This guide is intended for those who manufacture a large volume of panels daily for various markets and who are interested in automating their manufacturing processes and optimizing their operations.
The automated loading and gluing field has many players and there are different equipment on the market. As a result, it is difficult to find your way around and to obtain the right information. The purpose of this article is to provide you with the most objective information to help you decide on the best solution for your situation.
In addition, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the ALYX automatic loader, as well as the factors that affect its cost (and therefore its return on investment).
I am Mario Asselin, Technical Director at Doucet. Throughout my long career, I have worked with many manufacturers to evaluate their needs and to develop custom solutions to optimize their operations. For several years now, I have been specialized in the field of automated gluing systems, pushing the technology further to put it at the benefit of the manufacturers.
The purpose of this guide is to answer your main questions and make your decision easier.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Technical description
- Who is the automatic loader ALYX made for?
- What are the issues / irritants / situations which lead the customer to the ALYX?
- What questions are frequently asked during the purchasing process?
- Advantages and disadvantages
- Compare possible options
- What are similar products on the market?
- How much can an automatic loader cost?
The ALYX is an automatic loader for high volume gluing application, panel preparation and loading and unloading of the clamp carrier.
Discover all the technical specifications in addition to the different options for the automatic loader model ALYX here.
Who is the automatic loader ALYX made for?
The Doucet ALYX automatic loader system is intended mainly for manufacturing companies with a high volume of panel gluing. It is particularly suitable for plants with a production capacity of about 1000 panels (or 10,000 square feet of panels) per shift (and more).
The equipment has been designed to make it easier to handle large format "master panel" parts, such as stair railings or kitchen tables. It can produce a larger volume of panels, more accurately (standard) or consistently and it requires less physical effort. All that's left is grading and inspecting. It also does a cleaner job than manual assembly, as it uses a constant, set quantity of glue.
Given the current labor shortage, the ALYX automatic loader allows businesses in many fields to decrease their dependency on manual intervention. This will allow them to optimize and increase their production without having to add personnel.
The system saves on the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, and paying workers.
ALYX was designed for businesses operating in the fields of:
- Kitchen and bathroom cabinets
- Stair treads
- Stair railings
- Kitchen furniture
- Living room furniture
- Bedroom furniture
- Various productions
Due to the high acquisition cost of the automatic loader, shops with small production volumes and no expansion plans are less likely to opt for this equipment. The SRX, RT100 and AGS will certainly meet their needs.
What are the issues / irritants / situations which lead the customer to the ALYX?
Businesses that use ALYX often do so as part of a process of improvement or as part of a strategy to optimize and increase their production. They want to automate their production to reduce human intervention as much as possible and to automate their process, from sales to delivery.
They frequently find themselves with a full order book but have difficulty recruiting high-quality workers to meet their clients needs in a short time frame.
For many, these recruiting challenges are a real nightmare. They end up with workers who lack the necessary skills to perform their tasks and have important productivity issues, but more importantly, the conformity of their finished products. They want better outcomes and often automation is the solution.
Other businesses are looking to standardize their process. They can no longer afford to have the way the panels are produced, the schedules, and the quality of the final product depend on the skills of the people on the floor. Therefore, they will opt for an automatic loader to achieve more predictability, regardless of who is on the schedule.
Entrepreneurs also choose the automatic loader to reduce the time and energy required to clean the equipment. During manual panel fabrication, it is quite common for workers to use too much glue to fix the different parts. These excesses inevitably end up in the oven, on the panel gluer, especially the clamps, and must be removed manually. The ALYX uses a set and constant amount of glue to avoid this unpleasant situation.
What questions are frequently asked during the purchasing process?
One of the first questions the customer asks in the purchasing process often relates to the production capacity of the automatic loader. The buyer will ask in relation to:
- The equipment's capacities (number of panels per section);
- Equipment speed (time needed to produce a certain number of panels);
- Equipment dimensions (maximum and minimum widths, maximum and minimum lengths).
The client then asks about the automation capacity of the equipment as well as the equipment's ability to be integrated in a 4.0 environment.
Lastly, the customer takes information regarding the specific of his plant to determine if the equipment will adequately fit in his production line. He evaluates the different functionalities and options available.
The ALYX is often the entry point to a larger automation project as the customer will realize that he has more important needs and that other equipment marketed by Doucet are able to meet them efficiently. We will then automate the material entry process in the automated gluing system, then the exit process.
