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Universal Aluminium Systems - new automated aluminium extrusion handling facility.

Sign manufacturers requiring a faster than normal turnaround on orders for aluminium extrusions for the on-site assembly of illuminated and non-illuminated sign solutions are now benefiting from a new automated materials handling facility installed at Bristol-based Universal Aluminium Systems. The company is one of the UK's leading suppliers of aluminium extrusions for the sign manufacturing and the architectural/building/glazing sectors. The newly installed Unicompact storage system.

At a cost of £1 million, Universal has installed a Unicompact computer-controlled automatic storage and retrieval system supplied by specialist production solutions provider KASTO and supported by new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software. Key aspects of the system include the provision of a much greater and more varied stockholding capability and faster location, handling and delivery of materials to the ultimate benefit of all Universal customers.

Head of Production at the Bristol facility, Gary Darlington explained: ‘Due to the honeycomb design of the Unicompact system, we can now save up to two thirds of the space previously taken up by conventional A-frame racks, whilst increasing our materials stockholding capacity from 300 to 800 tonnes. Since at any given time Universal holds between 600 and 700 tonnes of material, this leaves room for additional varieties of extrusion to be stocked. Furthermore, whereas previously it took a full eight-hour shift to unload, manhandle and stack the material vertically, it now takes only two hours to carry out the same procedure using the fully automated Unicompact system. There are also fewer health and safety issues to be addressed and a greatly reduced risk of materials being damaged during handling.'

Using the system's ERP software, locating and delivering the material is, according to Gary Darlington, at least twice as fast as the conventional and more labour-intensive A-frame retrieval method previously employed. Operators simply follow on-screen instructions to pick the required amount of material from each job processing cassette presented by the system's gantry-type crane. In a single operation and to save further time, this picks the next cassette whilst simultaneously dispensing with the previous one.

Technical Director at Universal, Carl Richards added: 'The Unicompact system stores hundreds of different types of extrusion in lengths ranging from three to 6.5 metres. The computer control knows the content of each cassette in which material is stored horizontally in bundles that are unpacked only when needed, thereby avoiding unnecessary handling. When material is removed, the computer automatically knows how many extrusions have been taken by the difference in the weight of the cassette.'

Commenting on the contribution that the Unicompact system is making to Universal's growth expectations, General Manager Jarl Severn concluded: 'Our £11 million-turnover stockholding and fabrication facility has, by virtue of this investment, positioned itself to increase the company's market share of what are continually developing sectors of industry. With its attendant merits of being a fully recyclable material and offering outstanding light weight-to-strength capabilities, aluminium will be adopted increasingly for a wide range of applications.'

For further information, visit www.universal-aluminium.co.uk or telephone 0117 955 9091.

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