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Utilizing the calm before the storm

Südzucker AG’s sugar production at its site in Rain am Lech, Germany, runs at full speed five months of the year. The other seven months of the year are used for maintenance of equipment in the sugar factory. Several of the maintenance measures employ control technology from Siemens.

Meticulous preparation for the campaign

Thomas Jaumann works tirelessly to support the maintenance team in preparing Südzucker’s sugar factory in Rain am Lech for the annual beet production. The start of September is when things really kick off: Large numbers of trucks bring sugar beet from the region to the factory in close succession. Mountains of the sweet vegetable as high as houses build up in several giant storage areas, waiting to be turned into the finest granulated sugar over the next five months.

 

However, Thomas Jaumann is relaxed when we visit in August. The machinist has almost finished his work for the year. “Production stops in spring and summer. Within just under seven months, the entire production facility — including conveying systems and pipelines spanning kilometers, their numerous drives, pumps and valves, and numerous tanks for different steps of the process — is serviced, restored, modified, and expanded,” he explains during a tour of the plant.

 

One thing quickly becomes noticeable: the giant halls are almost completely devoid of people. Only a few of the 220 employees are to be seen. Thomas Jaumann explains: “From July onward, the staff have a chance to take a breath, go on vacation and prepare for the sugar beet production starting at the beginning of September. That is when everything gets very hectic here. We work in four shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Up to 12,000 metric tons of sugar beet are processed here each day.”

Internal maintenance creates flexibility

Seven months for maintenance may seem like a long time — but a glance at the giant plant in Rain makes the scope of this challenging task clear. More than 3,000 drives of different sizes and levels of power have to be inspected and serviced. Even the inspection of the plant just after the production takes weeks and, without its own maintenance team and workshop, the company would never be finished with maintenance by the following September. “

We do a mix here. We have the more complex, difficult or large parts produced or repaired externally. However, there are a lot of things that our electricians and metal workers can do much more quickly and flexibly in-house. Our top priority is for everything to be ready again in September. Thankfully, because we have our own workshop, we are able to work during the campaign as well,” explains Jaumann.

 

Alongside a number of manual lathes, the sugar factory’s large workshop hall has a new pièce de résistance: a ROMI C510 with SINUMERIK 828D and ShopTurn. Jaumann, a trained machinist, chose the ROMI on account of its stable machine bed and reliable mechanics. And in his experience, the SINUMERIK 828D is the perfect control system to go with it: “We work like a contract manufacturer here: shopfloor programming on the machine based on workpiece measurements or data sheets, one-off items or very small series with a high level of variance in different sizes and levels of complexity. In maintenance you can do a lot of damage, and mistakes cost time that we don’t have. This is why I insist on having a sound, reliable control system on the machine.”

We actually have two jobs here: Maintenance in the off-season, process and machine control during production.
Thomas Jaumann, machinist at Südzucker AG in Rain am Lech

Changing tasks throughout the year

Südzucker also uses control technology from Siemens in the production facility. Jaumann mentions one of the reasons for this as he tells us about his tasks during the sugar beet harvest. At this time, many of the electricians and metal workers in the factory suddenly become process engineers, who monitor the plant and the sugar production on screens in a special centralized control room, and control them using computers. “We actually have two jobs here: maintenance in the off-season, process and machine control during production. When I started here as a machining technician, I was introduced to the processes of sugar production and machine control for the first time. At first, I was a little confused, but now I see this seasonal change of tasks as a bonus and an interesting change of pace. Plus, during the campaign, it is beneficial if you know a drive unit that is sending a fault indication to the monitor in detail from having serviced it.”

 

This has an impact on the training concept in the factory: “We provide our metal workers with additional training in CNC. This is a real plus point for us when competing for talent, and represents a real benefit for the three to five trainee industrial mechanics that we have each training year. We have now equipped computers in the training room with SinuTrain — which leaves the shopfloor more time for productive work.”

Tips from an independent SINUMERIK trainer

Employees have received support with the machine from Hans-Peter Moser, an independent, Siemens-certified CNC trainer for SINUMERIK. He provided an introduction to the programming of the machine and the efficient use of SinuTrain with numerous practical tips and tricks. He even showed the team how to use the ROMI and SINUMERIK to manufacture a new plastic roller and re-center a used centrifugal head that has become grooved and unbalanced. “I got in touch with Mr. Moser following a recommendation from a nearby firm. I think the concept of independent trainers makes a lot of sense. These are experienced CNC machinists who know the ins and outs of the applications. We have learned a lot from Mr. Moser. The turning machine with SINUMERIK CNC opens up new options for us, and reliably creates more flexibility,” says Jaumann, summing up the advantages.

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