Why has the “Starateli” company decided to get to grips with import replacement?
The production of domestic equipment for dry construction mixes (DCM) manufacturing has been arranged in the “Starateli” company. Has the idea proved itself worthwhile? The chief engineer of the company, Sergei DUSHUTIN, told Construction.ru about this.
— Mr. Dushutin, why does the “Starateli” company produce both DCM and the equipment for their manufacture? What is this policy determined by?
— The thing is that our company used to purchase the equipment for DCM output (packing, palletizing, wrapping with stretch-film, etc.) abroad. There was no quality equipment of the right kind in Russia and we, as producers of DCM, were offered equipment from French, German, and Italian companies
In due time, we bought Italian equipment including palletizers – machines which lay bags filled with product on pallets. We mounted two production lines with a capacity of 15 tons an hour each. But, alas, soon after the launch of the imported equipment we came across major problems.
The Italian company, having delivered the equipment, did not have an office in Russia, so we had difficulties in technical support services. Delivery orders for supply parts took many months, sometimes even about half a year.
Besides, our production is rather specific. The process is not clean: sand, grit, dust, cement… Not all equipment can withstand such an aggressive environment, and to correspond with Russian exploitation conditions, Italian palletizers need to have been reworked and improved.
In due course, the amount of equipment increased, the range expanded, and the technology process automation improved. All of that made us create new technical departments at our plants: a design bureau, an IT department, an automation department. Engineers, structural designers, and programmers work there.
Having our own technical specialists, we started to make separate elements and assembly, and in 2009 we had the idea of arranging the output of equipment for DCM production equal to foreign analogs.
It was necessary to analyze the world’s achievements and the most up-to-date decisions in the sphere and to make our own domestic analog. Our specialists carefully studied foreign equipment, including Italian stuff, and came to the conclusion that there is nothing complicated in it.
We understood that we can cope with this task, and we have both the material and the workforce potential. We started enthusiastically and got good results. The equipment produced by our specialists works at the same level as that of the foreign versions. Due to the complex automation of production processes, we have managed to avoid the extra human factor and to improve the quality of the product.
— Have you produced all of the operating environment yourselves or did you order any elements from other plants?
— We did everything in-house. We bought and mounted all the necessary metalworking machines for that: turning, milling, and drilling. Currently only a few operations are outsourced: laser sheet metal cutting and bending. But they are also fulfilled according to our drafts and programs. By the way, in a month we’ll have our own machine for bending work, so only laser cutting will “stay outside”.
— Do you not buy laser equipment because it is expensive?
— You know, we think it reasonable to outsource this kind of work, as the price suits us. When we start selling our equipment to other customers, increasing production volumes and expanding our production ground, then the next stage may be a laser purchase.
— Did the Italians get offended that “those Russians” had copied their equipment?
— But we did not, that’s the thing! We summarized the best practices in the sphere and took into consideration our experience of foreign equipment exploitation in our conditions. Of course, we did not re-invent the wheel.
We updated our equipment bearing in mind specific technical details which were unacceptable for us in this or that way. In particular, we improved the lifting platform, fully redesigned the roller paths, and replaced other important components and assembly parts.
We are improving the software for the program. The process of updating is going on. Currently, we are ready to offer the market a palletizer of the 4th upgraging: M4.
Now we are testing a machine for stretch-sock packing. With this technology, a pallet is not bound with stretch-film, but really packed. The packing is highly elastic and may stretch and constrict like a sock, thus fixing the weight on the pallet.
Besides this, we have started developing mechanized stores for the automatic storage of pallets weighing up to 1.8 tons.
— And if we compare the efficiency of your equipment vs foreign?
— Our equipment productivity is not at all inferior to imports.
— So, the idea of domestic equipment output for DCM production has proven its value, hasn’t it?
— One hundred per cent! We understood long ago, from the beginning of our operation, that automation processes reap significant economic effect. Besides, the quality of bag laying increases.
But the main thing is that we take care of people, the hard work is carried out automatically, and man controls only the process.
The prime cost of equipment production has decreased significantly. I think the economic saving from the usage of Russian components is 40%. And if we take into consideration the growing rates of the euro and the dollar, we have managed to keep the prime cost of a palletizer at the same level due to the use of Russian components.
Expenses for technical service have also decreased as expendable materials are much cheaper now. Only the control cabinet remains imported – the cabinet itself is produced in Russia, but its stuffing is imported – controllers, frequency converters and protection.
— Can your equipment be used at other plants?
— Yes, and not only for DCM production. A metering filling machine can pack any other bulk stock: flour, cement, seeds, coffee beans…
The roller paths and band conveyers we produce may be used at other plants as well.
The same goes for the palletizer: the machine can lay bags, boxes, canisters, or any product with a definite shape.
— You have mentioned that you are going to sell the equipment. Are you studying demand now?
— Yes, and this year we shall try to enter the market to get orders for our equipment. We will create a website, announce our presence, and will explain that the company both produces the equipment and offers full technical support and services. We may also provide an efficient system of management and control for a specific technical process. If a customer wishes, we can project the production development and automation plan, local or global, and design software.
But now we are working for ourselves in upgrading our technological lines.
We have impressive plans and no crisis will prevent us from implementing them.