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4/8/2011
How to stay competitive on sanitaryware markets

Towards “total” automation: Sacmi presents the “Catalan case study” at La Sapienza, Rome

Improving people’s working conditions while reducing costs, shortening production times and enhancing the quality of the finished product. This, as Sacmi explained during a lesson held at Rome’s Sapienza University on 17th February, is the only way to stay competitive on the international ceramic sanitaryware market. The three-part lesson was given by Daniele Coralli, Director of Sacmi’s Whiteware Division, Mario Aiolfi, Sacmi’s Area Manager for Italy, and, finally, Francesco Fontana, head of the Sanitaryware Machines technical office.

This is a market, as Mr. Coralli pointed out in his lecture, that has witnessed profound changes in recent years, with ruthless competition among sanitaryware producers going hand in hand with the need to identify ever-more efficient product and process solutions that necessitate alliances with technologically advanced partners. Partners like Sacmi, which has spearheaded a far-reaching technological renewal of sanitaryware production plants that has made traditional plaster methods (and the bulk of the associated manual tasks) virtually obsolete, and led to their replacement with high pressure casting technology and fully automated production processes that cover everything from raw materials to the finished product.

Sacmi took advantage of the La Sapienza seminar – organised as part of the Product Design degree course process innovation workshop – to present an emblematic case study: the plant installed at Ceramica Catalano in the Civita Castellana district. As Sacmi’s speakers explained to the participants (the audience included Ceramica Catalano’s Managing Director, Mario Rossi), the “world’s most automated plant” is characterised by a “perfect” through-flow where the piece to be produced is handled almost exclusively by automatic machines and robots, transfer (done with LGVs – laser-guided vehicles), drying, inspection, firing and glazing included.

So what are the advantages? Less physical toil, safer, more skilled work with tasks such as finishing and pre-drier completion being carried out automatically in just a few minutes by robots. Advantages that bring with them a minimised risk of product defects, eliminating human error and ensuring excellent repeatability of output. The subsequent finishing and glazing stages are fully automated, thus ensuring outstanding repeatability and consistently high quality finished products. However, these important process innovations, as Mr. Fontana pointed out, have been implemented alongside important developments in the design field: here too, Sacmi has led the way, switching from traditional CAD design to, for example, the finite elements technique, fluid-dynamic and kinetic simulation models, optimisers: techniques capable of, among other things, minimising the impact of ambient variables in testing and production.

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