Reference article 05/2017

Perfect cutting ... for insulation

Philippine GmbH optimizes planning, production and delivery processes with know-how from UDS GmbH 


Thermal insulation for pitched roofs is one of the more complicated tasks in the construction industry. This is why Philippine GmbH & Co. Dämmstoffe KG in Bochum, one of the leading EPS suppliers, supports its customers right from the planning process. Hamburg-based UDS GmbH - the original supplier of the planning software - became a process companion for Philippine and has also helped to significantly reduce production costs.


Dämmstoffsysteme KG
Bövinghauser Straße 50-58
44805 Bochum

Phone: 0234 / 87 96-0

Philippine GmbH & Co. Dämmstoffe KG in Bochum is one of the pioneers in the insulation industry. At its sites in the Ruhr area and Schkopau near Leipzig, the company primarily develops, produces and sells polystyrene insulation materials for flat roof and façade insulation as well as thermal and impact sound insulation for floor structures. Philippine offers building owners, planners and contractors not only insulation materials of the highest quality, but also a number of services "around it": from advice in advance, to measurement and project-related production, customers receive a complete solution package for their building project.

Software search starts success story

This has many advantages, especially for sloping roofs, as the insulation supplier carries out all the necessary calculations. These calculations require software that automates and optimizes planning and cutting and determines the thermal values. While searching for a suitable supplier, Philippine came across UDS GmbH in 2006 and a success story began, the final chapter of which is far from being written. The first chapter begins with a visit by UDS Managing Director Roman Börnchen to the "old halls" just outside Bochum, the headquarters of Philippine GmbH. The interior of the "shed", the people who worked there and the way in which they manufactured and sold their products amazed the software expert. Philippine Managing Director Roland Lohsträter had developed special machines that were able to cut the insulating material in parabolic and hyperbolic shapes by means of variable feed of the cutting wires, thus making it possible to apply the roofing felt without creases. Roman Börnchen realized that he was dealing with a real inventor, who in turn appreciated the "software invention" of UDS GmbH. This made a collaboration possible that goes beyond pure service.

Non-linear logic

Just as the speed and cutting direction of Philippine's machines depend on the task at hand, UDS GmbH's software was already working in a similar way at the time: instead of a single linear algorithm that arrives at a defined result through a series of clear if-then queries, UDS GmbH's software can calculate different solutions in parallel. Previous decisions are automatically checked, and if a decision made by the program subsequently proves to be wrong or not optimal, the software revises this decision and performs the calculation again. In this way, correct and, above all, optimized results can be achieved even for complex roofs with 50 or more funnels, for example. Another advantage: the software "learns" from these decisions and can later calculate similar projects faster and correctly from the outset.  However, "standard intelligence" is not enough to meet Philippine's requirements. "We had to find a way to solve our very specific problems using software in such a way that the adaptations were also cost-effective," recalls Roland Lohsträter. "After all, UDS GmbH has nothing to give away either. Idea development and economic testing therefore always go hand in hand for us."

Co-thinkers instead of suppliers

It was not just a one-off software adaptation. Sooner or later, the employees of UDS GmbH were involved in every step of Philippine's development. There were repeated visits to Bochum, and those who were guided through the production hall by UDS carefully observed what was happening there. The guests from Hamburg discovered processes that could also be supported by software and suggested adaptations and extensions. If the answer was "Right, we need it", the corresponding function was developed or activated. In this way, UDS GmbH was able to implement new ideas from Bochum every year and fulfill special requests. The software offers drawing and calculation functions and is also directly connected to the database, so that in addition to plans, evaluations, parts and order lists can also be generated. The program determines the slope plan from architectural plans and a few inputs, taking into account the roof layout, the position of the drains and all roof penetrations, such as skylight domes or chimneys and the height of the parapet. Free-form shapes are also possible. Thermal insulation and water drainage are automatically optimized. The planners have a completely free hand: the software can process a wide range of boundary conditions and also calculates layouts for complex external drainage systems. The individual parts of the insulation know their dimensions, their position and their respective "neighbors" on the roof. Changes at one point therefore already influence the entire insulation during the planning process; the planner immediately recognizes the consequences of an adjustment. If everything is OK, all it takes is a few entries and mouse clicks and the new installation plan is available with all evaluations and lists. It goes without saying that plans, parts lists and thermal values are always correct.

