In 2015, STARCO moved its specialised wheel manufacturing from a small factory in Switzerland, to its ISO 9001 and 14001 certified Croatian manufacturing centre in Beli Manastir. Back then the standard range in Croatia was a maximum of 30.5” wheels. Today, the customers demand larger wheels and production has adjusted accordingly:
“Our customers within the segments specialised and agricultural vehicles require STARCO to offer larger wheels – some in low and some in high volumes. We are now ready to deliver and keep investing in improvements to match future demand,” says Sven Holmes , STARCO’s Segment Director for Specialised Vehicles. He stresses that it particularly will be the dual wheel systems, wheels for agricultural implements and industrial tractors where STARCO expects an increase in volume.
STARCO are experts in low volume production and fast changeovers in the production lines, however want to invest in becoming a stronger supplier of high volume products with a scalable, flexible and lean setup. STARCO is the only manufacturer of pressed wheels with e-coat technology.
Developing a unique solution
The development project started in 2015 with a quote for a new paint chain from a potential supplier. This quote was both expensive and failed to answer some of the key areas for improvement so an internal brainstorm activity kicked off involving technical, quality, production, and financial team members. As a result, during the last quarter of 2015 STARCO developed, built and tested a paint chain prototype. Based on this STARCO decided to build a full scale solution internally. In August the new paint chain was installed and is today up and running with a capacity improvement of more the 30% and at a cost 60% less than the initial external quote.
The chain is 280 meters long and can carry up to 18 tons of wheels when fully loaded. It consists of more than 24,000 individual components, each of which has been designed and assembled by STARCO Croatia in house. Its unique design ensures automotive standards and highest quality levels right first time.
Safety and reliability have also been enhanced with the addition of multiple new drive systems which offer redundancy in the event of one unit failing:
“This will generate the capacity we need to grow whilst taking the product quality to the next level as demanded by our OEM customers. It gives us a much leaner process with faster flow, less production stops and less manual work,” says Mario Biscan, General Manager at the STARCO factory in Croatia.
Development work will continue to improve the hanging density on the new chain and further capacity increases are expected when the next generation of hook design is implemented later this year.
“This internal development and production of equipment based on our insight in daily operations, improvement opportunities, extensive knowhow and mind-set of continuous improvement open a lot of opportunities for similar projects,” says Biscan that is clearly proud of the team’s achievement.
Facts about the new paint chain
• Developed internally in close collaboration between Engineering and manufacturing.
• Initial capacity increase of 32% – and more to come.
• Wheels: Up to 230kg / 54’’ wheels
• Quality: Product finish improved significantly
• Still a very scalable setup allowing for both high and low volume products
The e-coat facility is an electrodeposition coating process, in which steel wheels are given a priming coat that will prevent rust and corrosion throughout the normal working life of the wheel. The coating which is applied in this process serves as a rust prevention coating in itself - and also serves as an excellent primer to prepare the wheel for subsequent bespoke painting. By this STARCO is using the latest automotive nanotechnology pre-treatment. The whole system is an environmentally friendly process due to the design and the nanotechnology implemented. STARCO is the only manufacturer of pressed wheels with e-coat technology.