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    DM Wheel Systems supporting reshoring through robotisation

    Dutch wheel systems deployed worldwide

    A prerequisite for quality and a good price is a stable, automated production process.

    By co-designing and providing customisation, DM Wheel Systems attracts customers who, for any number of reasons, want to reshore production from Asia. Thanks to the robotisation of its CNC machines, the Dutch manufacturer is keeping the cost price under control and growing rapidly in a tight labour market.

    Robotisering DM Wheel Systems

    When DM Wheel Systems was formed from a merger in 2007 there were only two manufacturers of swivel and fixed castors left in the Netherlands, both with outdated production equipment. ‘The other manufacturing companies had trotted off to Asia in a conga line by then,’ says Frank van Schaaijk (CEO) who, along with his brother Christian (CTO), forms the third generation in the family business. They, too, had started looking for production capacity in China, but there were problems with quantities and stock turnover of the products. Plus, that would have meant the boxes of products for DM Wheel Systems standing alongside those of the competitor. And how do you stand out then?

    High-quality applications

    The two brothers have since modernised the production in the Netherlands with precise CNC turning machines and machining centres, most with bar feeding and now even robots. ‘If you automate production here, the cost difference with China is not great. And then you don’t need the mega-huge quantities either, while you are also close to the customer,’ says Frank van Schaaijk. Customers increasingly appreciate this, especially now that long supply chains are regularly disrupted. ‘Customers are looking for delivery reliability.’ Moreover, he has the confidence to guarantee consistent high quality. That is important, because the Dutch company specialises in high-performance wheel systems for a variety of applications, from revolving doors to complex baggage handling systems.

    DM Wheel Systems supplies complete modules. Half of these are customised, while the other half are standard systems with load capacities of up to 20 tonnes. These systems are produced almost entirely in-house. ‘That means the quality and all the tolerances of the complete product are our responsibility. The system is not delivered until everything fits. Essentially, we take over part of the supply chain for our customer. Moreover, you start thinking differently about the technical aspects when you make everything under one roof,’ says Frank van Schaaijk. The Dutch family business has been so successful with this approach that there are customers who now have wheel systems produced in the Netherlands for applications in Asia.

    Robotisering DMG Mori Draaimachine

    Robotisation with BMO

    A prerequisite for quality and a good price is a stable, automated production process for machining the separate components. Tolerances range up to 0.005 mm. Three years ago, in part for this reason, DM Wheel Systems brought in its first robot cell: a BMO Platinum 50 with seven product drawers. This robot cell is connected to a DMG Mori NLX 2500 CNC turning machine. Last year a second cell of this type was installed at a DMG Mori CTX 450 turning-milling machine, the first in the Netherlands. The combination of the BMO Platinum robot cells – each with seven drawers for the raw material and finished pieces – with DMG Mori’s precision CNC machines provide the Dutch-based manufacturer with a stable, low-manned production process.

    CLX450 rebotisering
    NLX2500 Robotisering

    ‘We supply high-quality products, which is why we opt for high-quality machinery and automation so we can run trouble-free through the night.’ In early 2023 DM Wheels Systems will take the next step with the arrival of their third BMO Automation robot, for loading a CNC turning machine, and the commissioning of their first 5-axis machining centre, with what will then be their fourth BMO Platinum cell. This robot places material and products, as well as pallets with fixtures, on the CNC machine. ‘We will not only use it to load the 5-axis machine but also a DMU 3-axis machining centre.’

    If you automate production here, the cost difference with China is not great. And then you don’t need the mega-huge quantities either, while you are also close to the customer.

    Frank van Schaaijk, DM Wheel Systems

    Attractive employer

    BMO Automation’s robotic systems are helping the company’s turnover grow faster than the number of employees, although that number is also growing steadily. And the modernisation of production, partly through automation, makes DM Wheel Systems attractive as an employer. Frank van Schaaijk says, ‘We’re located near the Brainport region, which has its advantages and disadvantages.’ He thinks there is no point complaining about higher salaries. Robotisation helps with that. It does mean that, as an employer, you need to invest in your staff. At DM Wheel Systems this ranges from a canteen set up as a traditional Dutch pub, to a contribution to help employees with their higher energy bills, to a gym he has set up in the building.

    ‘We try to do something extra. Young people seek quality time, and at home, time is often lacking. If they can work out during the day, that’s extra time they have at home.’ With initiatives like these, he tries to be an attractive employer for those who prefer to work in a family business. ‘The young generation are quite willing to work, even on a Saturday if they have to, but not every Saturday.’ Thanks to the automation of the CNC machines, as well as the use of a laser cutting machine or welding robot, the production runs with minimal personnel or even unmanned. ‘We work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in two shifts. During the day we do the difficult products, with close tolerances. Then we reconfigure for the evening and night. We are trying to do as much as possible with automation and robots.’


    Before taking the first step towards automation, Frank and Christian van Schaaijk oriented themselves in the robot loading market. ‘We were mainly looking for a stable system, and that meant an industrial robot, not a cobot. I’m also still a firm believer in developing a relationship with your suppliers; we always seek a partnership. There was a click with BMO Automation from the start. Like ours, theirs is a growing company, and you see how passionate they are about development of their robotic systems.’ The two brothers feel the same about their business. ‘We don’t have to become the biggest company, but we do want a company we can be proud of. We want to build something beautiful for the future.’

    DMG Mori CTX 450 TC robotisering
    Robotisering DMG Mori NLX 2500 1250