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New directions in plant planning – faster and more efficiently to market

from K Zeitung

Zeppelin continues to grow when it comes to plant planning

From silo supplier to plant engineer and system integrator with specific experience in the compounding industry: Zeppelin Systems showcases its expertise in innovative planning processes and Industry 4.0 products.

In today’s plastics production and processing industries, billion-dollar investment decisions are made in very short timeframes.“On average, the time between investment decision and commissioning is around 50% what it was just a few years ago,” estimates Rochus Hofmann, Managing Director at Zeppelin Systems. This represents a challenge that can only be overcome with faster and better planning. The Friedrichshafen plant engineering specialist showcased its renewed strength in the planning and design of turnkey systems for the plastics industry at the K trade fair. “Over the past ten years in particular, the story of Zeppelin’s development work has been one of constant change,” reports Hofmann. While the company initially focused on silo systems, it gradually moved towards developing plant engineering including external systems, from silos to conveying technology, mixing, degassing, and logistics.

In 2013 the company brought Krauss Maffei Berstorff on board as a business partner, and together the companies created complete compounding systems. “Since 2016 we have continued to welcome potential partners, and to establish our credentials as plant planners without being tied to one machine manufacturer.Many projects, especially in the compounding industry, remain under the radar of the major engineering consultancies; this is where we step in with our experience, to develop the entire process from silo to packaging of the finished compounds,” explains Hofmann.

Process expert and system integrator

As a plant architect, Zeppelin Systems has outstanding all-round expertise regarding the processes involved, and acts as a system integrator, helping to reduce the time to market. “We think like architects now, which allows us to turn our customers’ ideas into a functioning concept,” says Hofmann, describing the process. “We take each solution on its own merits, and tell the customer which one would work best for them. The customer decides what it wants to do, and we make sure that all the disparate elements come together to make the solution work.” Where mechanical engineering firms plan around the machine, a plant engineering firm takes a comprehensive view when planning. Zeppelin Systems uses a number of cutting-edge planning tools including the Zeppelin Value Engineering concept, which allows full discussion and optimization of the plant design at a very early stage, in a digital model. The results of this are brought together to create a better designed solution – which may mean optimized pipework, well-thought-through space allocation, or the perfect layout of all plant parts and shorter transport routes.

Modernization – first in 3D

Innovative planning software supports the process. “We use the same tools as international contractors, so each plant is planned using 3D technologies,” explains Hofmann. Refurbishing also benefits from the same approach because, for example, a precise model of the existing plant can be created using 3D scanning. This is extremely helpful if modifications have not been recorded over time, data formats cannot be converted, or the drawings provided don’t match up with the actual situation. An informed decision on which components of the old plant should remain and which may be moved or dismantled during modernization can then be taken on this basis. Plant conversion can be planned precisely and carried out with little disruption to production and high safety standards.This is how Zeppelin Systems supports plants for the manufacture and processing of plastics, from the first planning steps, to execution and support over the entire lifecycle including modernization.In future, the focus will be on shaping the planning process in innovative ways, such as by pushing forward with digitization – not only for planning, but also in terms of using components that can communicate within digital networks. With this in mind, Zeppelin is focusing its own in-house component development on this new segment, with a working title of “Smart Components”; the company presented new ideas on the issue of Industry 4.0 at K 2016. Added value can be created for the user. A new app for example, supports maintenance fitters and service technicians by automatically identifying components.

“We take each solution on its own merits, and tell the customer which one would work best for them. The customer decides what it wants to do, and we make sure that all the disparate elements come together to make the solution work.”

Rochus Hofmann, Managing Director Zeppelin Systems GmbH