Amerequip, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of lawn, landscape, and construction equipment, is installing one of the largest integrated laser systems in the US. The Mitsubishi “River” from MC Machinery Systems features 15 towers connected by a monorail elevator with 200 shelves and 1.2 million lbs. of capacity. The system is capable of supplying material to nine lasers and will be operational by the second quarter of 2017. A foundation was installed for future expansion to 18 towers/250 shelves accommodating up to a dozen lasers overall.
Amerequip’s goal for the installation was to eliminate non-value added activities associated with inventory control. No forklifts are required from the time material arrives until parts are cut. An overhead crane delivers material from an adjacent truck bay to the River’s load point. Lasers can access material from any shelf. Buffer stations and high-speed load/unload gantries ensure that no laser sits idle, while cut nests flow to powered carts. Software from Ncell Systems (Wayzata, MN) will be used for inventory management, nesting, de-nesting, and integration of the River to the company’s business software.
Fiber lasers were considered but Amerequip opted to start out with five new Mitsubishi “eX” crossflow CO2’s. “They gave us the best edge for our primary application, 7g to ½” steel,” according to Amerequip manufacturing engineer Jeremy Kinderman. “And our new paint line removes carbon oxide, allowing us to use less expensive low-pressure oxygen assist gas.” But Kinderman foresees a blend of CO2 and fiber lasers in the River to best meet expanding market opportunities and applications.
The system is housed in a new 90,000 square foot addition at Amerequip’s Kiel, WI headquarters. This is their third major expansion over the past four years. Amerequip has invested more than $24 million in facilities, equipment, training, and personnel over that period, with overall employment growing from 125 to 300 associates at their three Wisconsin facilities.