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Sustainable steps for the future

Competent, smart, innovative, sustainable: These are the values embodied by the CHIRON Group and all its employees around the world. The interplay of these four qualities is integral to our actions and, consequently, to the quality of the products and services we provide. But how sustainable is the CHIRON Group today? What are its goals for the future? Dr. Jens König, Head of Mechatronics and one of the two leads on the »Sustainability at CHIRON Group« program, tells us more.

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Dr. König, you – alongside Nicolas Zarak, the Head of Quality Management – have the very important task of making the CHIRON Group sustainable. On your colleague's LinkedIn profile, he quotes the Chinese proverb: »The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.« So, this begs the question: How would you rate the commitment to sustainability shown by CHIRON and the CHIRON Group before now?
Well, this year we’re celebrating 100 years of CHIRON. That in itself is proof that our actions have been future-oriented for far longer than just the last 20 years. If you look at it that way, then we've always been »sustainable«. And that is something we drive forward in the CHIRON Group too. Now and in the future, we are committed to organizing our economic and social interests in such a way that the third bottom line, the environment, is given equal status in our corporate strategy. We are conscious of our responsibility, which is why we as a company are taking great strides in numerous projects to reduce our carbon footprint.

On the subject of responsibility: Recognizing responsibility is one thing, documenting it is quite another. How does the CHIRON Group substantiate its commitment in matters of the environment?
Our Neuhausen and Tuttlingen sites in Germany are re-certified on an annual basis, in line with the DIN EN ISO 14001:2015 standard for environmental management and the DIN ISO 50001:2018 standard for energy management. For 2022, we are planning to self-certify our products in terms of their carbon footprint, in accordance with the specifications of the DIN EN ISO 14064 standard for greenhouse gas reporting. This shows us where we are at and where action is still needed. We have also partnered with the Blue Competence sustainability initiative from the VDMA. This commits us to twelve sustainability guidelines of mechanical and plant engineering industry, which sum up our commitment to the environment in a nutshell: To shape the world of tomorrow through technology, to achieve more from fewer resources, to take responsibility, to set an example.

Blue Competence places innovation and technology at the forefront of sustainable solutions in mechanical and plant engineering industry. By displaying the Blue Competence logo, the partner companies publicly pledge their commitment to twelve sustainability guidelines of mechanical and plant engineering industry, which are based on the applicable Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The partners all share the same values, and their corporate activity is shaped by their responsible approach to natural resources and their social responsibility. These values are expressed through sustainable products, and production and management processes.

To find out more, see the overview here or visit www.vdma.org/bluecompetence

Producing machining centers is an energy-intensive business; the majority of energy used in the CHIRON Group Precision Factory is electricity. Where do you source your electricity from and what action are you taking to become carbon-neutral?
That's right, 75 percent to be precise. But without the special construction techniques, it would be more: Thanks to concrete core activation, we are able to keep the temperature inside the building within a narrow tolerance to create the conditions needed for precision assembly using very little energy. We also use the waste heat from the machinery and operate ventilation systems using thermal recovery. In fact, in the Precision Factory we will have reduced our emissions to zero as early as next year, which will make it carbon neutral. We generate part of our own needs with a solar system and only buy green electricity. Making the heat energy at Tuttlingen and Neuhausen more environmentally friendly is another matter, however. Proposals for this are underway at the moment.

»We are working really hard to keep bettering ourselves. As an independent company, we have the creative freedom we need to do that, we can make long-term plans, we can develop a clear strategy and follow it steadfastly.«
Dr. Jens König
Head of Mechatronics

Carbon-neutrality sounds all well and good, but it doesn't actually reduce consumption. How are you going to achieve savings in that regard?
We have in fact already made savings by concentrating production at the CHIRON Group Precision Factory and administration at the Tuttlingen site. This has reduced the need for transportation and storage and enables us to react faster – lowering costs, and energy consumption. But of course, we still need to go further to create significant savings outside of the Precision Factory. That's why we launched the »Sustainability at CHIRON Group« program. Through this initiative, we set out to answer the following questions: Where are we at currently? Where is there the greatest need for action? Where is there potential? As our first step, we teamed up with Bosch Climate Solutions in the first quarter of 2021 to devise a climate strategy for the CHIRON Group. Next, it was a matter of harnessing the potential this had highlighted and to turn the findings into real action.

You're certainly asking all the right questions, the important questions – so, what are the answers?
As for where we are at, I think we can safely say we are already in a very good position. For example, numerous studies have demonstrated that the energy consumption of machining centers is at its highest during its useful life. That's why all our machining centers and manufacturing solutions feature cutting-edge technology and are designed so that our customers can manufacture efficiently with excellent results on a long-term basis. We get positive feedback about this from our customers; for them, our machining centers clearly represent an investment in sustainability. And to answer the other questions: We are continuously analyzing the measures we've already implemented, we are surveying consumption rates and identifying the areas where more still needs to be done. This transparency is essential for us to be able to prioritize, to set clear goals and to achieve these in the planned time frame.

