Fortaco Estonia continues with investments - new machining centers taken into use

Fortaco Estonia has taken into use two new machining centers to secure the future business growth. The new machinery will improve accuracy and quality for the manufacturing process and ensure increasing demand from the market.

The Huyndai horizontal boring machine KBN135L makes it possible to handle pieces up to 10 tons of weigh. Huynday is capable to handle movements up to X = 3 000 mm, Y = 2 000 mm, Z = 1 600 mm and W = 700 mm.

The Correa Fox 40 bridge type of machine represents a new and innovative concept with the speed and precision of high performance machining. There is a unique system, which is controlling temperature generated in the vertical axis of the machine. Correa has versatile capability up to X = 4 500 mm, Y = 2 500 mm and Z vertical = 1700 mm. The maximum weight of a work piece is 15 tons.

Together with the zero point fixing and pallet system the both machines are improving production efficiency and machining quality at Business Site Narva.


Fortaco Estonia strengthens prefabrication capacity by investing in new laser cutting machine

Fortaco Estonia has taken into use the brand new Bystronic ByLaser 6000 -cutting machine to secure capacity for ready-to-weld parts. The new machine is using the latest laser technology with software solutions that enables the lean manufacturing processes. The machine will improve the quality of cutted parts and ensure effective robot welding process. In-built automatized features increase the utilization rate and make it possible to run the machine unmanned as well.

The new laser cutting machine is part of Fortaco Estonia’s investment program to ensure a sustainable growth together with Fortaco’s key customers.

Fortaco Business Site in Narva is one of the biggest Steel Fabrication companies in Estonia. Our factory is specialized to make components for material handling, forestry and mining industries, like booms for cranes, crappers and frames. Fortaco factory in Narva is using about 10.000 tons of steel plates per year, which are processed to high quality products by over 500 employees. Fortaco Estonia is the competence center of high-strength steel processing, as it requires special skills and experience in all phases of manufacturing processes.

The cutting area of the machine is 4090 mm x 2060 mm and maximum plate thickness is 25 mm.


How OEMs can get the most out of a supplier

"An OEM-supplier relationship is like a marriage", says Marcus Engman, Senior Vice President at Fortaco. We asked him to play marriage counselor and answer tough questions about OEM-supplier relationships.

If we look at the OEM-supplier relationship as a marriage, what are the key factors to keep a couple together? What makes a relationship work?

It’s really important to sit down, talk and to get to know each other, because no relationship can support too many wrong assumptions. In terms of business, both parties have to understand the supply chain. Since you can’t keep marrying and divorcing all the time – or if you do, it gets disastrously expensive – it pays to invest in a strategic partnership and, as importantly, invest in the selection process to ensure a strategic fit.

For a supplier it’s exhausting to fill out RFIs and RFQs that arrive via email. You fill them out, you tell your story, but you never meet your potential client. Generally speaking, things that happen via email are not fruitful. When an OEM begins looking for a new supplier there is always a reason behind it. Maybe their current supply chain has price or quality issues, or capacity constraints, or perhaps they’re going to open a new factory somewhere and need to localize the supply chain . You’ve got to understand their motivation, and an email exchange doesn’t provide the type of dialogue so that a supplier can add value.

But OEMs are so burdened that they’re even bringing in consultants to do RFQs. What’s a more ideal process – better than email – for finding the right match?

It’s true that consultants are often brought in to do prequalifying work. Another common practice is to leave that work to dedicated business intelligence. They don’t always have the authority to do more than the bosses have told them to do. No dialogue comes from it.

It’s not efficient if an OEM is paying a lot of money for someone to shortlist companies without even knowing whether those companies are really interested or if they’re a good match. If an OEM’s short list is full of suppliers that don’t fit their strategy, then the OEM really has no short list. Choosing a good tier-one strategic supplier isn’t as easy as just doing a Google search, though this tool can aid you in preparing a long list. More important is preparing the correct supplier profile.

Of course, you have to take part in RFIs and RFPs. These are the steps before the RFQ. But the level of commitment to the process is different. If an unknown OEM approaches me and asks for a long list of information, and they’ve provided an RFQ. I don’t immediately say “Yippee, let’s do it.” I’ll say “Yes, we’re interested, let’s meet.” It’s a complicated relationship and many things must fit: ambition, timing, resources, industrial processes, just to name a few.

But an OEM can’t meet with everyone, so how should a good short list be built? What’s one important element that must match between supplier and OEM?

One observation I can make is that size matters. A supplier needs to have a certain size of business, the right processes, people, and so forth. Take steel fabrication, for example.

