Automated production line results in improved efficiency and sustainabilityClose cooperation between Hendriks precon and MorgenWonen
Well over a century after mass production made its appearance in the automotive industry, this production method is now creating a furore in the construction sector. Higher capacity, more sustainable production, reduced construction lead times and improved efficiency are the result. A good example of this ‘Construction 4.0’ is provided by MorgenWonen – a pioneering construction standard, whereby all essential elements of a home are manufactured in the factory as ready-made Lego blocks. For example, concrete floor elements are manufactured using a far-reaching automated production line developed in close cooperation with Hendriks precon. We visited the factory, located just across the border with Germany.
Five years ago, MorgenWonen started working on developing a concept that would make it possible to construct homes faster, more sustainably, cheaper and more efficiently. Automated, in-factory production is a key element of this concept. This includes the production of various components, such as floors, walls, the roof and the bathroom: all of the home’s components are as much as possible manufactured on the production line. Eric Pot of Volker Wessels, the originator of this concept: “In-factory production considerably reduces construction time. The industrial production is combined with a high degree of automation. This not only as much as possible optimises products and the production process, it also facilitates greater sustainability.” The latter also includes a more environmentally conscious use of raw materials. Eric Pot: “Since concrete is a key component of the construction process, it is important to use the raw materials employed for this purpose as smart and efficiently as possible. Far-reaching automation supports this aim.”
Automated floor production
The company turned to Hendriks precon for the automated production of concrete floor elements. “We had been working together on various projects in the past and were very satisfied with our mutual cooperation. Hendriks precon demonstrated its expertise time after time,” says Eric Pot. “To be able to automate the production line, we needed a partner who could participate together with us in the production technology League of Champions. Hendriks precon is such a partner. Approaching this company therefore was an obvious next step.”
Normally, the automated production of floor elements is carried out either vertically or horizontally. For MorgenWonen, Hendriks precon combined both production techniques into a single automated production line. This makes it possible to comfortably make the necessary preparations horizontally, while the vertical production guarantees high-quality visible work on both sides of the concrete floor.
Different generations and specialists within Hendriks precon worked together on the development of the automated production line. Wim Jochems of Hendriks precon: “Together with the customer, we were able to combine the refreshing insights of a number of young, smart developers with the knowhow and insights of several experienced old-hands in this field.”
The production line is as impressive as it is innovative. In total, the line comprises 30 production tables, each measuring 8 x 3.5 metres. The work is prepared horizontally on these tables. This provides for an efficient and ergonomic workflow during which all installations, recesses and rebar are installed on a flat table. Next the tables are tipped into a vertical position in a single motion. The edges of the formwork close automatically during this operation. Because the concrete pressure during vertical production is much higher than it is during horizontal production, the edges are locked in a unique and sturdy way.
For the actual production, the tables are positioned one behind the other like dominoes, whereby the back of one table forms the front of the next table. Once in a vertical position, the table formwork is filled with concrete. In contrast to the usual way of pouring concrete on construction sites, the tables here are filled from the bottom up. This is also the key to the visible quality of the ultimate concrete surface. This is because filling the formwork from the bottom prevents air bubbles from becoming trapped in the concrete mixture.
Innovative production line
The production line houses numerous such innovations. A good example of this is the concrete manipulator that at the end of the line picks up the concrete floor elements off the table while they are not yet fully cured. The clamping force required for this purpose is automatically distributed across the 10-tonne element in a smart way. Once unloaded, the table formwork is cleaned at a single location after which it is oiled again for the next batch. While these activities elsewhere are generally carried out manually, a fully automated approach was adopted here – remarkable, innovative and efficient.