manufacturing

People of Steel

If you can dream it in high-strength steel, Fortaco Jászberény can probably make it.

If it’s made of high-strength or mild steel and weighs between 100 kilograms and 60 tons, Sebastian Kun and his team at Fortaco in Jászberény, Hungary, can probably manufacture it.

While the team mostly produces steel structures for customers in materials handling, energy, and mining, they can also make you a chocolate mixer.

Flexible enough for chocolate

Sebastian Kun, Fortaco Jászberény's sales manager, doesn't foresee a big future for Fortaco in the confectionary industry, but the manufacturing of chocolate mixers are what happens when being agile is in your DNA.

"We're a reliable partner for OEMs, because we’re flexible enough to withstand market fluctuations," says Kun. "In our three business segments we try to serve the top three OEMs. Each of these segments has different market fluctuations, and not being bound to one single segment allows us to balance capacity with demand."

Kun says the chocolate mixers are a real novelty for guests at Jászberény. “Visitors are baffled that the mixers aren’t stainless. But chocolate has so much fat that stainless isn’t required. The customer’s cost savings by not using stainless are significant. We grind the surface, treat it with food oil, and it’s ready to go.”

Secret tank manufacturers

Even before the Jászberény plant joined the Fortaco organization in 2013, it had a history of flexibility. Founded in 1951 under the name Aprítógépgyár, it produced stone crushers and classifiers. Unofficially, it also made military equipment. At one point in its history, it also designed and made its own rolling machine.

Kun joined the Jászberény plant in 2007. He combines a pedigree in steel fabrication — his father owned a steel fabrication company and machine shop — with languages. “Manufacturers in Hungary are very dependent on the German market,” he says, “and surprisingly few engineers of my age were fluent in German.” Born to a German mother, Kun found that his German, combined with his English, made him valuable to both suppliers and customers.

He started in the purchasing department for ready-to-weld parts, implemented the ERP system, and in 2009 switched from sourcing to sales, a move he jokes was “from the dark side to the light side.” He became a part of the cost calculation team, then a sales engineer, and in 2017 became Sales Manager. Kun runs a team of five, three in logistics and two in sales, backed by the plant’s other 400 team members.

Happy birthday, Jászberény!

Next year, Fortaco’s Jászberény plant will celebrate its 70th birthday. What would Kun like to receive as a gift? More customers is one thing. He sees capacity for taking on more clients looking for 20- to 30-ton products and seeking support from the design stage through to final production of plug-and-play equipment.

“We’re uniquely equipped to handle project- and serial business in manual- and robot welding, plus modular assembly,” he says, nothing that the plant is already doing modular assembly for clients like Komatsu and Liebherr. “We support the customer with ready-to-install modular products. When their product isn’t traveling from one factory to another, there’s a victory with reduced lead time and more flexibility.”


New Fortaco Narva Factory Complex from outside

Building New Opportunities

The new factory in Narva was launched this autumn, signifying a milestone in the industrial development of the region. The factory extension project was kicked-off in 2015, when lack of space, capacity constraints and overload of new project implementations were foreseen.

Andrey Ponomarev at Fortaco Estonia was appointed as Project Manager. Working in this kind of project was familiar to Andrey, he has worked in similar start-up projects in the automotive industry. “But this was the biggest project, which I have participated from the idea and design stage. What is great, that our ideas and wishes have now been implemented in reality.”

For two years, before the construction work was started, Andrey participated the project documentation development, and paperwork took quite a long time to be finished. When a contract was signed, things started to be moving on fast. “The most memorable moments were, of course, in the beginning and at the end of construction. We built a good cooperation within our Fortaco team and with our external partners. The project was like a fresh wave for our daily routine jobs.”

Like in any project, there are always things you can learn from, and which need to be taken into consideration to make the next similar project easier. The biggest challenges were found during the construction work, mostly related to extra work, and to keep up with a somewhat tight schedule. In Fortaco team we had some parallel projects ongoing, the new equipment was needed to be purchased and installed to the right places at the same time when the new factory started to take a shape. “We had to investigate each task carefully, and also fast, to keep everything rolling. For example, when purchasing CNC machines and planning their foundation and installation, we had to make sure, these tasks would not influence on the construction schedule, and machines will be available for use when the permission of usage of the new building is received.”

There are some key elements Andrey would like to stress, when working with the project like this:

Carefully check the partners. The cheapest solution might not be the one with most benefits. Surprises during the construction process usually are not good, and you want to avoid them, as they have a habit to turn out to be expensive.

Check the commercial offer precisely, and make sure the contracts with all parties are transparent. Hereby you will avoid misunderstandings in case there happens to be any deviations from the contract or schedule during the process.

Be active - this is very important, time is money. All people involved must understand their role, and they also have to be willing to make decisions, if required. Some decisions need extra monitoring, but also this should be a rapid process.

Andrey was glad to see how the professional cooperation between the external partners and Fortaco team enabled the launch of new factory just according to the schedule, and he hopes Fortaco employees will be happy to work with the new equipment and technology. “I would like to say big thanks to all people who participated, including our partners and my colleagues in Fortaco. I believe, this new factory will create new opportunities to increase our business, and also employment in Narva region”.