Modern production calls for modularity

27 Jun


Q&A with Ralf Schubert*

Gerhard Schubert has been consistently pursuing the concept of the modular machine since founding his company in 1966. Robot-supported TLM packaging lines from Schubert put the modular principle into practice in every detail. We spoke with Ralf Schubert about the meaning of modularity in today's market from the customer's point of view.

It's said that packaging machines need to be flexible, but what benefit is there for the customer if the machines are also modular?

Ralf Schubert: A high level of flexibility, like that which we offer, requires modularity. Many companies also require the features of a modular machine concept at their production facilities. For example, in this day and age, consumer goods are given a new look on a regular basis. Either that, or they disappear from store shelves altogether after a short time. To the operations manager of a brand-name company, this means that by the time an ordered machine is delivered, the product packaging which the machine is supposed to handle might suddenly look different. Perhaps the marketing department decides boxy is better than round. If the operations manager is working with a conventional machine, this can problematic. We're able to provide a new size set for the robots and Transmodules so the machine can get back to work.

So generally, all that's needed is to change the size sets?

Schubert: In many cases, that's all that's needed, but we can do a lot more than that thanks to the modularity of our machines. If the customer has a need for greater productivity, we can add an additional sub-machine to the existing line. If frozen hamburgers need to get an extra layer of cheese, we can supplement the TLM line with units for feeding, product recognition and grouping and reorganize the processes accordingly. Since Schubert builds each line using the same standardized system components, we can adapt our customers' TLM lines to new circumstances anytime.

With modularity being as flexible as it is, can Schubert help me make changes to an existing line concept without having to redesign it on a fundamental level?

Schubert: That's usually determined on a case-by-case basis, but for the most part, yes. We also supply "lines" made up of two sub-machines. A sub-machine is a fully functional unit which fulfills its respective packaging function in a highly flexible way.

If I, as a customer, need new modules for my TLM line, how long would I need to wait to get them?

Schubert: Not as long as with many other manufacturers. This is another positive aspect of the modular system devised by my father. We have been able to organize production very rationally and efficiently.

*Ralf Schubert is a managing partner (engineering department) of Gerhard Schubert GmbH. Ralf Schubert, along with his brother Gerald Schubert and father Gerhard Schubert, run the company as a management trio.