The CHIRON Group is both a customer and a supplier. Which role do you take when it comes to increasing sustainability?
We keep in constant contact with our customers, many of whom themselves supply to OEMs, whose sustainability targets they have to fulfill and this includes ensuring their partners do the same – as do we with our partners. In light of this, we see ourselves as a multiplier. We learn from one another, and as a link in the supply chain we also take part in training at the OEM and pass this knowledge on. Above all, we keep a dialog going with our major suppliers, to ensure specifications or guidelines are being applied here too and are implemented as necessary.

»It is a matter of reducing our ecological footprint in all areas – in our products, in the company and in the value chain upstream and downstream.«
Nicolas Zarak
Head of Quality Management

You have talked about the sustainability of the products themselves. But »Sustainability at CHIRON Group« also incorporates the production in the Taicang Innovation Factory and the branches around the world. What is the situation there?
Of course, the whole production process and all our branches are included in the program. We start by evaluating the findings here, refine them, introduce additional measures and gradually roll these out worldwide. The Taicang Innovation Factory complies with the latest international standards, including environmental standards. All over the world, there are already lots of measures that have a positive impact on our sustainability credentials. Window renovations, heating controls, even seemingly trivial things like ventilating a room thoroughly for a short time rather than keeping the windows ajar for hours on end. We were recently able to make our refueling climate-neutral using one of our fuel cards. This was a small project, but one which we were able to decide upon and initiate all in the space of a day thanks to immediate and uncomplicated coordination with the management team. Initiatives like Happy Gardening at CHIRON China are also »sustainable«, they reduce the environmental footprint and also give employees a sense of responsibility for the climate and the environment.

So, the approach the CHIRON Group is taking is a long-term commitment?
Of course, in everything we do, we're in it for the long term. It is a process of change. Analysis, strategy, implementation. It may not sound particularly exciting, but it's the right way for us. Every day, we hear that the contents within the green packaging is not necessarily all that green. That's why our commitment to sustainability follows the same tried-and-tested principle embodied by CHIRON and the CHIRON Group: First, we apply our expertise, produce conclusive findings, then we discuss them. For instance, in our first sustainability report, which is scheduled for 2022.

To find out more about the sustainability of products and services from the CHIRON Group, take a look in speedfactor 01/2021.

»Sustainability is one of the most important topics of our era. It is often claimed that sustained economic growth and environmental sustainability are incompatible. At first glance, that may seem plausible, because until now growth has often gone hand-in-hand with environmental degradation. But, in actual fact, economic growth and sustainability needn't be mutually exclusive; rather they are two sides of the same coin. Economic growth is ultimately driven not by the consumption of natural resources, but by technical and scientific progress. Thankfully, human creativity is not a finite resource. Innovations enable us to grow in prosperity while also reducing the demands we place on natural resources. But, that doesn't just happen all by itself.«
Clemens Fuest
President of the ifo Institute (Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich)

System expertise or – why make things complicated if there's an easy way?

Automation aims to improve efficiency and to achieve a higher output with lower costs. However, companies often pay less attention to a second factor – simplification. And this is where the CHIRON Group's system expertise comes into play. This knowledge turns a machining center and automation solution into a highly productive complete system. If the entire process is simplified, this also incorporates the production technology, reduces staff workload, decreases working time and enables largely autonomous manufacturing – which is unmanned and can continue into a third shift and at weekends.

LEAN is slimmed down management and more efficient production – and first came to the attention of the industry at the turn of the millennium. CHIRON is also a pioneer in this field and presented a suitable response from as early as 1996 in the form of the Flexline, the first linked cell with multiple CHIRON machining centers »in line«. This was innovative because the machines were fitted with the components in an automated line by a linear robot.

Over the years, topics like autonomous manufacturing, increased machine availability and process reliability have become increasingly important. Customers expect a solution that perfectly matches their machines and their production technology. And this requires one quality above all – flexibility.

Flexibility
Even just the name »Flexline« indicates how automation in the CHIRON Group stands out today – it offers flexibility, and does so many ways. Firstly, there is flexibility to choose the right solution that optimally covers criteria such as workpieces, machining times, quantities and the variety of parts.

