Season's Greetings

We want to express our appreciation for the trust received from our customers and business partners in 2018. Fortaco Vehicle Assembly, Vehicle Cabin and Steel Fabrication businesses continue growing, and we are proud for the new Fortaco Technology unit, which was introduced beginning of 2018 to support research and product development programs for our customers.

The world is rapidly changing towards the clean environment, electrification and digitalization. By working together we can speed up implementation of efficient customer products.
Instead of traditional Christmas gifts, Fortaco has made a donataion to charity.

We wish you and your colleagues a Peaceful and Blessed Christmas Time and a Successful Year 2019.

Big Data and Million-cycle Machines

Big data is put to use more and more to offer customers a better service. But in the off-highway industry it will soon drive the way products are designed and manufactured.

by Dr. Rafal Sornek, Senior Vice President, Fortaco Technology

In 1998, the American car insurance company Progressive launched its Snapshot program. Drivers could opt to place a self-contained autonomous electromechanical sensor (telematics) in their car which would send Progressive a picture of the driver’s habits. In the beginning, the program was used to reward safe drivers with discounts.

In 2013, the company went a step further and used collected data to penalize bad drivers. They measured speed, time spent driving, and recorded incidents of hard braking. The data could tell Progressive whether a driver took risks and whether he (or she, though data shows women are safer drivers) paid attention.

The Progressive case is perhaps the most famous example of how a service company utilized big data to dramatically improve its consumer offering. It’s not often that big data is used to improve manufacturing – but that day is coming soon. I should know: it’s my company that’s pioneering it.

Your million-cycle forklift
In today’s off-highway vehicle manufacturing business, vehicles are manufactured for the most demanding use case. The forklift in your warehouse, for example, likely contains steel components which enable it to run millions of cycles, operating 24/7 to offload thousands of pallets.

But it’s also quite possible that your business doesn’t require that. Perhaps you use your forklift once a day when the truck comes with your delivery. You start it up, offload one pallet, and park it for the rest of the day. Do you really need a forklift with a fatigue life made for the million-cycle customer? What did you pay for that forklift? And how enthusiastic are you about paying to offset the design costs that are not really applicable to your needs?

Today, the steel components in your forklift are made for the most demanding use case. But they won’t be for long. Because big data is changing the way we manufacture.

The digital toolchain
Much like the Progressive Corporation gathers information about its drivers, big data and the digital toolchain enables us to gather information about forklift users.

The fleet management system provides our OEM customers with data about how their customers are using equipment. Is it once per day? Or is it thousands of times per day? Is the end customer utilizing the product’s full lifting capacity? Or only 10 percent of it? Are they utilizing the forklift’s extension boom, or simply taking something off a truck and putting it on the ground?

Next we quantify the data. What portion of our OEM’s customers are light users and how many are heavy? Is it a normal distribution, or are there peaks? If we find that 90 percent of customers are light users, how do we translate that into product architecture? How many product versions do we now need knowing what we know?

The era of data-driven product design and production is not far off. In fact, at Fortaco we have already begun the process. This year we were the recipients of a research grant for a project we call RapidSteel. It's a 1.6 million-euro research project, half financed by us, half by the Polish government, which will be used to pioneer data-driven product design for one of Fortaco's top OEM customers.

It's a three-year project. This year we’re using data analytics to simulate production options. Next year we'll build the pilot line which can handle multiple product versions. In year three, we will validate those prototypes in the field.

Customization is coming
I believe that this type of manufacturing in the off-highway industry is inevitable. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that we’ve got to learn how to manage it.

Even in the automotive industry the legacy of Henry Ford is coming to an end: No longer are customers satisfied with any color they want as long as it’s black. Sure, mass production makes sense for cars that carry you from point A to point B –car sharing fleets, for example. But premium cars will have highly-customized “car content,” from the engine to the entertainment system.

Last year, Porsche said that electric vehicles are among the reasons its suppliers will have to work with a modular approach. Electric off-highway equipment will present particular opportunities for the use of big data. Since electric vehicles are powered by expensive nickel batteries, every kilo reduction in the weight of the steel structure results in huge long-term savings for the customer.

No one knows how fast the development of electric equipment will proceed, but we do know manufacturers will be required to provide both diesel and electric offerings in the near- and medium term. This doubling of product offerings can only be made efficient through the use of big data.

Communication is key
The Progressive Corporation’s use of data was so innovative that it changed an entire industry. Competitors eventually discovered that if they weren’t able to offer a similar product, they’d become a niche player serving mainly reckless drivers.

What has already happened in the insurance industry is happening now in the off-highway industry. The modular factory is coming, and big data is its driver.

