Technology supports people: Digitalization at Kurz Fertigteilbau

Friday, 12 noon: The foreman from a customer's construction site calls with a complaint. Two electrical sockets are missing from one of the walls delivered yesterday. The department manager can't actually imagine that. And he's right: the photo documentation of the elements in question shows all the installation boxes from the drawing. This situation is just one of numerous examples that illustrate the added value of digitization measures at KURZ. In cooperation with the automation expert Unitechnik, the precast manufacturer has renewed its control and instrumentation technology - paving the way for paperless production.

KURZ Fertigteilbau Ges. m.b.H is based in Langkampfen near Kufstein in Austria and is part of the Bodner Group, one of the leading construction companies in Austria. For 47 years already, the traditional company KURZ has been producing high-quality semi-finished parts, structural precast parts, facade elements and precast stairs. In Plant 3 in Langkampfen, element slabs, double walls and thermal walls are manufactured - on average 100 sqm of slab and double wall per hour. The control technology and the UniCAM.10 master computer of the automated circulation system come from Unitechnik Systems.

Digitization during operation
In the past, KURZ used paper drawings in its plant. Department manager Gerd Neus found this way of working unsatisfactory: "The worker received the element information via printed sheets that were attached to the pallet. These were sometimes better and sometimes worse to read. At the end of the day, a huge, dirty pile of paper ended up in the control room, which was then stapled into file folders as a precaution." With the goal of eliminating non-transparent and labor-intensive processes, KURZ launched a digitization offensive. In this context, the company Unitechnik was commissioned with the expansion of the UniCAM.10 control system to include large screens, touch panels and cameras - towards paperless production. All work was carried out by Unitechnik during ongoing operation, so that there was no interference with production.

Paperless production with commercially available televisions
Dirty paper drawings are a thing of the past. Today, large screens at each station display the elements of the current pallet. When the pallet moves to a workstation, the 55-inch monitor automatically displays the CAD drawings of the elements to be manufactured. A total of eight commercially available LED televisions were mounted in the pallet circulation system and connected to the master computer. As an alternative to the CAD drawings, the screens can also display any views of the UniCAM.10 control system. On the pick-up area, for example, it is useful to have the retrieval queue in view. The large monitor in the entrance area, on the other hand, shows employees important key figures. In this way, the current status of production is visible to all employees at all times. This strengthens cohesion, as each individual feels jointly responsible.

Employees are the focus
As a matter of principle, the focus at KURZ is on the employees. For example, it is part of the basic philosophy of department manager Gerd Neus that material and information are brought to the employees at their workstations: "Employees shouldn't have to walk through the entire plant to gather the material." The processes in the plant also do not originate from a management specification, but are the result of employee input. In this way, suggestions are very well received in implementation. One example: the team has made various types of mobile stands on which electrical boxes, magnets or hangers can be neatly stowed. For each pallet, the material is assembled in the work preparation department and made available at the work station.

Documentation is half the battle
Photo documentation is part of a sophisticated quality management system. The ceiling above the concreting and insulating stations is equipped with cameras that take high-resolution pictures of the pallets. The cameras are linked to touch screens mounted near the workstations. The employee confirms via an overlaid checklist that all work steps have been carried out and that the parts indicated on the drawing are on the pallet. He can also enter free text in a comment field - for example, a note on the use of a different can type. After confirmation, the camera triggers and documents the status photographically. Only then is the pallet released for further transport. Several photos can also be taken at one station to document the progress. Checklist and photos are archived in the UniCAM system together with the other data of the element and can be viewed later at any time. A camera is also installed above each of two stations for insulating the elements on the upper floor. The recordings provide information on whether the insulation is closed without gaps. "This is of great importance in terms of building physics, so that no cold bridges can form later," explains Gerd Neus.

Laser instead of plotter
Sustainability is also increased in another area. In the past, the position for the installation parts was marked using plotters - in other words, with paint. For some time now, laser projectors mounted above the stations have been running parallel to the plotter. The laser receives the data directly from the UniCAM.10 master computer. Since this technology has proven itself, KURZ will say goodbye to color drawing in the future. In addition to lower material consumption, the system will also require less maintenance.

Conclusion: Collaboration paves the way for digital transformation
Thanks to the control and instrumentation technology from Unitechnik, KURZ was able to comprehensively digitalize its production. On the way to paperless processes, the on-site provision of information via large screens acts as a central centerpiece. Electronic checklists and photo documentation raise quality management to a new level and create a high level of quality awareness among employees. In addition, time-consuming and labor-intensive workflows have been eliminated. The support of the workforce was particularly important to KURZ. Gerd Neus sums up: "Technology must not be an end in itself. It is a tool to support people. The ideas for improvements come from the employees. Digitization helps in the rapid implementation of these ideas. With Unitechnik Systems, we have a competent partner at our side who accompanies us on the path of digital change."


The trade press reports:

In its Plant 3, KURZ manufactures prefabricated ceilings, double walls and thermal walls

At each workstation hangs a large screen that automatically displays the elements of the current palette

The employee confirms on the touch screens via a displayed checklist that all work steps have been carried out

A camera hangs above each of the two insulating stations. With the insulated elements you can see on the picture that the insulation is closed without gaps

Big cinema: two touch screens and one large screen are installed in the "Insulation" work area

The monitor in the entrance area shows the employees the current key figures

Stirrups for each pallet are assembled on mobile stands and provided at the work station

The experience with the laser has been very positive so far, so the company will soon say goodbye to the plotter

Final check at the lift-off station: Here, the TV serves as UniCAM monitor, the touch panel provides the checklist

Head of department Gerd Neus (center) is a team player, here together with Mario Brugger and Klaus Burgstaller