Modern technology requires modern processes

In 2013, the "old halls" in Bochum were transformed into a new, ultra-modern plant with high-performance cutting machines. This is where the insulation materials are produced and cut fully automatically into flat roof panels and the sometimes complex bodies for covering sloping roofs. For Philippine, this is an important competitive advantage. "Whenever things get complicated, customers come to us," says Torsten Schmidt, the roof designer responsible for pitched roofs at Philippine. The cutting process in particular is not trivial, and the "cutting patterns" for the polystyrene blocks were largely developed manually for a long time. For smaller roofs in particular, for which many different shapes have to be cut, this effort was immense and the costs for setting up the machines were disproportionately high compared to the yield. Was there a way to reduce these costs? Roland Lohsträter was certain that UDS GmbH could take on the role of think tank. A tour of the new plant launched a new adaptation project. UDS GmbH asked questions, analyzed, calculated and planned. This primarily involved designing processes to combine several small roofs into a single production process - including binding delivery dates, cutting optimization, processing of stock goods, etc.

Controlling machines

The IT specialists at UDS GmbH programmed the missing software modules and trained the users at Philippine on how to use them. But that alone was not enough. They looked closely at the people operating the production machines and discovered the next time waster: although the software automatically generated programs for cutting the polystyrene blocks, the operators had to enter them manually into the machine. Once again, UDS GmbH took over coordination and communication with the manufacturer of the cutting machines. This made it possible to control the programming interface automatically. Today, the planning program outputs the cutting pattern optimized for cutting and with assignment of the parts to the construction projects and now also transmits this data directly to the cutting machines. The workers at the machines control these programs and monitor the production process.

Safety for roofers and building owners

Roofers can get started right away on the construction site, because insulation deliveries from Philippine come with a detailed installation plan, tips and instructions and, of course, complete, correctly cut and labeled boards - suitable for the respective substrate. What is important for the building owners is the optimum thermal insulation, even with a roof slope of only 2 percent and the guaranteed correctly calculated thermal insulation values in accordance with DIN EN ISO 6946. The building owners are pleasantly surprised: "We had several offers for sloping roofs, but this proposal is by far the cheapest solution in terms of the full costs per square meter. We also have the certainty that the thermal insulation is right. That is a decisive criterion for us!"

The story continues

The results of the process optimization project can only be estimated at present. Roland Lohsträter anticipates an increase in efficiency of over 20 percent and expects the costs to fall considerably as a result of the improved processes. For him, the project support provided by UDS GmbH is one of the "really good strategic decisions". In the ten years of cooperation, both Philippine GmbH and UDS GmbH have grown in every respect. Both companies are ideally equipped for future challenges. What has remained is the joy of "inventing". Roman Börnchen knows that his last visit to Bochum was not the last: "The story will continue to be written, and we are happy to be on board with new creative solutions. With more than 20 years of experience in various projects in very different sectors, we can also develop and implement unexpected approaches. This is challenging, fun and helps our customers to achieve their goals. Our way of working is also extremely satisfying for us - more of a vocation than a profession, a purpose in life."

UDS DACH - a successful model of standard and customization

Let's summarize: UDS DACH is software that can be used to calculate insulation for roofs. This software uses non-linear logic to determine the most sensible installation plans, correct parts lists and optimized thermal values as quickly as possible. It learns from projects and thus becomes more efficient. The solution for Philippine consists of this basic software and adaptations that were developed precisely for the needs of the Bochum-based insulation supplier. UDS GmbH now also works with manufacturers of other insulating materials - different projects, different challenges and again customized, often unexpected solutions. "We remain curious," says Roman Börnchen. "And if you always believe that there is no 'automation answer' to your construction questions, then UDS GmbH is the right company for you."

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