We are in the south of Sweden to visit Nitator, whose name derives from Latin, meaning progressive development, which is the company's characteristic feature.
Ian-Eric Petersson, owner and managing director explains how the company, as it is today, was started in 1983 by his father and with only seven employees dedicated to the sub-supply in the heavy automobile industry. However, before, the company was part of a group that made household products. Nowadays, the group consists of two companies in Sweden with approximately 150 employees and another company in Lithuania with a further 90 employees and an on-going partnership with a Chinese company.
The main and most renowned customers for which Nitator produces chassis systems are VOLVO and SCANIA. The job is delicate and requires a high level of specific competence. While Petersson shows us a valuable model of the first chassis prototype for trucks made by Nitator, he in fact explains how their skill in the field allows them to be something more than just simple sub-suppliers and how they are real specialised consultants in the production of chassis systems.
"Our customers include very large companies who we have managed to continue working with thanks to an efficient service that involves not only the product with its extremely high quality but also, more generally an all-round service, which includes top quality technical and logistics support. In fact, what we sell is the know-how. We know what's behind a product, which is something that not everyone knows".
"Moreover, our philosophy has always been to maintain a high added value of our products by investing in technology, which is why we made heavy investments in the welding robot" continues Petersson. "Today we have 25 welding robots on multiple stations. Then there was the need for a painting booth, which at the end of the '80s required an investment equal to the entire turnover of the previous year".
The laser machines arrived at the beginning of the '90s. "We followed the development of these machines right from when they were introduced on the market, but in the early '80s, the laser technology had not yet been sufficiently developed and was not reliable" says Petersson. Introduction of the laser technology, first with the sheet processing machines and then the LT COMBO by the BLM GROUP was an extremely important step and brought about numerous advantages.
Automation of the cutting process eliminated the errors arising with manual work; moreover, the greater precision of laser cutting guaranteed greater reliability in the downstream process, during the robotized welding stage and, last but not least, an increase in the production output thanks to laser cutting and optimisation of material handling which is now processed by a single station from the raw material to the finished product, which is ready for welding.
Even the material flow on the shop floor has had a positive evolution thanks to the laser. "When we had to depend on suppliers, the size of the batches was worrying - says Petersson - now we are able to produce what we need, when we need it, therefore benefiting the production process".
"We started working with tube right from the beginning in 1983 to make truck structures. The tubes were outsourced and then assembled in house," continues Mr. Petersson. "When the first lasertube machines came out on the market, the advantages were quite clear, but our production volumes could not justify such an expense. Recently, the more consistent orders received have allowed us to purchase a lasertube system. The advantage was noticed not only in the increased production and precision, but also in the possibility of making different shapes that were previously unthinkable. The easy prototyping makes it possible to experiment different solutions and thereby to quickly find the most advantageous solution that can be sent directly into production without the need for costly equipment".
For companies like Nitator, who are more than just a plain supplier, this versatility to offer tailored solutions to its customers is very important. "Nowadays, we are able to give our customers suggestions on how to produce more efficiently. Customers are not always prepared to modify their drawings, but when you are able to give them suggestions, this is a great advantage. Our competitors are very aggressive, particularly in the East, but our strong point is the use of technology. Low technology can sometimes mean low costs, but with an increase in production the overall cost is offset and quality makes the difference".
"We look for reliability, precision and, of course, production output in the machinery that we buy," explains Petersson. "The systems are thoroughly analysed, calculating the production output of the overall process. When we started thinking about the production of tube in house, we had a good look round, visiting suppliers and exhibitions and we immediately thought that BLM was the right company for tube handling.
Another aspect that could not be left aside was the availability of a valid and effective technical assistance service for spare parts and fast on-site service needs. We knew Mr Edstroemm, BLM's agent in Sweden, for years even though we had not yet had the opportunity to do business with him, with his technical assistance structure, and the result was successful.
Nitator purchased an LT COMBO system complete with automatic steel sheet feeding system, spider speed (Ragno speed), that was able to guarantee unattended shift work. To do so, Petersson confesses to have had to fight his natural inclination that forces him not to trust any combined systems. "What convinced me - he says - was the possibility of an unattended night shift with the steel sheet system fitted with spider speed (Ragno speed) and although the machine was a combined system, there was no compromise in processing the tube".
"For the future, I feel that the time has come to increase in size, that is, in terms of production area, also to improve the material flow within the facilities. As regards the machinery, I think that the next investment could well be in a specific lasertube system. This will be the next step".
"I've found BLM to be a competent company who knows all about tube processing and not only; I was well impressed with the technological level that was perceived when I visited the headquarters in Italy". This was the reason behind Petersson's choice, who added with a smile "of course even inflation of the Euro in this period also helped us to choose". As far as we're concerned, we have absolutely no doubt!