A Night Train automatic storage unit connected to a combined Shear Genius and robotic bending system, consisting of a Fast Bend FBe panel bender and an EP 1030 press brake, are the cornerstones of varied production activity which demands high performance and productivity, as well as flexibility and versatility to efficiently manage any product changes.
How many times have you imagined the classic farmhouse with happy hens scratching around in the barnyard when buying organically farmed eggs at the supermarket? Personally, I think about it every time I've read that wording on the package. The reality, however, is very different from that idyllic image even if it’s thankfully not too far away at least in terms of animal welfare. This is due to the work of those who, like SKA, have always been involved in manufacturing innovative cutting-edge equipment for the poultry and rabbit breeding sector. This production environment has apparently rather simple production needs but, as we will see below, it often has its fair share of issues when machining sheet metal components and these are anything but trivial. These issues as a result of the admirable and philanthropic choice to create distance from anything remotely related to the concept of intensive farming. This decision led the Sandrigo company from the province of Vicenza to be strongly driven by the automation of production processes, which they consider the only effective way to adequately respond to the needs of product customisation while offering superior quality. This is also controlled and guaranteed by virtue of the technological partner they chose ten years ago: Prima Power.
Turnkey poultry plants
Let's start by saying that SKA srl has been operating in the poultry plant sector since 1954 and produces everything related to organic farming on land and that, since 2011, the acquisition of the Treviso-based Meneghin means they also manufacture rabbit breeding equipment. The decision to deal solely and exclusively with organic farming plants over the years has made SKA an authoritative point of reference for leading Italian and international groups as well as simultaneously providing direct support to smaller farms.
"Since our foundation, we have always gone against the tide compared to many other companies in the sector and, thanks to the traditional vocation to customise poultry plants, we have managed to distinguish ourselves and build a highly technological business structure over time, while always standing alongside the breeders" says Dino Pozzato , Chairman of the SKA Group.
“Direct dialogue with the customer has allowed us to develop proven experience in the management of organic farms and in solving the problems connected to them. Our feeding, watering, lighting and air conditioning systems, for example, are designed to meet the well-being of animals and the regulations in force. The materials are durable and hygienic, and equipment components are easily accessible for thorough cleaning. Thanks to the wide range of products, suitable for broilers, laying hens, turkeys and breeders, as well as ducks and quail, we are able to satisfy every need”.
Efficiently managing any product change
But how is SKA linked to Prima Power? It goes without saying if we think about how many sheet metal components there are in a poultry plant. Processing problems from the high level of product customisation and the decision to use only organic and ethical poultry farming, however, are banal and obvious. This is explained to us by Diego Pozzato, plant manager of SKA: “We offer a complete turnkey service, from the barn to the internal systems, designed to the finest detail. We are able to efficiently support our breeders, by helping them to find concrete answers and solutions for each and every need. We collect useful data and perform structural calculations for technical drawings, while sharing each step with the customer and recommending certain equipment, working to identify the most suitable solution based on the reference standards and the type of farm. Our goal is to make management more functional and to increase productivity. Our in-house technical office ensures an immediate transition from product design to production.
However, primarily making plants specifically designed for organic farming reduces the numbers compared to intensive farming. This prizes quality over quantity, and favours animal welfare over pure economic interest as it involves a much lower number of animals. Consequently, devices and equipment to be produced for such a plant are also different; this means that we produce large quantities of series but with smaller batches than one might think. You have to be rather flexible to produce what specific breeders require since the variables involved are numerous, from the type of hen that will be reared, the size of which, for example, will determine the choice of equipment to be adopted. This means that our production needs to be high performing and productive while also being flexible and versatile in order to efficiently manage any product changes”.
A synergistic relationship consolidated over time
SKA is a longstanding customer of Prima Power. They started in 1998 with an F5 punching machine with loading/unloading before making an evolutionary leap by switching to a combined Shear Genius punching-shearing machine, which was then connected to the Night Train automatic storage unit. Recently, they also connected a robotic bending island to the storage unit, consisting of a Fast Bend FBe 5 panel bender, an EP 1030 press brake and an anthropomorphic robot.
“Since 1998, our choice has consistently been Prima Power,” explains Mr. Diego Pozzato again. "We were pioneers in the use of their F5 punching machine, which we then replaced in 2011 with the current SGe6 to which, we added the Night Train automatic storage unit in 2017 and the integrated robotic bending system in 2019. We are currently evaluating the inclusion of a laser cutting system in our Flexible Manufacturing System that would best complement our sheet metal processing needs even though we already have a continuous, optimised and efficient workflow designed and developed in synergy with Prima Power. The concrete example is the robotic bending cell that we installed at the beginning of 2020; we started with the idea of buying an automatic panelling machine but during the evaluation phase we realised it was not the ideal solution for our work. So, we opted for this solution which best combines the potential of an efficient servo-electric panel bender and a modern electric bending machine - which allows us to carry out all the processes in the shortest time possible and in the most efficient way thanks to the combination of both technologies.”