One European OEM’s spend in steel fabrication can be 100 million euros and upwards. Fortaco’s larger competitors in steel fab are around 30-50 million euros in turnover, but you can find suppliers who have turnover of five million euros or less. A supplier has got to have the critical mass, a certain amount of fixed competences or resources – project management, quality, sourcing, inventory management, and other support functions. Fortaco’s turnover in steel fab is 170 million euros, and this means we can afford a higher fixed cost base.

Those serious about being a tier one supplier must have the willingness and ability to invest in the operation. The bigger the company the bigger the investment budget. Investments can be in the range of millions. It doesn’t make sense to form a new relationship for revenue of a half-million euros. There’s got to be a clear target, commitment, and the long-term business case must be clearly understood by both parties.

So can you define your dream OEM?

For us, our dream customers are those with whom we have a strategic relationship that’s not only about manufacturing, but where it’s also about technology and early involvement. Fortaco’s dream customer comes to us with a question and is open to ideas about how to develop new products that are easier to manufacture or products that come with improved functionality. The dream customer is quality driven, values performance in terms of delivery accuracy, and is more focused on value than on cost.

The dream customer gets involved in R&D and we work together in the early stages to secure the best product at the right price and right quality. A dream customer is a customer who can critically examine their own processes and, if something goes wrong, doesn’t take the easy way out and blame the supplier. To make any marriage work it’s got to be a balanced relationship.

You have been known to say that “suppliers actually choose the OEM, not the other way around.” Explain what you mean, because it seems OEMs are often proud of their huge spends and some have reputations for being dictatorial.

In principle, you should choose your customers yourself. Why should you let somebody else decide on your future or your destiny? You have to be in charge of your own business!

Fortaco lately had a rather good experience with one customer we’ve been with in talks with for many years. And I mean literally years—this customer was already auditing our factories several years before we had a concrete business case. We both wanted to work with each other, but we had to wait for the planets to align and for a concrete project to appear so that we could begin cooperation.

We have made mistakes in the past when we were not critical enough of a potential customer. Perhaps we were hungry for new business and we began working together, but later we understood that it was not a good match. We’ve learned that we need to use our resources on relationships that are fruitful in terms of executing our strategy. It means that we must choose our customers as much as our customers choose us.

Bringing you back as a marriage counselor, how about one practical idea for OEM-supplier relationship improvement?

Consider this: a typical supply agreement is about ten pages long. Three of those pages are concerned with how prices are formulated, one page about warranties, one page about liquidated damages if you don’t perform, and another page about quality, and so forth. In all of those ten pages there may be only a few sentences about how we will work together to ensure we meet the delivery performance and quality targets. The part which describes how we’ll work together is basically missing! The communication, sharing of information, production planning, capacity flexibility issues – this is crucial information in order to meet targets, but it maybe rates the attention of only a few sentences.

My point is that lots of energy is expended when it comes to price. But very little energy is put into the question of how we’ll work together. I am not placing blame here, because we as a supplier can also take some responsibility for this. But the supply agreement might be one place where we could start—in the name of better marriages—in order to shift the focus away from cost and back to value.

Please contact Marcus to discuss in more detail about OEM-Supplier relationship
marcus.engman@fortacogroup.com


New General Manager - New Era at Fortaco in Kurikka

Mr. Olli Koivisto, B. Sc. in Industrial Engineering and Management, has been appointed as General Manager for Business Site Kurikka as from 28 May 2018.

Fortaco Business Site in Kurikka compromises two businesses - Fortaco Cabin and Fortaco Vehicle Assembly. We combine a long tradition of cabin development and manufacturing in a modern factory environment. The recent investments into the factory layout, robot technology and surface treatment process are ensuring efficient and flexible production processes of world-class.


Long tradition of cabin development in Kurikka

Learn more about cabin development and manufacturing in Kurikka, our biggest factory for cabin manufacturing and the home of CabTech. This video gives you a full insight into our Business Site in Kurikka. The factory combines a long tradition of cabin development and manufacturing in a modern factory environment.

Our recent investments into the factory layout, robot technology and surface treatment process are ensuring efficient and flexible production processes of world-class.

Watch the video >>


Fortaco is steaming ahead in busy market

Year 2017 has been successfully closed, and in 2018 Fortaco is steaming ahead with a full speed in the overall busy market. Let me recap some key highlights from 2017 and share our key priorities going forward this year.

