Foldable large containers from Schoeller Allibert optimize turbine blade production at Alstom: More efficient in all respects

In Bexbach, Saarland, the technology group Alstom has manufactured for many years blades and vanes for steam and gas turbines. The self-imposed demands for the production are high: the processes should be flexible, economic and ergonomic and at the same time the customers expect good quality and short delivery times. The previously used Euro pallets for the transport of goods have long exceeded their practical applicability for our concept: Too big, too heavy and too cumbersome were the carriers and they also offered no protection against rain and moisture. A much more appropriate solution was provided by the specialist for reusable packaging systems, Schoeller Allibert - with the foldable large load carriers Magnum HD.

The energy revolution provides utility companies and power plant operators with a major challenge: world electricity demand is increasing year after year while at the same time natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Although renewable energies are already on the rise, they still cannot, by far, cover the entire demand. Conventional power plants, therefore, remain indispensable, but they must use the valuable fossil fuels as efficiently as possible. This is only possible with modern technology that is used in both the construction of new power plants as well as the modernization of existing facilities and with that high efficiency can be achieved.

One of the leading manufacturers of facilities and equipment for the power generation is Alstom. The internationally acting industrial group, with its headquarter in Paris, provides among other things, solutions and services for gas, coal, hydro, wind and solar power plants. About one quarter of the technology used for electricity production worldwide is technology of Alstom - this is equivalent to the energy demand of 1.2 billion households. The company employs 88,000 people in around 100 countries, 7,600 of them in 23 locations and ten sales offices in Germany.

Individual turbines demanded worldwide

The division Alstom Power, which specializes in the development and construction of power plants and the associated equipment and components, represents the largest branch of the company. The portfolio of Alstom Power also includes turbines for combined cycle power plants. These are used worldwide in utility companies, municipal utilities, independent power providers and the industry. Due to the high flexibility, with which the turbines react to the fluctuating workload, they improve the energy efficiency of power plants significantly. With a modular concept Alstom can also adapt its solutions to suit the individual requirements of any user.

The blades and vanes for steam and gas turbines have been manufactured by Alstom for more than 25 years in Bexbach, Saarland. More than six million turbine blades have already found their way in gas, steam and combined cycle power plants around the world. Production never stops: Around the clock an ultra-modern machine park processes different materials such as ferrous metals, titanium and nickel-based superalloys for blades, 15-1200 millimetres in length. The requirement for raw materials exceeds 1,000 tons per year.

Pallets for material shipping is not ideal

"The metals arrive in very different forms," says Rudolf Schiess, Manager Procurement & Logistics at Alstom Power AG in Bexbach, during a tour around the facility. "For example as rolled flat bars, drawn profile material as well as forged or cast blanks." To transport the components the company had to rely for a long time on wood and plastic pallets. Those, however, had some disadvantages: "The pallet usually came with a separate frame for securing the load," Schiess recalls. "To assemble and disassemble this two-piece construction prooved to be very tedious and time consuming for our employees." Since the pallets had no cover, the metal parts were also not protected against weather, rain and humidity. This repeatedly led to contamination and damage. In addition, the charge carriers, with the dimensions 1200 x 800 mm, were too big for the internal production processes. "We have a very large product range - and little space," explains Schiess. "Therefore, the pallets often stood in the way. Also, they were difficult to manoeuvre through the narrow lanes with the forklift. "

The people responsible at Alstom decided therefore to replace the carriers by a more appropriate system. Looking for such a solution they came upon the foldable bulk carriers of the specialists for reusable packaging, Schoeller Allibert. The also known as Foldable Large Container (FLC) consist of high quality and durable plastic, the floor and the closed side walls are connected in a fixed manner. When empty, they can be easily folded, thereby reducing their space requirements to a fraction. "Around 60 per cent less space is occupied by a FLC when folded" knows Anne Schwab, who was in charge of the project at Schoeller Allibert. "As a result, the charge carriers can be stored and transport at low costs."

Lightweight solution for heavy loads

Alstom decided on the FLC of the type Magnum HD, half the size of a euro-pallet, with dimensions 800 x 600 mm and a height of 680 millimetres. These containers are specially designed for heavy loads and carry up to 700 kg - enough to transport the heavy metal parts without any problems. At the same time they weigh just 18 kilograms and are therefore very light and easy to handle. "Our employees can assemble and dismantle the large containers easily on their own - and that much faster than the pallets with the framework before," says Schiess happily. "However, the low weight not only simplifies the handling, it also reduces the transportation costs," adds Schwab.

The compact containers fit perfectly into the production processes at Alstom. Especially the smaller footprint offers significant advantages: "The containers take up only half as much space as the Euro pallets previously used," specifies Schiess. "This means that we need far less storage space than before" Where previously one pallet stood, now two FLC fit - which provides for more flexibility and shorter lead times, as the employee can stockpile more different products directly at the production lines. Also for the limited space available in manufacturing the bulk containers are more suitable. "Our forklift operators can transport the containers much easier through the halls without ever having to worry about bumping in to corners," reports Schiess.

Clean, safe, eco-friendly

In order to protect the raw material for the turbine blades from moisture, each of the Magnum-HD-container is equipped with a removable lid. In addition, the bulk carriers can be cleaned easily and quickly, thanks to their smooth plastic surface. "Contamination and damage - for example by rust - are thus virtually impossible," notices Schiess, while inspecting a new container. "We have therefore less scrab and can ensure consistently high product quality at lower costs." In addition, the plastic containers are much more durable than the previously used pallets. "This is not only good for the budget, but also for the environment," smiles the purchasing manager.

With the foldable bulk carriers of Schoeller Allibert, Alstom was able to arrange for the production process at the site Bexbach to be much more economical, ergonomic, faster and safer. "With the new solution we are more efficient in all respects: We are more flexible in production, can save costs in transport, our employees have significant advantages in handling, and our customers get the finished products even more quickly in the usual high quality ", Schiess is delighted with the success of the project. "So you can actually say: Everyone benefits from it. "

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