Domestic appliances manufacturer Miele & Cie. KG set itself a task – to give staff safe and easy access to its systems for maintenance purposes. At its appliances plant in Gütersloh, Germany, the company manufactures, among other things, switch panels for the washing machines it produces there. The assembly system comprises a semi-automated plant, with conveyor belts arranged in a rectangle transporting the individual components to the workstations. To ensure its staff can get over the conveyor belts safely, Miele uses the Stairway / Platform System developed by item Industrietechnik GmbH from Solingen. The customised construction offers excellent access to technical components for servicing work and can be extended as and when required.
For more than a century, Miele has stood for efficient, durable and practical appliances destined for use in the home, medical facilities and commercial operations. Located near the company headquarters in Gütersloh, its appliances plant is the largest of twelve production sites overall. The approximately 2300 staff at the plant develop and manufacture washing machines and also produce pressed parts, cast components and enamelled casing parts for other Miele sites.
Reaching the difficult-to-access inner area safely
In production, circulating workpiece carriers transport the individual switch panel components to the workstations. Although arranging the conveyor belts in a rectangle makes the best possible use of the production space available, the area inside this rectangle is difficult to access. “The conveyor belts reach up to your waist and are about one metre wide, meaning you can’t step over them unassisted,” explains a project manager at Miele, adding: “That’s why we need some kind of structure that will give us safe access to the production system’s technical components in the inner area.” With maintenance and servicing work performed on the automation system at set intervals, safe access is a must. Whilst searching for an efficient solution, Miele turned to item, the market leader in building kit systems for industrial applications. “We’ve been using item components for many years now, for example for bridges in our production operations. Commissioning our Solingen-based supplier for this new project was therefore an easy decision for us,” the project manager says.
A space-saving and safe design
To ensure staff could reach various elements from one point of access, the washing machine manufacturer opted for a compact, space-saving system rather than a string of standalone bridges. The biggest challenge was adapting the system precisely to the space available. Knowing the production space had to be used to optimum capacity, item designed a 12-metre-long Stairway / Platform System with one ascending stairway, three descending stairways and two ladders. The ascending stairway has a 45° pitch and enables workers to reach the elongated, 1120 mm-wide platform. From there, staff can take one of three descending stairways at the side, also with a 45° pitch, or climb down one of two ladders with a 90° angle to reach the inner area and carry out work on valve terminals, data technology and other components during servicing. The secure platform constitutes an additional working level with a surface made of ridged aluminium profiles. As there are no gaps in the working surface, the conveyor belt underneath is protected from soiling. Foot-rails made using Profile 8 120×16 E stop objects from falling off the platform. The aluminium profile steps feature an anti-slip surface, which provides a secure footing. Besides creating a secure surface to walk and stand on, the system also provides employees with optimum protection against falls, with hatch doors on the ladder openings, a hand-rail, knee-rails and stanchions helping to avoid occupational accidents. The cylindrical stanchions and hand-rails made with Profiles 8 D40 have smooth, unbroken surfaces to safeguard against injuries. Thanks to the item fastening technology used, the Stairway / Platform System doesn’t require any welding work or complex mitre cuts on the guard-rails. All components are simply screwed to the aluminium profiles. If requirements change, the construction can be quickly modified or expanded. The Stairway / Platform System from item satisfies all applicable standards and regulations. The solution even surpasses DIN EN ISO 14122 – which sets out the key requirements for permanent means of access to machinery – with its foot-rails made with Profile 8 120×16 E 20 mm higher than required.
Two bridges of the same design and a great deal of versatility
“Seeing as we were expanding our system’s capacity, we decided to set up a second production line with the same design,” the project manager explains. To create this automated system, the domestic appliances manufacturer once again opted for the item Stairway / Platform System. “There are no universally suitable standard solutions for conveying technology and item offers a particularly wide range of custom configuration options,” the project manager points out. The Stairway / Platform System is compatible with the item MB Building Kit System, for example, and can thus be combined with all the matching accessories such as guards and doors. Thanks to the system’s versatility, stairways and platforms can be modified or extended at any time with relative ease and without affecting the production system, which is not bolted to the Stairway / Platform System. Conversely, modifications to the production system have no impact on the stairways or platforms. Besides its building kit system, item offers bespoke solutions for specific requirements. The platform door hinges, for instance, are custom-made. The spring-mounted hatch doors above the ladders were specially designed to stop members of staff from falling and thus ensure maximum safety.
Fast and optimised maintenance
The advantage of this solution for employees is that they can access different parts of the system from the same 11.20-metre-long platform. Having lots of separate bridges would force staff to cross one after the other, which would have a negative impact on servicing and maintenance work. The current solution ensures work can be completed much faster and more conveniently. Employees walk up to the platform from one central point and then have a whole range of options for reaching various machine parts. The system was quick and simple to assemble. “We put together partially installed assemblies on site in next to no time,” the project manager says, adding: “Since item had tested the entire structure beforehand at its own premises, the set-up went without a hitch.”
Length: 7,025 characters including spaces
Date: 20 July 2020
Caption 1: At its appliances plant in Gütersloh, Miele manufactures, among other things, switch panels for the washing machines produced there. The domestic appliances manufacturer uses item Stairway / Platform systems to ensure staff have safe access to production facilities.
Caption 2: The customised construction is compact and stable, and can be extended as and when required.