The XXL sub-contractor from Jutland

You may believe that only major corporations can have a pool of deluxe machine tools, but one particularly brave Danish "job shop" has been proving this rumour wrong for years. Danish company HACO invested over fourteen million euros in five vertical turning lathes from Dörries Scharmann, and as a result has risen to become the leading sub-contractor for very large, relatively flat and round components in its Scandinavian location.

Barrit Langgade 97, 7150 Barrit, Denmark: Is this really the place, in the middle of a small, typically rural part of Jutland, where extremely large, rotationally symmetrical parts are produced for companies such as Siemens Wind Power, Vestas, Valmont SM, LM Windpower, KHS and MAN Turbo? Any scepticism fades away upon entering the brick building of HACO A/S, one of the largest customers of Dörries Scharmann Technologie GmbH (DST) from Mönchengladbach, Germany (subsidiary of the Swiss-based Starrag Group). HACO processes around 10,000 tonnes of steel per year into XXL parts at a high level of vertical integration (including welding) on very large Dörries vertical turning lathes. Nitriding is one of the few jobs that is performed externally — for instance, nitriding the contact surfaces of highly stressed drive elements for wind energy systems. 

The company's DIN ISO 9001 certification indicates that this is a "job shop" that also develops components itself. This service is very popular with regular customers from the wind power sector and the offshore industry, who commission the Barrit-based company to produce impellers or moulds for wind vanes and components for ship engines or bottle filling systems. 

The EN ISO 14001 environmental certification from TÜV Nord shows that this work done in an ecologically sound manner under the company's own environmental management system. This attitude is also reflected in the new machines. All new machines are fitted in a complex housing that protects employees against noise and aerosols (a mixture of air and very finely distributed solid and liquid particles). 

A glance at the pool of machines tells you one thing for certain — in Jutland, size matters. "Our latest vertical turning lathe from Dörries Scharmann was designed for components with a swing diameter of up to 6500 mm", says HACO Managing Director Henning Albrechtsen. "We have extended this to 7500 mm". "Oh, have you increased the size of another machine", DST Sales Manager Dipl.-Ing. Hubert Erz asks in amazement. "You really are an expert in pushing the technical limits of a machine". 

The real entry into the world of XXL machines happened in the year 2000: Albrechtsen bought a large, used lathe manufactured by Schiess and immediately received his first major order. At the same time, the Dane contacted Starrag subsidiary Dörries Scharmann, who took over the retrofitting of these production systems and then later retroffited another two Schiess lathes. The HACO Managing Director is following the same recipe for his other investments. "We always have to have the machine first, so that we can then get the orders", says Albrechtsen. Barrit is now home to eleven vertical turning centers in various sizes (swing diameter: 1600 to 7500 mm), and almost half are from Dörries Scharmann: One of these machines is used and four are new (Dörries VC 2500, 3500, 4500, 6000 and 6500). HACO produces almost everything on these machines in a single clamping position. As Hubert Erz says, "This shows that investment pays off — it's not the price of the machine that matters, but the costs per part that can be achieved".

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In general, what are the advantages of purchasing DST machines? "We have had a very good experience with DST machines when it comes to quality, precision and service", says Albrechtsen. However, he believes the good reputation of the Dörries Scharmann brand also plays a crucial role — for instance, when the company is being audited by inspectors from potential customers, or certified by German TÜV auditors.

Sub-contractors pose a particular challenge for Dörries Scharmann. "It's about keeping the level of investment, and thus the machine hourly rate, low so that the 'job shop' can sell its services effectively", explains the DST Sales Manager. "A very high level of flexibility is also required so that the sub-contractor is able to adapt to a wide range of orders. It's a very difficult balancing act". 

Another factor is that in Denmark, as in Germany, only the most special sub-contractors can survive. For HACO, this is not a problem: Thanks its pool of machines, the family-run business is able to produce components with a maximum diameter of 7500 mm and a height of more than 3000 mm in a single clamping position — and at a precision in the range of hundredths of a millimetre. "Companies that have vertical turning lathes are already operating in niche markets in comparison to production facilities for cubic workpieces", reports Hubert Erz. "And then there is also the issue of size and quality. That's why sub-contractors like HACO are a rarity". 

The concept has been a success: The company has received larger orders spanning a number of years. These orders enable the company to purchase systems with a higher level of automation, which in turn will help it to make its production process more efficient and cost-effective. HACO enjoyed a stroke of luck when it purchased a new Dörries VC 4500 that was fitted with equipment to a very high standard. A major corporation had commissioned it in order to manufacture large components for wind energy transmission systems, but then no longer needed it. 

In Jutland, the eleven machines are now not only used in production of individual pieces, but also in series production in batch size 100. The Managing Director believes that a highlight of his work is the fact that highly demanding customers tend to consult HACO even early on in the development phase. As Albrechtsen says, "A German manufacturer once asked us whether we had a good idea for machining complex workpieces".


Profile: HACO A/S, Barrit

A small, skilled family enterprise: These are the simple characteristics of HACO A/S, which was founded by Johan Albrechtsen in Klakring in 1966 as a sub-contractor for XXL parts. In 1984, the company moved into larger buildings in nearby Barrit. Today, the business is run by Johan's children Irene and Henning. They employ 60 people who help them to produce large, round components primarily for the wind power, shipbuilding, offshore and processing industry. This allows the company to achieve a turnover of around EUR 20 million. 


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