The Zeppelin Group has commissioned a laser-controlled cutting system. The high-tech machine cost around EUR 750,000 and is the biggest investment at the Rödermark site in ten years.
Zeppelin is investing heavily in its plant on Messenhäuser Strasse, to prepare it for the future. As part of the process, the company yesterday began operating a EUR 750,000 laser cutting machine for sheet metal processing, alongside a further EUR 300,000 to 400,000 invested by the Management Board during the course of the year into the technology center – a research and development facility and customer center which opened back in 2013. “This is not simply a new machine, but also a clear indication of where Rödermark is headed,” said Peter Gerstmann, Chairman of the Management Board of Zeppelin GmbH.
Project Manager Sophie Rabenau explained the details. Zeppelin does more than 85% of its own sheet metal cutting for food technology systems. Precision and reliability are vital, and the old machine stopped being able to deliver in these respects. The company simply cannot afford two hours of downtime a day: “If a customer decides to build a new system, it expects the idea to be realized within a few months.” With this in mind, the laser cutting machine works in a two-shift operation to be able to meet these high customer expectations.
Sophie Rabenau has also used the installation to optimize workflows, and to automate them where possible. Dismantling and assembly was carried out during system operation, so her team had various tasks including the clearing 500 m² of space in the production hall and cutting-out of sections of floor –which had to be done manually after two machines broke down. “It put a considerable strain on our staff, but they rose to the occasion,” said Axel Kiefer, Head of Zeppelin Plant Engineering, praising his employees’ commitment.
Kiefer and Gerstmann are frank about the fact that things have not necessarily run smoothly in Urberach in recent years; in fact, since 2008 employees have been questioning whether Zeppelin GmbH, based in Friedrichshafen and with its headquarters in Garching, was still serious about the food technology operation in the former Reimelt plant on Messenhäuser Strasse. Construction of the technology center, which began in 2011, was the first clear signal of the company’s intentions, which are further confirmed by the new laser facility and announced investment.
“We have just got through two or three difficult years,” confirmed the unit head Kiefer. The Management Board only succeeded in stabilizing the Urberach plant for the long term during the second half of 2016, and the decision to acquire the laser cutting machine was also taken during this period. Following its installation in the fall, employee training was carried out in December, and production of sheet metal parts began in January.