Last updateSat, 04 Jul 2020 9am

Drive autonomously, better protection

In times of Corona, speed is a trump card. Although not yet fully commissioned, HERMA is therefore already using at least part of the new coating plant for label adhesive material - for good reason: the 90 million euro investment in Filderstadt already allows the self-adhesive specialist to separate different production teams more effectively from one another, especially as the further increased level of automation at the new plant significantly reduces human interaction. "We have started up key components in the new factory step by step", explain the two HERMA managing directors Sven Schneller and Dr. Thomas Baumgärtner, the latter responsible for the adhesive material division. "This enabled us to allocate production orders to the factories at a very early stage at the beginning of the corona pandemic and thus provide our employees with even better protection. In addition, we now basically already operate two complete, independent plants in this way. This means that we have redundant systems and can therefore continue to deliver even if production in one of the two plants has to be halted. An important side effect is that the new plant is also able to cushion production peaks. At present, these often result from increased demand for adhesive materials for shipping labels or for identification labels for drugs, disinfectants and other medical products.

An area the size of New York City
Originally HERMA had planned to put the new factory into operation in the 4th quarter of 2019. Unforeseen conditions, particularly in terms of fire protection, had initially delayed commissioning. "But the original schedule was perhaps a little too ambitious," admits Dr. Baumgärtner. "After all, we deliberately did not want to copy the existing plant one-to-one, but rather integrate a number of technological innovations. Under the Corona circumstances and measured against the delays that public buildings are sometimes experiencing, we are nevertheless generally satisfied with what has already been achieved. The two HERMA managing directors are expecting the new factory to be fully operational in the summer. With the so-called Factory 2, HERMA is increasing its annual adhesive material capacity by 50 percent to 1.2 billion square metres. In terms of surface area, this is roughly equivalent to the area of Berlin and Potsdam together or that of New York City. Above all, however, its technical capabilities are paving the way for innovative adhesive materials. For example, for shipping labels that do not require a carrier material and are therefore particularly environmentally friendly. Or for film labels that consist of up to 100 percent recycled raw materials.
With its driverless transport vehicles, state-of-the-art packing robots and a pioneering energy concept, the new coating plant is probably the most efficient of its kind in the world. The resource-saving energy concept in particular is a major competitive advantage in the medium term. "HERMA can drastically reduce primary energy consumption in the new factory with a special combined heat, power and cooling system. Although this is technically very demanding and has cost us a little more construction time," says Dr. Baumgärtner. "But it enables us to generate up to a quarter of our electricity requirements ourselves. In addition, we use the heat generated during electricity generation for heating in winter, and in summer we even generate cold very efficiently with this heat".
Autonomous driving realized
Since HERMA manufactures exclusively in Germany, highly automated manufacturing and logistics processes are also essential. What is particularly striking in this respect is that the rolls of paper, film or ready-coated adhesive material, which are up to two metres wide and sometimes weigh almost five tonnes, travel through the new factory completely autonomously - an industry-wide first. This is made possible by a driverless transport system with ten vehicles, each of which has the dimensions of a "Sprinter". A further advantage is that the existing coating plant operates exclusively linear packaging systems, which take on one order after another. In the new Plant 2, two robots now handle five orders at a time. "This makes us even more flexible and faster," stresses Dr. Baumgärtner. If necessary, HERMA can even install a third robot with five additional packing stations. Managing Director Sven Schneller is therefore already looking ahead: "With Plant 2 we can reliably secure the continued growth of HERMA for the next eight or nine years. And the new area offers a wide range of possibilities for further expansion.




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