Halton Group is the world's leading provider of indoor air solutions. Indoor air solutions are divided into four segments: Marine, Health, Foodservice, and Buildings. The company is owned by the Halttunen family and headquartered in Helsinki. In addition to Finland, the company currently has production facilities in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, China, and Malaysia. In eight of these countries, the company also has facilities for research and product development. Halton also manufactures products under license in South Africa, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. Halton Group employs approximately 1,550 people in over 30 countries. The company’s turnover in 2018 was approximately EUR 218 million. Halton has always closely monitored the company’s productivity, costs and the value its products provide to customers. The company has its sights set on growth, and a big enabler for growth is cost-efficient sheet metal production that can be scaled across the world, if necessary. The company wanted to partner with a global machine supplier that could facilitate this growth.

In Finland, Prima Power has been Halton’s partner at the Kausala factory for a long time. 

“We had already invested in the current automated storage system, Night Train, in 2007. At that time, two punching machines/right-angle shears and a bending center were included in the system, and the investment paid off within 18 months.”

Savings and efficiency from multiple angles

Savings were made by minimizing coil-line length loss and capitalizing on the purchase prices of coil material as compared to sheet-metal material. Furthermore, the efficiency of the right-angle shear meant that more parts could be brought to the nest, sheet-frame volume could be minimized, and machine processing time for sheets could be optimized and shortened. Similarly, the quality of the parts and their performance during assembly improved significantly, as the chip marks left by the turret punch press disappeared when we implemented right-angle shear technology.

The answer to the question of whether it was worth investing in automation and using Night Train storage automation and right-angle shears was obvious:

  • “It definitely was. With our current capacity, we would probably need five standalone machines and separate operators for each of them for every shift to replace our two right-angle shears. Therefore, we would need a total of 15 workers to operate five machines in three shifts. In addition, we would need a forklift operator for each of the shifts to transfer sheets from one location to another. Five standalone machines would also require individual tools, meaning that tool costs would be ridiculous when compared to our current situation. We would not have achieved our current level of storage-space savings, nor would we have the requisite inventories. The sheets and parts remain in storage, and we know the exact content and volume in storage at all times. Also, our raw material does not get damaged on the storage shelves, and our production facilities are kept clean. We have been extremely satisfied with the benefits of the Night Train storage system and right-angle shears. We would not be able to keep up with our current part volumes without it,” says production technology manager Kari Virkki.

Investment in replacement

Based on this great experience, they made an investment in 2018 to replace their right-angle shear from 1997 and bending center from 2003 with new machines. The bending center was replaced with the Prima Power EBe6, which offers a bending length of 3,350mm, and the right-angle shear was replaced with the Shear Genius 1530, equipped with a new rotating ram head. Both of the machines were integrated into the existing Night Train automated storage system.

  • “The machines were replaced on time, and production was able to be resumed quickly. We have achieved the huge targets that we set for the investment. These included flexible mass production enabling increases in part volumes and amount of new products produced, greater capacity and quality, as well as cost efficiency. All of these outcomes directly improve our competitiveness. We have also achieved significant savings in energy efficiency and maintenance costs for both of the machines. Tool costs associated with the right-angle shears are also very reasonable. We now have more capacity available, so we do not have to run close to maximum capacity as we did before the investment. This increases our reliability,” says Kari Virkki.

“The goal was to save 30% of our working time by updating the machines. According to our calculations, the result actually exceeds the goal.”

The factory’s maintenance manager Kari Kaistinen explains that it is now possible to utilize personnel and their expertise to a greater extent. The aim is not to reduce employee numbers by replacing them with more effective machines, but to train employees to become multi-talented, so that the operator of a bending center can also use the right-angle shear, and vice versa. The modern, easy-to-use machines have made this possible.

Each year, approximately 2,000,000 kilograms of material is run through just one right-angle shear. In square meters, this amounts to 360,000 m2, and the materials used are 0.7–1mm thick. The current manpower requirement for the Prima Power system is two employees per shift. A total of seven employees are currently operating and programming the machines for 24/7 production.

“The Night Train automated storage system is a very sensible investment for any sheet metal factory that has a large production capacity, where employees work in multiple shifts and there are several machines.” 

“We are extremely satisfied with our collaboration with Prima Power. Their machines are ideal for our kind of production. With them, we can access all the services we need quickly and from one place. I can recommend Prima Power as a partner,” says Kari Virkki at the end of the interview.

We have been extremely satisfied with the benefits of the Night Train storage system and right-angle shears. We would not be able to keep up with our current part volumes without it

Kari Virkki
Production technology manager

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