In the past, OEMs sent us a drawing. This was the communication of a solution, not a need. In this new era, big data is communication – a seamless flow of information which removes opinion or conjecture from product design and manufacturing. It’s communication that cannot be ignored, and communication that allows Fortaco to deliver solutions that serve both your customers and your bottom line.

Steel fabrication goes digital with RapidSteel project

There was a sound of champagne bottle opening in our office last September. Our project proposal for testing a new approach to the simultaneous design of product and process, has been positively evaluated by the Polish research agency, and we have been awarded a research grant.

But, what really is the target of the RapidSteel project? The focus is on a totally new digital toolchain starting from the fleet data collection and analytics, rethinking of product architecture and manufacturing process, and the target is to reduce weight, lower costs, shorten product development and introduction of lead time to market. Also, the target is to robotize and automatize production process, while making it even more flexible, and to increase the usage of data on decision making. Less tangible, but equally important is to gain new competencies.

Fortaco will execute this project together with Wroclaw University of Technology, which is helping us with all structural analytics, and with West Pomerania University, where Professor Pietrusewicz is supporting us with the introduction of a model-based design into the development process of steel components. We are extremely excited in Fortaco about this project to further shape our industry.

Fortaco together with Tata AutoComp Systems at BAUMA Conexpo in Delhi on 11-14 December

Fortaco Cabin Technology and Tata Autocomp Systems are welcoming you to visit our booth H2.G43.
This International Trade Fair for construction machinery, building material machines, mining machines and construction vehicles collects professionals from India and Asia to the same place, but also exhibitors across the globe.

Construction machine market is growing fast in India, at the same time machine operator’s safety is coming more and more important. Fortaco has a long-time experience in designing, engineering and manufacturing of operator cabins in Europe with high safety standards. Today, this know-how is also available for Asian OEMs. Our new simulation and virtual reality applications provide our customers with a new way to develop cabins for construction machines – which means savings both in time and costs.
Together with Tata, Fortaco offers competitive and safe operator cabins made in India with local requirements.

Welcome to discuss with our cabin technology experts how we can help you with your operator cabin cases.

See you in Gurgaon/Delhi on 11-14 December 2018!

Thank you for visiting us at Elmia Subcontractor

Fortaco Team wants to thank you all, who visited our booth at Elmia Subcontractor Fair. It was a great success for Fortaco Group. At the fair we introduced our new applications on virtual and augmented reality within cabin design and quality control, as well as Fortaco’s capabilities in steel fabrications and vehicle assembly.

Hope to see you next year again at Elmia in Jönköping.

Welcome to visit us at Elmia

Elmia Subcontractor in Jönköping Sweden is northern Europe’s leading trade fair in the manufacturing industry for suppliers and their customers. This is a true specialist fair for product development and purchasing.

Fortaco will take part in Elmia Subcontractor 13 - 16 November. Use this opportunity and visit Fortaco booth to get the latest news within product development and latest information about Fortaco´s capabilities within Steel Fabrications, Vehicle Cabins and Vehicle Assembly.

We have also launched Fortaco Technology unit to offer the best-in-class product development and manufacturing technology in one package. During Elmia Subcontractor you can meet with Fortaco Technology team and see our possibilities within virtual and augmented reality in cabin design and quality control. The new reality of R&D is close to our heart. Check out the recent blog by our Senior Vice President for Technology, PhD Rafal Sornek.

Please come and visit our stand in Hall D - D02:24 and discuss with our team what we can offer for your company!

See you in Jönköping, Sweden on 13–16 November 2018!

Still Waiting for the Robot Rapture

The popular press may lead you to believe that the Singularity is right around the corner. But a Fortaco welding engineer explains why robots used on big structures must dramatically improve before they’ll completely replace human welders.

by Jari Hakalahti, QHSE Manager & Welding Engineer

Manufacturing professionals who are not welding engineers — often those who have been justifiably amazed by functioning robot lines –sometimes talk about robotic welding as if it's incredibly simple. Just throw the parts in the air, press a button, and voilà, your finished product is ready to ship!

At Fortaco, we enthusiastically use robots whenever they make real sense for our business, yet our behind-the-scenes vantage point forces us to think in sober terms. The robot revolution may one day arrive: robot welders which (who?) understand, learn, and adapt to changing conditions while they weld. But before this day comes, there are a host of issues which need to be sorted out.

Can you match this, bots?
At our factory in Kalajoki, Finland, our 40 welders produce around 7,000 tons of welded structures every year, among them 32-ton steel base plates on to which ship engines and generators weighing over 70 tons will be fastened. Given the millions of loading cycles and vibrations our welds will endure over the ship engine's lifetime, there is not much room for error.

