Travelling Column Machine Provides Flexible Solution for Construction Equipment Manufacturer

Modern construction vehicles are often customized to meet a wide variety of requirements. Komatsu Germany, a manufacturer of construction machinery, looked for -- and found -- that necessary flexibility and productivity thanks to EMCO's travelling column machine equipped with a universal milling head.

Komatsu Germany GmbH, a Hanover-based company, which had been known under the name of "Hanomag AG" until 2002, focuses on the development and manufacturing of wheel loaders and mobile excavators for the whole of Europe.

Komatsu Germany produces premium vehicles for the construction industry.



The German subsidiary has been growing for years. According to managing director Ingo Büscher, the Corona-related crisis had certainly made its presence felt, albeit to a moderate extent. This year has been marked by a substantial growth of roughly 70 percent, which more than compensates for the previously experienced decline.

Several aspects have had an influence on this positive development. One of the key factors -- Komatsu Germany produces premium vehicles which meet the highest standards. The market is aware of that, Büscher states.

Komatsu manufactures mobile loaders with weights between 14 and 22 tons.



Another crucial factor -- the company is no longer focusing on classic earth-moving machinery only, but has rather been expanding its lines of business to include further industrial applications, such as waste management, steel production, port handling etc.

Büscher explains, "It's not as if we were reinventing the wheel for each of our customers. Our exworks solutions are always based on a tried and tested basic machine. Here in Hanover, we cooperate with our customers to develop options for them that will maximize the productivity for applications that can sometimes be quite exotic. Thanks to highly digitized processes, we mostly use standard production procedures. Our customers appreciate this partner-like development process, as ideally customized special solutions usually lead to follow-up business."

VIDEO: Komatsu Germany Factory Tour -- Construction division

But the Hanover-based company's capabilities go far beyond that. "Our customers cannot wait indefinitely for their wheel bearings and mobile excavators to be delivered. They need them as soon as possible. Our internal processes allow us to manufacture and deliver a customized construction machine within four weeks after receiving the order," the managing director confirms.

According to him, there are two crucial factors which have paved the way for that ability, the first one being his highly qualified employees who -- for the most part -- receive in-house training either in the form of dual training as skilled workers or by completing dual study courses in the field of engineering or similar degree programs. The second factor is the synergy of company-wide digitization and modern technologies and machines which are characterized by maximum reliability, flexibility and quality.

The Ecomill has Replaced Two Machining Centers

In March 2021, Komatsu Germany integrated an Ecomill travelling column milling machine by Emco Mecof into its mechanical production. Designed for pendulum machining of components with weights of up to 20 tons, the machine has replaced two older machining centers.

Emco's travelling column machine



While the new machine does save a lot of space, there are two factors that are even more important to Büscher: the newly gained flexibility and productivity.

"We really wanted to implement single-line production, which means that, once they have been welded, several of our construction vehicles' main components, such as shovels, excavator arms or front and rear frames, will be conveyed into one central machining center. This center must be able to mill different assembly bolt fits into all of these components, regardless of their sizes and of whether they are intended for a wheel bearing or for a mobile excavator. Emco Mecof's Ecomill makes it possible for us to master this challenge."

However, coming up with the current solution has not been easy at all. Repeated adjustments of the standard machine concept had been required.

The Emco travelling column machine is used to machine main components of Komatsu construction vehicles, including shovels and arms as well as front and rear frames.



One of the many challenges involved the full digital integration into the production management. What is more, there was only one clearly defined area available for the setup of the machining center, which implied the exact calculation and implementation of the installation site's statistics.

Milling Time has been Reduced from 45 to 17 Minutes

Compared to the modifications referred to above, only a few changes had to be made to the highlight of the Ecomill, a flexible and infinitely variable universal milling head with A- and B-axes able to perform highly precise horizontal and vertical tasks and, according to Uwe Urban, Emco Sales Manager for Large-scale Machinery, the machine's centerpiece. "The mechanical design of our compact milling head makes it possible to use relatively short tools, which in turn results in ideal power transmission and high stability," said Urban.

What is more, the universal milling head comes with pneumatic oil lubrication, a water cooling system and automatic positioning to the nearest thousandth of a degree. "These innovations allow us to achieve increased precision and productivity with regard to the workpieces," explains Urban.

The Salzburg machine manufacturer EMCO is one of Europe's leading machine tool manufacturers.



This is confirmed by Matthias Henning, production manager of Komatsu Germany, who proves the productivity gain on the basis of H8 fits, with a diameter of more than 100 mm, which have to be milled into different types of shovels on a regular basis. It took the old machine a total of 45 minutes to complete the milling process. The Ecomill, however, can do that in only 17 minutes.

Apart from that, the travelling column machine reduces the downtime. While a component is being machined on one side of the machine, the machine operator prepares the next component on the other side."

"All the operator needs to do then is select the matching program on the CNC and press the start button. After that, he will keep an eye on the machining process while at the same time setting up a new component. Today, it takes only one employee to carry out all of these work steps. In the past, we would need three skilled workers on two machines to complete these tasks," said Henning.

Komatsu has expanded its business past the classic earth-moving machinery.



Today, he is glad that he has two more employees at his disposal who can work in other departments of the company to reliably and flexibly respond to Komatsu Germany's increasing number of customer inquiries.

Only One Perfect Solution

According to managing director Büscher, several international machine tool manufacturers participated in the bidding for the horizontal travelling column machine. At the end of the design customization phase, however, Emco was the only participant that could convince Komatsu.

Emco's 30-ton EcoMill had to be brought in through the roof for installation.



"We have got to know Uwe Urban and all Emco employees as very competent and helpful persons. They are always available for open conversations," Büscher explains. "Thanks to that and to Emco's solution-oriented approach, we have successfully mastered the challenges posed by this project. It was also possible to install the machine in the desired place."

Since all accesses to the halls were too small for the moving column to pass, the 30-ton colossus was finally brought in through the hall roof. "This is a problem we encounter from time to time, but we are more than happy to support our customers with know-how and competent partners to master such challenges as well," Urban added.

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