A high level of automation gets the wheels turning at Swede-Wheel
It’s never been clearer before. The concept of locally produced is gaining traction and lead times are becoming even shorter. For Swede-Wheel, this means that we’ve made, and are making, big investments in production flows, automation and storage capacity.
It’s been pretty much full steam ahead in production throughout the first quarter of 2021, and we can already see that the outlook is promising for the second quarter, says Tobias Hildingsson, production and purchasing manager at Swede-Wheel.
In an earlier interview with Swede-Wheel’s sales manager, Andreas Stillman, we learned that Swede-Wheel had invested in order to increase both production capacity and stockpiling. Can you tell us a little more about this?
During the pandemic, it became clear that the concept of locally produced is becoming even more important. We’re neither able to afford nor want to be dependent on suppliers who are oceans apart from us. This isn’t some new fad for us at Swede-Wheel. Swedish production has always been a part of our company philosophy and we have therefore continually invested in our Hillerstorp factory.
The current world situation with raw materials and the shortage of containers has strengthened our view that short lead times in combination with storage capacity is a winning concept. So we have invested in a high level of automation while increasing our storage capacity. We believe that these investments make us attractive in the market.
Automation increases productivity and helps to reduce employee health problems when performing physically repetitive and strenuous tasks. The automation solutions that Swede-Wheel invests in are your own? How did that happen?
The short answer is that everything is just as we want it in that case, and we get the opportunity to both change and adjust the machine as the solution is developed.
The slightly longer answer is that we have the competence in-house. Both the expertise in building machines, including development and construction, as well as the advantage that the machine builders know our products inside out. They know what challenges we face and what the customers usually demand.
Another aspect that is important for us is durability. When we are responsible for the components, down to the last nut and bolt, we can adopt a holistic approach. Not only are we interested in the machine’s energy consumption, but also the nature of the components and country of origin.
Our latest addition on the automation side is going to help to increase capacity, i.e. our ability to produce more products at a faster rate. This means that we can increase the number of semi-finished goods in storage, which enables both faster conversions and faster customer adaptations. By semi-finished goods, I mean product parts that haven’t been assembled.
In the new machine, we can assemble different types of wheel into complete products. A process that previously required long, monotonous manual processes. And in two different machines. We have therefore done away with work that the employees didn’t appreciate and we have shorter lead times, less uncertainty about capacity and a higher production rate.
Last but not least. If you had to predict the future. What do you think production will look like in 10 years?
Gosh. In 10 years, I think that production will have more storage and more, bigger machines. The short lead times are here to stay in my opinion. That’s how we live our lives, almost down to each second, and I can’t see that changing. People expect fast deliveries. It’s no longer an extra service – it is a hygiene factor. I also think that people are willing to pay for security of supply.
Automation is going to become even smarter and probably greener too. Sustainability is an important point for both global objectives and the survival of mankind.
>> Want to learn more about our production and/or automation, check out our video content under "Swede-Wheel/Video" <<
Get to know Tobias Hildingsson
Production and purchasing manager, as well as a partner, at Swede-Wheel AB
How long have you worked at Swede-Wheel?
What does a normal workday look like?
I start each day with a cup of coffee in the company of my brother (Andreas Hildingsson, CEO). This is followed by various project meetings. They may involve anything from delivery challenges to construction issues.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s extremely varied and I like being a part of something and making a difference. And I’m surrounded by fantastic and wonderful colleagues. We’re one big family!
When you’re not working, what do you do?
When I’m not working, I do even more, ha ha. I took over the family farm a few years ago and I like working in the forest. In my spare time, I like Enduro riding. I have ridden in the world’s biggest Enduro competition, the Gotland Grand National, several times in fact. I also really like driving campervans. Preferably with my family (wife and two children). And if there’s any time left over, I try to sleep.