For a robot to match human quality, it will need to see air gaps and immediately adapt. It will have to be sensitive to environmental conditions and immediately compensate. And of course it will have to figure out how to get to those hard-to-reach places and corners where a bot isn’t currently up to the job, or can’t be repositioned without major human effort.
Another challenge is tack welding. Since robots can drive over tack welds and may cause defects underneath, humans are necessary to ensure even quality. Assuming a robot could tack weld, you'd also need another robot who could position the parts perfectly. Yes, this can be (and is) done for simple products and huge volumes, but it doesn't make sense for Fortaco’s biggest structures over 15 meters long and weighing 32 tons.

A challenge to suppliers
The size of the structure presents other problems. If you want robots to weld them, you need perfectly-cut and pre-bent parts to avoid gaps and weld stress deformation in big structures.
Also, as any hobby welder knows, a large part of good welding is positioning the parts before you begin to weld. And even beyond the realm of robotization, we see that most new welding technologies demand very accurate parts and plate fitting. Parts manufacturers may wish to take this as a challenge, as the success of robots is partly in their hands.

It’s payback time
For robots to match human performance is not impossible, but it is expensive. Optical sensors, temperature sensors, cameras, sound sensors – all these are required to approximate the human welder. Not only are these items expensive, but they take up massive amounts of space.
Please don’t view me as a Luddite – I’m very much in favor of robotization. I love that robots don’t take coffee breaks and that they can turn a part in a second without the use of a crane. It’s just that I work with big structures and robots every day. I know their limitations.
In many Fortaco factories we have products that suit well to robot use, and we will no doubt continue to invest in robot welding in the future. [SD1] But since we’re also running a business, we have to be very careful about which robots we invite into our lives.
From an investment point of view, we cannot wait an eternity for a return on the investment. With robots, the investment is huge and the payback time is long. There’s always the risk of investing today in yesterday’s technology, and recouping only a fraction of your original investment. So before we invest, we need to be convinced the robot will make a meaningful contribution.

Sympathy for the bots
Perhaps it’s time we humans show some sympathy for robots. After all, sometimes it’s we humans who are holding them back. Robot manufacturers, interested in sales, often provide numbers that are too optimistic. For us, the best measure of efficiency is how much welding wire is used in one hour. A human welder uses approximately one-half to two kilograms per hour, depending on the welding process used. For the jobs robots can do, they use four to ten kilos per hour, depending on the set-up. It’s great efficiency, but the main issue (which is usually forgotten in comparisons) is that it’s the only part of the welding phase that can be automated — welding set-up and finalization must still be done manually. Therefore, the over-the-moon numbers some robot makers give you for the overall performance boost are not always accurate.

Also, robots can literally suffer from prejudice. Take welding around notches, for example. In some conditions, robots can do this work well, but some humans still oppose their use. Even when robots achieve the required state of development, humans may still make decisions about their use using outdated information. It takes a while for information about their proven track record to circulate. Poor robots. We’re lucky they don’t yet have emotions.

As professionals, the best thing we can do is to attempt to understand the real applications of robots, accept that they are not the universal fix-all in manufacturing, and not demand too much of them. From time to time, we might even offer a little bit of robot love.

Business Site Narva – our competence center for high strength steel

Business Site Narva is the biggest steel fabrication factory in Fortaco Group in terms of turnover and number of employees. We are manufacturing welded, machined and painted steel fabrications of 0.5 - 5 tons in weight for the heavy industry, i.e. material handling, construction, forestry equipment and mining. Having long lasting experience in high strength steel processing, we have established ourselves as a reliable partner to our customers.

The recent investments into laser cutting, robot welding, CNC machining, SMED technology and software foster the high performing organization living the One Customer Driven Fortaco culture.
Business Site Narva is expanding, a new best in class factory of 10.000 m2 is welcoming new business.

Watch the video >

Augmented Reality in Quality Control

Fortaco was showing its application of Augmented Reality in Quality Control for the first time at Tampere Subcontracting Fair end of September.
We challenge you to estimate, how much time do you save with this application compared to the traditional paper-pencil-manual input excel toolchain.
Watch the video to see how it works. Video was recorded when one of the visitor made testing at our stand.

Watch the video >>

New 5-axis CNC-center at Business Site Janów Lubelski

Fortaco Business Site Janów Lubelski has strengthened one of its core competence - CNC machining - by investing in a new 5-axis CNC-center. The chosen model is Zayer Kairos 6000, which is one of the best machines in its class with excellent service performance, efficiency and machining accuracy.

With the new CNC-machine Business Site Janów Lubelski is able to grow along with the increased customer demand and provide with complex machined structures. The machine portfolio at Business Site Janów Lubelski includes also a 5-axis TX3 Juaristi CNC-center.

Since August we have implemented several products, the new machine is working at full speed.