Ferag designs intralogistics systems such as Deniway, Denisort and Skyfall for longevity and minimum maintenance from the ground up. Nevertheless, Ferag service is there around the clock for customers should they need it. Just as it is with their established range for the printing industry, the Swiss deploy scheduled maintenance contracts and remote maintenance as standard for intra-logistics customers as well. Nevertheless, in an emergency, competent fitters are on site within 72 hours even in more remote parts of the world. Predictive maintenance in the spirit of Logistics 4.0 is also a rising item on the agenda in Hinwil, where the development department is working on taking such aspects into consideration right from the inception of a new system design.
'At the moment, we primarily have much to do familiarising customer teams with the technology of our installations. This type of training likewise falls under my department,' reports Herbert Senn, Head of Service at Ferag in Hinwil. In-depth training of customers’ staff is key to ensuring that a conveyor operates not just effectively, but reliably as well. 'System-fitness' in the sense of correct handling of an installation's technology pays off for every customer, every day, according to Senn. One important aspect for the medium and long term is users being able to identify and resolve most problems by themselves. If self-help is not enough, service staff at Ferag headquarters are available to provide assistance at all hours and any day of the week. First they will try remotely, but if this option falls short, fitters will come to the customer as rapidly as possible and solve problems right there on the factory floor. Such deployments are usually governed by maintenance and service contracts.
Around the clock hotline and on-site service within 72 hours: a Ferag fitter checks a system.
If parts need replacing, Ferag customers can always rely on a fast and reliable supply of spares. This is why the Swiss company operates a sophisticated warehousing system both at headquarters and at certain subsidiaries. In traditionally extra-challenging industries such as the automotive one, where production is increasingly discovering Skyfall overhead conveyor technology, Ferag guarantees on-site service within 72 hours even in remote regions of Asia and Australia. All told there are 120 people at work in service, using their expertise to assist customers and give active support in the event of an emergency.
Ferag systems are fundamentally designed to keep maintenance requirements extremely low. Prime examples here are the deniway lines at food giants such as Nestle and Mondelez, which for years have been running smoothly and virtually without maintenance costs. The same is true of Skyfall technology that has also been on the market for a number of years now. For example, the pouch sorter conveyors delivered by Ferag to the fashion logistics sector are in absolutely fail-safe operation 365 days a year. But Senn still recommends regular inspections to prevent critical situations or even stoppages. In particular, the Skyfall lines’ infeed and delivery stations as well as the switch systems should be checked for wear according to a defined schedule. Very complex Skyfall conveyors with tens of thousands of hangers, such as those used in the automotive sector, also have their own maintenance and service lines where individual Skyfall shuttles are regularly diverted and checked for signs of wear and tear. Shuttles that show functional shortcomings or damage will be repaired or replaced by new ones.
A clever detail to increase availability: Skyfall conveyors for the automotive industry have a special service line for regular inspection of the shuttles.
The conveyors and systems that Ferag has sold to the intra-logistics sector are still comparatively recent. So whereas the optimisation of existing conveyors is of major importance in the printing industry, it has yet to play a role here. It is a similar story with retrofits, which also fall to the service department. Instead, predictive maintenance is rising up the agenda in pace with advancing Logistics 4.0. This proactive, forward-looking approach to maintenance is based on the systematic evaluation of sensor-collected conveyor data. Ferag systems should in future detect a fault even before it occurs and rectify it by themselves within certain limits. The business models that this might generate are being studied by a Ferag project initiated in cooperation with the University of St. Gallen (HSG). 'With this, we demonstrate to our customers that we look ahead as well as taking issues such as installation availability and service very seriously,' sums up Senn. 'As a traditional Swiss company we are very service-oriented anyway.'