The various automation solutions for the CHIRON 16 Series illustrate what this might look like. For example, with the combination of the FZ 16 S five axis and the VariocellPallet, small batch sizes and complex workpieces can be machined autonomously and with a high degree of flexibility. However, if a large number of workpieces need to be manufactured in a highly productive manner with very short cycle times, the DZ 16 W with a compact VariocellUno is the go-to choice. The autonomous unit, already widely used with the CHIRON 08, 12 and 15 Series machining centers, now brings clear productivity gains when used in combination with the DZ 16 W. For example, this is the case in the production of gravity feed spray guns in the United Kingdom and clamping mechanisms in the south-western German state of Baden-Württemberg. The first two cells can manufacture with an autonomy of around ten hours.

The huge benefit of having a customized automation solution can be demonstrated using the example of SW-MOTECH. Since 2020, the internationally renowned manufacturer of premium motorcycle accessories has been autonomously manufacturing around 400 different parts in quantities of between 30 and 200 for up to eight hours on a FZ 15 S five axis with a robot and clamping concept that is carefully designed for the wide variety of parts.

Custom configuration according to a modular concept
In addition to the handling robot and workpiece store, each VariocellUno automation unit can have additional components added to it based on the application. For example, the modular system may include multiple grippers, a station for turning, stations for brushing and deburring, blow off stations, press-fitting, measuring, cleaning, labeling, vision systems (»bin picking«) and many other components besides. Moreover, the asymmetrical design enables additional processes to be integrated into optional spaces in three sizes, from 150 x 150 x 150 mm to 300 x 300 x 300 mm and 500 x 500 x 500 mm.

VariocellUno options and variants

There are also different variants with an integrated operating unit available for the workpiece store. All of these variants enable automated workpiece changes during machine operation and reduce the workload placed on the operator by time-consuming and arduous secondary activities. For example, these variants include drawer storage, a conveyor belt or box and pallet storage. This storage can be designed for standardized and customized transport and container systems, such as trays, SLCs (small load carriers) and pallet trucks. The containers reach the unit on the truck and are then progressively supplied to the manufacturing process via the lift system and the traversing unit. After successful machining, the robot gripper will place the parts in the containers, the traversing unit will transport them to the outside and set them down on the floor roller. If the stack has been processed, the operator can move the truck away and bring in the next one. Note that it is optional for the operator to do this because this simple activity can also be performed using a driverless transport system (DTS), which further increases the autonomy of production. Thomas Marquardt, Head of Automation at the CHIRON Group, believes that driverless transport systems are »the logical next step – the further we extend the scope of automation in a manufacturing solution, the more autonomy there will be«.

The experts of the CHIRON Group are currently working intensively on a DTS which brings, for example, blanks and finished parts to the cell and picks them up again. What else can the system do? It will be exciting to see what further progress is made... 

New impulses for machining in practice

Driving force and technological leader: That is the end result CHIRON Group strives for with every new product, with every innovation – big or small. Our goal is clear: To give customers all over the world a competitive edge in their industries and in their markets. Take the 2021 market launches, for instance: New series and machining centers, automation solutions, digital systems and seemingly small optimizations that make a big difference to day-to-day machining practice.

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CHIRON looks back on a long and impressive history in innovation spanning from 1921 to 2021, characterized in particular by the developments in mechanical engineering since the 1970s. The CHIRON Group wrote the next chapter of this success story with the innovation program introduced in 2018, which it pursued steadfastly and which saw the product portfolio further optimized in the company's centenary year.

New 715 Series for multifunctional complete machining
One of the highlights of the 2021 product campaign is the new CHIRON 715 Series. The MT 715 two+ was met with great interest during its online premiere at the OPEN HOUSE ONLINE and before a large audience in the interactive showroom at the 2021 EMO Milano. And it's easy to see why: With 5-axis complete machining or milling/turning machining on six sides, the four variants of the MT 715 have several advantages over production spread across multiple machines: Higher precision, shorter throughput times, more flexibility for changing functions, minimized setup times for small batch sizes, reduced logistics costs. The integrated workpiece automation makes an even higher degree of utilization possible by means of unmanned production in three-shift operation or at weekends.

The MT 715 variant incorporates four types of machine:
MT 715 one with swivel head and rotary spindle
MT 715 one+ with swivel head, rotary spindle and counter spindle
MT 715 two with swivel head, rotary spindle and extra machining unit
MT 715 two+ with swivel head, rotary spindle and counter spindle plus extra machining unit

The second machining unit on models two and two+ can be used for guide bushes, rests, rotating centers, vices or other turning tools, for example. The bar loader takes care of feeding in the material, while the integrated workpiece automation handles the discharge of finished parts, or if machining chuck parts, the feed and discharge of the workpieces.

The MP 715 machine variant, where MP stands for Multi Profile, is designed for machining bar materials with any profile. All milling operations, such as machining hollow aluminum profiles for electric vehicles, run very efficiently in one setup. There will be more on the MP 715 in the next issue of speedfactor.

New and improved