Increasing market demand
There were only a few economists some years ago, who could foresee the general pick-up on the market, realizing towards the end of 2016 and continuing the full year of 2017. As a result, Fortaco experienced an increasing demand on most of our customer segments – especially amongst mining, material handling, forestry and construction. The increased demand was converted into the growth of net sales, in the excess of 20% in 2017. As the capacity is not unlimited on short-time, this growth of net sales often meant working 24/7 and long days at several Fortaco Business Sites. I would like to take this opportunity and express my gratitude to all our customers and Fortaco people for the hard work done.

Fortaco’s position and strategy crystallizing
In 2017 the position and strategy of Fortaco have been crystallizing. Just to reconfirm, Fortaco is the leading brand independent strategic partner to the heavy off-highway equipment and marine industries offering Technology, Vehicle Cabins, Steel Fabrications and Vehicle Assembly. Fortaco’s pledge is to provide our customers with the industry leading mix of quality, delivery accuracy and cost and the highest safety standards. We are continuously challenging our way of working to make tomorrow better than today, and we benchmark ourselves to the automotive industry standards. As an example of our development, a new Fortaco Technology business area was established in 2017 providing our customers with additional value and services across the whole Fortaco product offering portfolio.

Fortaco continue building up capacity in 2018
In 2017, Fortaco started increasing the overall level of investments in its operations. Consequently, several important capacity investments were finalized or decided, including several new welding robots and machining centers, a new laser cutting machine and a new press break and large-scale layout change project in one of the Business Sites. Fortaco will continue building up capacity also in 2018, several new capacity investments have already been decided during the first quarter. After refinancing was fully completed during the first half of 2017, Fortaco is financially a sound company and well positioned for untapped market opportunities.

Fortaco - the premium supplier
Dear valued customer, Fortaco is the premium supplier on the market, our commitment is to act accordingly every day. Going forward 2018, ensuring the industry leading delivery accuracy is the highest priority on our agenda. We do have continued good performance at most of our Business Sites, whereas delivery accuracy has not been where it should be at some Business Sites. We are working actively to ensure the needed capacity and supplies in accordance with the customer promise. Together we will make it.

Kimmo Raunio
Senior Vice President & CFO


The future of welding - 40 robots and new approach from design to manufacturing

The next wave of robot investments constitutes a significant landmark in Fortaco’s history. The number of robots raised to 40 after the three new welding robot investments at Business Site Janow Lubelski, Kalajoki and Wroclaw.

This is an inevitable development in the era of modern manufacturing and digitalization. In the off-highway industry the robotization of manufacturing is a real challenge. The combination of high variability, seasonality and low volumes are setting the framework for a flexible manufacturing system. In our industry, volumes are not measured in millions of produced units but rather 10 – 1000 units per year.

Many of today’s products have been designed without thinking the use of robotization in manufacturing processes. In addition, the new generation of engineers has limited experience of manufacturing environments, technologies or processes.

The new Fortaco Technology unit has been created as a response to today’s challenges among many of our customers within the off-highway industry. Our Manufacturing Technology team is enabling our customers to realize the full potential of robotization in manufacturing . We are working closely with our partners in the robotics to secure that we make tomorrow better than today.

We invite and challenge our customers to involve Fortaco Technology team already in the concept and design phases to enable the best result. Your success is important.

With our 40 robots at the Fortaco factories we are committed to secure the technology shift.

Join us in this interesting journey!


Pay attention to these design challenges related to ergonomics

Functional cabin ergonomics is a result of many optimized factors. Basically, ergonomics means all interaction between operator and working environment.

What comes to a cabin, it simply means that good ergonomics can maximize operator's concentration and focus during the entire working shift, and this way both safety and efficiency will increase remarkably. Balanced ergonomics also reduces end-user’s stress and makes maneuvering significantly easier from the very beginning when the end-user steps into the cabin and adjusts personally his/her seat and other steering instruments.

When designing a functionally optimized cabin there are even legal aspects to be considered. “It is normal that authorities have placed regulations, which might vary, for example between tractors and harvesters. Typically, those requirements are ensuring the overall safety when operating a machine”, says Mr. Juha Juvonen, Technical Manager at Fortaco.

According to Mr. Juvonen authorities and legal stipulations are defining the minimum level of requirements for the cabin and the entire working machine. For example, the minimum door opening measurements are strictly enforced. Besides the legal aspects, also one of the very important design aspects is the fact that the cabin products are available globally. Many parameters can vary, and regional regulations can differ. Also, cabins are designed for the end-users of all sizes, and they are also used in the different kind of climate conditions.

“We are aware of the different factors, and having a wide base of subcontractors and part manufacturers, we can mix and match different components into the suitable combination for all markets exceeding regulations and norms with our own and higher criteria”, says Mr. Juvonen.

