reel at any given moment during the production process, and self-learning means the AGVs adapt to external stresses over time, in order to eliminate errors and inefficiencies recorded in the past. Remote monitoring also optimises sysyem energy cycles to minimise waste, making it possible to verify system optimisation and adjust work parameters instantaneously.

Another INDEX™ exhibitor now taking full advantage of A.Celli’s R-Way system is PFNonwovens, which during 2022 commissioned a new nonwovens speciality line at its centre of excellence in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. The new R5 spunmelt line primarily supplied by Reicofil includes multiple A.Celli ancillary machines, including E-Wind Wave master roll winders and E-Wind Super Sonic slitter rewinders with Corematic Evo technology – a single device combining automatic shaft handling and core cutting operations.
The entire line is supported by Celli’s R-Way solution for automatic roll handling and packaging and equipped with the supplier’s label verification system.
“We are the first to invest in the latest R5 machinery in the US and this investment, in combination with our unique proprietary technology, allows us to produce consumer-preferred ultra-high loft, soft and textured nonwoven fabrics,” says Shane Vincent, PFN’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Full automation mode
For the future, A.Celli is focusing on the further development of omni-directional AGVs with natural navigation systems and heavy weight lifting capabilities, but more ambitiously, on the development of the entirely automated plant, –involving no people at all in the entire process sequence from raw material to finished product.
Such a plant, Francesco Furzi says, would be able to operate, for example, in total darkness, cutting out the need for lighting, or in low oxygen environments restricted to human workers.
“Surprisingly, we are not far from this, and we are proud to be part of this revolution in manufacturing,” he concludes.

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