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A new layout and more space for automated welding equipment were designed for SP stainless’s production plant

Pieces of up to 12 metres long are welded at SP stainless’s production facility in Siilinjärvi, which is why adding new equipment to the existing premises required certain changes to the layout. The design of safe and efficient indoor logistics took advantage of Matterport imaging.

Specialising in welding stainless and acidproof materials, SP stainless has production plants in Savonlinna and Toivala in Siilinjärvi. The indoor logistics of the production facilities in Toivala were to be updated due to a decision to enhance the operations with automated welding and primary production equipment. 

‘We wanted to have an outside opinion on how to use our production facilities more efficiently and fit the new equipment into the existing premises,’ says Development Engineer Hannele Ranta from SP stainless. 

The required vision for boosting the facilities’ efficiency was provided by Sweco’s Logistics Expert Henri Ahlqvist. He first visited the site in Toivala and then created three proposals for the welding and turning spots. He took into account the change in the facilities’ indoor logistics, material flows and processes caused by the new production equipment. ‘The change had to be achieved in a way that would not harm the production or reduce the number of welding cells.’ 

It was important to keep the production flexible, because the size of the pieces varies a lot and the welded pieces can be up to 12 metres long. ‘Plenty of space must be left in the corridors and between the welding cells for the intermediate storage of materials and safety distances,’ Ahlqvist says.  

Structural engineers ensured the load-bearing capacity of the floors

The layout design was supported by structural engineering. Toivala’s production facilities have been designed by Sweco’s experts, thanks to which it was easy to verify the floors’ load bearding capacity from the drawings. 

‘It was important for us to have the same company provide us with both the layout design and structural engineering,’ Ranta says. 

Structural engineers verified the point loads caused by the equipment. ‘Sufficiently strong steel plates are needed underneath the new equipment foundations to distribute the load evenly,’ Project Manager Jukka Laitinen from Sweco’s structural engineering department explains. 

Matterport imaging provided exact information about the facilities

The layout design took advantage of Matterport imaging, which, for the first time, generated 3D material of the production facilities for the client on an accurate scale. 

‘The Matterport imaging was helpful during the design phase, as it allowed different options to be compared realistically on a computer instead of on site,’ Ranta says. The experience was also an eye-opener to the users. ‘The images showed us the exact locations where various materials are stored.’ 

Although the production facilities are diverse in nature, the Matterport imaging only took 2–3 hours. The camera took 360° images from around 100 points and formed a combination that resembles a street view. According to Laitinen, the cost of Matterport imaging is a fraction of what laser scanning costs, and it is well suited to layout design. ‘Compared to manual measurements, nothing can be accidentally overlooked.’ 

Increased number and safety of welding points

The personnel of SP stainless took active part in the process. They provided the engineers with valuable feedback on which options worked and which ones did not. The best layout option was chosen together. ‘It was a pleasure to work with an operator that was so keen to make progress,’ Ahlqvist says. 

Hannele Ranta feels that the process was smooth and the outsourced expert offered good tips on how the layout should be changed. The first new automated production machine was installed at the start of May 2023. 

‘It seems that we will even be able to increase the number of welding spots,’ Ranta says, satisfied. An overhead crane can still be used safely to move large pieces, and sufficient safety distances can be maintained between the welding cells. ‘We also installed fixed, impenetrable protective walls between the welding cells to ensure adequate working space and safety during welding.’ 

The new machines and more efficient use of space allow SP stainless to continue to increase production and streamline its work practices. 

Picture: SP stainless Oy

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