Packing of Steel Tubes

Prize: 12.000€

Status: completed


Our client is a company specialized in the manufacturing of steel products. 

The goals of this company are a continuous improvement in terms of product quality, cost efficiency and customer service levels.  

The Challenge

Companies want to increase productivity and improve competitiveness and presence in the current global market. 

Our client has achieved some enhancements in this area but now it would like to push this improvement even further. That is why the client wants this challenge to translate into a reduction in labor cost in one of its lines of steel tubes.

Currently, the tubes come out the manufacturing line, where they accumulate laterally on cradles supported by fabric tapes. Once the batch is completed, they fall gently on weighing cradle (1). After the tubes have been weighed, they are taken to the storage location of the line to be carried then to the storage location for the finished product. 

These batches come in irregular shapes and the tubes intertwine with each other.

On the storage location for the finished product, these batches are taken to a structure (2) where the tubes can be placed and manually put inside an hexagonal package, where they are later strapped. This operation is performed by 2 or 3 workers in 3 shifts.

Then, this strapped package can be plastic coated or not, depending on the destination it is shipped to. There is also a machine that coats the strapped packages with plastic foil or burlap. This machine has a longitudinal traveling belt and an eccentric wrapper that wraps the outside of the package. 

These hexagonal packages are more stable and can store more easily and safely. The diameter of the tubes range from 19mm and 76mm, and are between 3m and 20m longo. There is a 3,300 kg maximum weight restriction per package. This restriction could be increased to 5,000 Kg. 

The line manufactures a package every 30 minutes (cycle time). 

The heaviest tube in this line is 130 kg. 

Find attached photos and video of the process. 

What the client is looking for

The client is looking for a new solution to reduce the labor cost in this process with a reasonable investment in new tools and equipment. 

The solution must be a design of an installation that forms hexagonal packages, straps them with plastic foil or burlap*. Ideally, the workers should only feed the installation and pick up the completed packages..

  • Level 1: Automation of the formation of the hexagonal packages in the storage location for the finished product (2).
  • Level 2: Automation of the formation of hexagonal packages at the end of the line (1), so that they arrived completed to the storage location for the finished product.

Evaluation criteria

The evaluation criteria in each of the rounds of the tournament for the proposed solutions are:

  • Complies with required cycle time requirements (6 sec.)
  • Feasibility evidence
  • Business case. 1 year payback.
  • Lower investments and/or cost. Required investment in tools and machinery should be below 120-180 K€ depending on the payback.
  • Preferable feature: Can be integrated into each end line

This is a 3-round tournament with the following expected submissions:

First round

A 3-page PDF document which will include:

  • Describe your proposal for reducing the labor cost:
    • Technical measures, impacted activities and expected reduction cost
    • Sketches and new layout
    • Description of the high level process
    • Feasibility evidences (if applicable) to support your recommendations

Second round

  • Detailed process specification.
  • Equipment specifications and available suppliers. 
  • Estimated investments and operational costs.

Third round

  • Clarifications on the process and proposed investments


This is a 3‐round tournament with the following timing:

  • 1st round: 6 weeks to present solutions + 2 weeks for evaluation
  • 2nd round: 4 weeks to present solutions + 2 weeks for evaluation
  • 3rd round: 2 weeks + 1 week evaluation
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    Good Luck!