Festo South Africa’s Russell Schwulst talks to MechTech about how this global pneumatic and automation specialist is responding to the changing economic and production needs of its clients and how it has started to adopt Industry 4.0 technology principles in its own manufacturing processes to improve production efficiency and reduce end-product costs.
“In the current economic climate, all over the world, there is a need for manufacturers to improve their competitiveness,” Schwulst begins. “While in the past, South Africa manufacturers could get by offering niche and customised products to local consumers, today, everyone has to become leaner and more competitive to survive,” he argues.
“Traditionally Festo’s focus was on producing high quality products with extensive features, which of course in some cases carried a price premium,” he adds.
Festo has now shifted its focus to include a range of more affordable products for current markets, products that are more suited to mainstream manufacturing facilities and process plants. “We have introduced Festo’s Star range of pneumatic, process automation and electronic components, with the fundamental aim of making our offering more accessible to local clients, in terms of price and availability,” Schwulst explains.
From its full range of over 32 000 basic components before customisations, Festo has identified the most flexible and widely used of these for inclusion in its Star range. “We have taken a streamlined set of typical production components and subjected them to a rigorous optimisation programme, to make them more cost effective to manufacture and to reduce costs and delivery times. We have also improved availability through common stocking of the Star range at every Festo outlet in the world.
“In the past, if we made a system for export to the USA, then the components used might not have been readily available there. But if using the Star range, all of the components under this umbrella are stocked in substantial quantities at every Festo branch,” Schwulst tells MechTech, adding “the idea is to make our components more affordable and more accessible, everywhere.”
As well as optimising Festo’s production processes, the Star range also includes new product innovations. “We are an automation company, so we are utilising that expertise to better manufacture products to make them more affordable and competitive. We are also adopting design optimisation to redevelop products where we believe modern materials and design principles can be advantageous.
“We have developed a new cylinder to the ISO 15552 standard, for example, called the DSBC. With this design, we went back to the drawing board, changed the seal design, material types and optimised the cylinder profile. Although the DSBC cylinder is, for all intents and purposes, a replacement for our existing Festo cylinder, it is much more affordable.
“As an ISO-cylinder, it has universal sizes and fittings and is fully interchange- able with other brands. But ours is now super-competitive with respect to price without having lost any of its premium quality pedigree,” Schwulst informs MechTech.
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