Automation system powers kitchen production

In a bid to introduce manufacturing efficiencies, Australian Kitchen Industries (AKI), has introduced Australia's first automated kitchen assembly line with quicker turnaround times and higher quality work.

In a bid to introduce manufacturing efficiencies, Australian Kitchen Industries (AKI), has introduced Australia’s first automated kitchen assembly line with quicker turnaround times and higher quality work

The new automated assembly line, imported from Germany, has boosted AKI’s production output by more 175% from 200 cabinets per eight hours to 550.

The $1.2m automated assembly line comprises a series of 19 conveyers each with a unique purpose.

AKI’s National Operations Manager, Tom Musty, said the new assembly line utilised the same principles as automotive manufacturing.

“The kitchens are carried along conveyer belts as they are constructed and value added. The automation helps to ensure more consistency and precision in the assembly process,” he said.

“Production staff do not have to move to different locations to complete each task which further streamlines production.”

Musty said the new automation technology had enabled the company to shut down its machining and parts manufacturing operations and focus solely on kitchen construction.

“The introduction of this assembly line lets us focus on what we’re good at, which is the assembly process and logistics,” he said.

“It has made our operations more profitable and is ensuring a more consistent quality product and faster turnaround.

“We now source all our cabinet componentry from local suppliers and no longer have to operate our machining operations. This is helping us keep competitive in a challenging market.”

Musty said the company has started up with one shift, but has every intention to have the plant working around the clock over six days as the demand increases. This will allow one day for recovery should there be any problems.

He said the technology had also dramatically improved occupational health and safety standards “removing 90% of risk to our workers”.

“The way it is designed means that it’s almost impossible for people to hurt themselves.

“For example, our staff no longer has to lift cupboards and parts because the assembly line moves it all for them. All mechanical lifting and toting equipment is protected by safety fences, further ensuring the safety of people.”

Musty said the new system had enabled AKI to consolidate its Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane manufacturing facilities into the company’s facility in Lytton, near Brisbane.

“We now operate from a 3000m² warehouse and factory space and 1300m² of office space.”

The automated AKI process:

1. The “carcass” of each kitchen is assembled at the first conveyor belt using glue and dowel method.

2. It is then transferred to the next belt which is a queuing location waiting to be transferred into the cabinet press.

3. The cabinet press clamps the cabinet for 60 seconds prior to being transferred to the next queuing belt.

4. The cabinet then travels to the value adding section via a series of erecting and turning belts ready for the doors and drawer faces to be fitted.

5. Once fitted, the cabinet is transferred through further belts to be quality checked and packaged individually ready to be palletised.

6. Completed kitchens are then palletised and wrapped and stored before distribution.

AKI was formed in the late 1990s with the merger of Nobby Kitchens and Wallspan.