A sneek peek inside Val della Torre's production unit
The 'F21 project' is a customer-driven approach that enhances efficiency and traceability in the factory.
There is a corner of pure style and modernity in the mountains of Piedmont, which safeguards - inside its essential architecture - the productive heart of Inpeco, the world's leading company for laboratory automation. Surrounded by a lush garden, with ponds and fountains, this building is the forge of the systems that Inpeco delivers all over the world, under the brand names FlexLabTM, Aptio AutomationTM (for Siemens Healthineers) and Accelerator3600TM (for Abbott).
The factory churns out 5km of track/year and delivered its 2,000th system to an Indian Siemens Healthineers’ customer, in 2019. However, to keep up with the growing worldwide demand for automation solutions, the running manufacturing process had to become more efficient - that is, it needed to be redesigned top down.
I can say that the Val Della Torre site is a factory 4.0, as a matter of fact.
Federico Morello, head of the Val della Torre unit, tells us the story of this transformation, from within:
"Due to the increasing orders, sometimes it was tough to keep the delivery commitments and customers had to adapt to our scheduling. We realized soon that this was not the winning mentality for a leader like Inpeco and therefore we decided to adapt our production to our customers' deadlines. From these reflections, a commitment to renewing the production and logistic systems was born in 2018, oriented to the maximum automation of processes, according to the principles of Industry 4.0. We called it "F21 project" (Factory 2021, year of completion) and it’s an ambitious plan to boost the efficiency of the factory, with intense use of robotics and advanced digital solutions.
Today we are well ahead into the project and our production is interconnected with an automated warehouse, with a collaborative robot (COBOT, for pallet programming) and with autonomous mobile robot systems (AMR) for the transport of materials inside the factory. We can, therefore, say that the Val Della Torre site is a factory 4.0, as a matter of fact.
COBOT and AMR have no physical barriers and share the space with the production staff in compliance with the strictest safety standards. In particular, the AMR robots deliver the raw material to the assembly departments and "pick up" the finished product along the same aisles used by the rest of the staff; they are becoming a sort of digital, familiar and reliable colleague.
Production performance indicators are managed within the company ERP and other SW applications. We collect data about the parts that make up the product (components traceability!) and monitor the timing of every production phase (material preparation, assembly, electrical wiring, testing, packaging). All these inputs allow us to have continuous monitoring of the performance level in terms of product quality and productivity, to evaluate our outcomes against the challenging goals that we have set. We have applied in our factory the automation and traceability principles that lie into the DNA of Inpeco's offer; robots that replace humans in repetitive and risky tasks, for increased productivity and error-free diagnostics.
Is there an impact on human resources? Yes, indeed, and it is a positive one. The automation, the interconnection of the systems and the revised production processes have somehow increased the complexity of operations and require personnel with higher-tech knowledge and process management skills. To face this issue and keep all our workers, we have organized many training sessions dedicated to the resources previously working in repetitive, low-complexity operations; they have immediately recognized this change as a surprising opportunity for professional growth. A win-win paradigm”
We have applied in our factory the automation and traceability principles that lie into the DNA of Inpeco's offer; robots that replace humans in repetitive and risky tasks, for increased productivity and error-free diagnostics.