Advantages and disadvantages
- A major advantage of the automatic loader is its efficiency, especially for large parts that require the involvement of two workers.
- The ALYX allows for fast and uniform panel production with a minimum of human intervention.
- The equipment stands out for its cleanness. It uses a set and constant amount of glue, which reduces spills and cleaning.
- The reduction of cleaning is a major benefit given the time and energy required.
- The ALYX makes panel fabrication much easier. It also makes the work less physical, more accessible, less routine and, way more attractive. For instance, one worker can manage the incoming quality and a second one can manage the outgoing stacks.
- The gluing system can be programmed, allowing the person in charge of production to record and access the ideal settings for the gluing of a given panel.
- The ALYX also features a product identification system, so that each outgoing panel has its own component, dimension, and manufacturing data, which allows for better tracking. The label can include a lot number and size of the panel, time of pressurization, or other pertinent information related to the process.
- The main disadvantage of the ALYX loader system is the price. The acquisition of such an equipment represents a major investment. It is therefore beneficial to businesses which are organized, and which have a clear strategy for development.
- The integrated ALYX technology can also represent a disadvantage for certain small businesses who have not started the digital transition yet or a fear for others who haven't had the chance to try it out (does it really work?).
- The large production capacity of the system can also be a disadvantage for some businesses who do not have the equipment or the necessary order book to take full benefit of the ALYX.
Compare possible options
The Doucet ALYX is in a class of its own considering its process and innovative features. It is cold gluing, meaning no heat is applied or high frequencies are used. This gives a more predictable result and better compliance.
High frequency gluers can produce panel volumes comparable to ALYX. Microwaves tend to react with fluids, making the finish less consistent, particularly on wood that hasn't sufficiently dried.
What are similar products on the market?
The innovations of the last few years have allowed Doucet to take several steps forward in the loading, clamping and cold gluing of panels competition. Investments in R&D have meant there is no longer direct competition to the ALYX automatic loader. The technology builds on the technology.
In fact, the only brake to the acquisition of this gluing system lies in the decision of some businesses not to automate and optimize their productions in the short or medium term. They are satisfied with their current output and often limit the scope of services they can offer to their customers.
To see the ALYX in action👇
How much can an automatic loader cost?
The cost of a complete ALYX equipped with various options for digital conversion and factory automation can be up to $1.5 million.
As a result of several years of R&D, the system is equipped with cutting-edge technology in terms of feeding, clamping and glue application. It distinguishes itself by the high quality of its components, which includes the extruder developed by APQUIP.
What are the factors that impact the price?
The equipment that needs to be added to the system in order for it to work properly and be optimised for the application (SRX hydraulic clamp carrier, feeder, MANYX stacker/destacker, etc.);
- Technological devices allowing the digital turn (4.0);
- The size of the equipment.
Other points that can impact the price
They evolve according to the geographic situation of the customer.
A minimum of a week is required for the installation of the ALYX, followed by an additional week for the start-up of the system, and a third for training and adjustment. We will often return to the customer one month later to conduct an evaluation of the performance and to make final adjustments. During the break-in period, the team of technicians performs a series of tests to make sure the equipment is working properly and is well integrated into the client's production.
There is a significant savings in labor associated with cleaning glue related to production operations.
Given the size of the investment, the ALYX is obviously not for every business, but it is certainly a good fit for those who have difficulty in finding high quality workers and still want to expand while improving the quality and consistency of their products.
There is no reason to get your hopes up, as the labour shortage will not be solved in the short or medium term, making it difficult to recruit. In this context, it is crucial to invest in a digital transformation. The companies that will succeed the most are the ones that make concrete decisions to rely as little as possible on human intervention. And fortunately, in panel manufacturing, this is now more possible and accessible than ever.
The ALYX is a big investment, but it does come with a significant return on investment. If you produce a large volume of panels or have ambitions to expand, you will quickly see the benefits, both in productivity and in human resources management. You will be offering value-added positions to your workers, which is bound to contribute to their motivation. Their skills will also have a lesser impact on the products you deliver.
Contact the Doucet sales team to discuss your needs and confirm your potential productivity gains. Doucet is a North American leader in the design, manufacturing, and integration of advanced solutions for secondary wood processing companies.
All our products are designed and manufactured to fit your environment. Contact us for more information!
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