With a ceremony held directly in the production hall, the Kurtz Ersa Corporation opened its new Smart Foundry on March 6. A year and a month had passed since the turning of the first sod in Hasloch, Germany—the starting shot for an ambitious project which has now been brought to a successful conclusion and officially handed over for its intended purpose. One hundred and fifty invited guests, customers, project partner, representatives of important associations, and staff were in attendance as the ribbon was cut.
With the decision for the Smart Foundry, Kurtz Ersa pursued a strategic reorientation intended to secure the long-term continuity of the iron foundry and the over 100 jobs at the Hasloch site. This resulted in investments amounting to 12 million euro for what is probably the world’s most modern hand mold foundry, a further significant milestone in the over 235-year history of the company, which has included iron casting in its core competences since 1852.
Today, the broadly-based product range encompasses, among other things, planetary carriers, machine beds and pump housings for well-known customers from such branches as mechanical engineering, drive engineering, power engineering, vehicle construction, vacuum engineering and wind energy. A study commissioned in advance attests to the necessary potential for the Kurtz product range to utilize the full capacity of the iron foundry with the production of high-quality cast iron parts for German industry in the future as well.
From this, the parties involved in the project have developed a creative solution which illustrates the trend to “Industry 4.0” and leads to a doubling of productivity with increased efficiency. The concept: Exploiting as many existing buildings as possible. Smart Foundry focuses on a completely new material flow and continuous clocked hand molding production in keeping with the Toyota production system. An SAP-controlled production concept, parceled production areas and an unmanned, universally mobile transport system result in a flexible process chain in which manual production phases and an automated logistics system can be ideally combined. Two of the major figures in the project are the 1,700 sq.m of ground-up renovations and 2,580 sq. m of newly-constructed buildings, but they say little about the very short construction period. For example, the construction of the hall alone required extensive foundation work with over 2,000 m of bored pile rammed in far below the water table. Numerous partners contributed to the successful outcome of the Smart Foundry project, from the architects, Menig & Partner, to the developer Riedel Bau und Bauer, the plant supplier F.A.T. Förder, and Anlagentechnik, Nederman Filtration, DEMAG Krane and WFT Fertigungstechnik. And of course, the specially-established Kurtz Ersa Project Team, the staff from the foundry’s IT department and those working on the iron foundry line were critical.
“Nobody walking around the factory yard today can possible imagine the situation here on the site between January and August 2014. It was often a question of split-second timing to ensure that cranes, diggers, low loaders, cement trucks and drilling equipment could be accommodated in the very scant space while operations continued,” said Rainer Kurtz, CEO of Kurtz Ersa. “The construction schedule foresaw September 1 for the commencement of production, with a planned two-and-a-half week interruption of operations. Apparently impossible, but we succeeded—without a single accident. And that warrants a big ‘thank you’ to all involved!”