Fully automated production line – the future of hydraulic cylinder manufacturing

It is time to open a little bit about our project of our new automated manufacturing line for tubes and rods. The project kicked off already in 2017 when Hydroline received a significant funding for growth and capacity increase in both factories. The market prospects showed extremely positive forecasts and Hydroline needed to make big steps towards international growth. The project for the automated line really kicked off in the beginning of 2018 when the careful design, calculations and simulations were implemented, soon after that we ordered the key machines – robot systems etc. – for the line.

In the beginning of 2019, the expansion of our Vuorela factory completed. The factory was expanded with 2000m2 of which 1000m2 was reserved for the new automated line. The machine installations started in the beginning of second quarterly.

As said in the beginning, this upcoming line is a part of Hydroline’s growth strategy as we are able to transfer our high value-added products for the line. Not every product is suitable to be manufactured here but the main purpose is to manufacture the suitable line products. Our capacity increases significantly from current as we get the new line to work in its full capacity. The line will free capacity in our tube and rod cells where, in the future, we can focus on more detailed and complex products. The main purposes of the line are to increase our efficiency and quality as well as meet our customers’ expectations even more flexibly.

At the moment, as we are eager to get the new line working fully in action, we could say we feel kind of like the pioneers in the industry. The automated line we are building, as a whole, is one of a kind. As we have stated, we want to be the thinking-ahead partner in hydraulics and this production line really helps us on the way there. Automation in hydraulic cylinder manufacturing is still quite unknown and new. However, we want to be the ones to change this idea and show that hydraulic cylinder manufacturing can be automated as well.

The new line also offers more service abilities and a manufacturing chain that will also benefit our customers and their customers. As we take the new line into use, we will be able to react faster for our customers’ needs and also, we will increase our ability to adapt to changes. Of course, this line will not be the one and only solution for everything but we strive to even more efficient way of working.

The employees were carefully chosen for this project and they have been studying the products and manufacturing methods as well as programming of the robots and controlling the system as a whole. For willing and suitable employees this is a very interesting place to work in our factory. The routines on working at the automation line are quite different compared to traditional welding and machining tasks. Also, from the company’s point of view this offers a career path for the employees. The profile of the work tasks in different than the traditional manufacturing of tubes and rods but it is based on the knowledge of that. Large elements are increased in the work tasks as the machinist and welder become operators for the robots.

As we began to think about the capacity increase at our Vuorela factory, our core idea was to create a modern production stream instead of increasing the amount of traditional resource optimized manufacturing. At the moment we are learning on how to use the line production instead of production happening in cells. We are also considered something like this to our Poland factory as well but with other kinds of technological solution and without actual robots.

As we start to use robots and other technological solutions, the human error rate reduces. Of course, we do not want to automate our whole production but in a long term, automation and new technologies make our work more efficient, fast and modern.

MTC Flextek was our partner in this project. The automation line was designed in cooperation with them and we could not have done this without their help. The lathes used on the line are Mazak’s. You can read more about MTC Flextek from their website.