Mr. Juvonen continues, “when designing a cabin, usually the initiation point simply is a cabin with limited outer measurements. Design work turns the cabin into an optimized working environment.” This means that all the instruments, monitors and maneuvering equipment can be reached easily.

Good visibility can never be compromised
Already today, an increasing feature is to maintain the balance between good visibility and monitors placed inside the cabin. “Computerized cabin demands and good layout in a way that the monitors are fully visible, but at the same time, clear and all-around visibility is not jeopardized, says Mr. Juvonen.

When designing an ergonomic cabin, also service operations should be considered. According to Mr. Juvonen, the easy cleaning procedures combined with the easy access to all service points are crucial. “While keeping an operator on focus, we are paying attention to the service as well, because it is part of the excellent customer satisfaction.”


How cabins reflect evolution of working environment

Working environment has always been there. Driver cabins have become part of it, as an essential part of working environment.

One might say that the cabin is the working environment of the driver. Yes, it is, but one should also see it in a larger context. Working environment consists of several factors influencing not only the driver itself, but everything around the working process as well. A safe working environment must be facilitated for all around the process.

A short world history of the cabins starts from the machine, which needed to have some place for the operator – a seat. When one was working outdoors, a shelter was nice to have. To keep the operator alive, an overhead guard or a roll bar was found to be good. Today, the most sophisticated cabins fulfill much more requirements than the basic needs.

"The first cabins just matched the user's basic needs. They were just protecting drivers from rain. Later, the roll bars came and made a giant leap in driver's safety", says Juha Juvonen, Technical Manager at Fortaco.

The new innovations and added features did not penetrate the entire market simultaneously. There are remarkable differences in the needs and timing, when it comes to cabins and their features in the different market sectors and user preferences.

According to Mr. Juvonen, all the latest developments are being implemented within a longer period of time, because there are a lot of different parameters. The influencing factors, which are depending on the working environment, are for example different daily routines, extreme weather conditions or uneven terrain, just a few to be mentioned.

Today the cabin is an extension of user's arm. Many automatic features are installed in as standards, like rain sensors for wipers, operating/driving mode selector systems, automatic working lights, interactive control systems or automatic work cycle functions. It is easy to see that the autonomous procedures and features are being first tested on the roads in passenger cars and truck technology, and they come inevitably available for off-road vehicles as well.

The evolution of the cabin, with some automated features and processes, will never stop. When adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) to the processes, and an instrumentation of the cabin, the machine can take some role in the decision-making process, and learn about the options and selections. The machine is becoming more or less an autonomous entity.

In Fortaco, we constantly invest in the technological know-how and service to support our customers’ businesses, not just according to the latest needs, but also according to the coming needs. The well-designed cabins are benefitting our customers with increased productivity, low maintenance cost, additional safety, serviceability and superb ergonomics.


Well-designed cabin is an interface between driver and machine

Cabin design has advanced a long way since cabins were only to protect users during the bad weather and to provide just a functional working station. Today, an emphasis is also on the other criteria, like safety and working ergonomics, which means a pleasant working environment. Also, the needs of users have changed and become more specific and individual.

“Users are supposed to be healthier and their endurance level in their own working environment is higher than earlier. This is what the working ergonomics is aiming at. On the other hand, the operational comfort and less stress factors are also very important drivers in the cabin design process”, lists Mr. Juha Juvonen, Technical Manager of Fortaco.

Mr. Juvonen sees that the following approaches are providing a good foundation to design a well-functioning cabin:

- Visibility is good and feel of a roomy cabin.
- Instrumentation installed is easy to use and reach.
- Vibration and noise levels are low and indoor air good.

When designing a cabin, instrumentation can be pre-planned in a way that the individual adjustments are very easy to do. Furthermore, even a small cabin can provide a sufficient space and compartments to store lunchbox, drinks and working clothes etc.

“Fortaco is carefully listening the feedback from end-users. All comments and requests are greatly valued when the cabin environment is being designed”, says Mr. Juvonen.

The Fortaco engineers along with the customers are discussing about the different design approaches directly with the end-users in order to manufacture even better cabins in the future. The cabin must be well-designed by using advanced computer simulations, which are based on the recent results of user studies. The modular design can be modified accordingly. This kind of project flow assists an engineer to analyze, compare and improve design to better address requirements of today.

“We have performed several user experience studies, focusing on the cabin we have manufactured for the machine”, says Mr. Juvonen.

According to Mr. Juvonen, R&D is steadily advancing, and that is why the future cabins are already being designed by Fortaco. The new milestones in R&D are remote and virtual management, for example the benefits of camera technology, big data and tracking systems.