Interview of the director of our company with a reporter of MM Spektrum magazine
Facelift for old machines
Repairs and modernization of old machines using current technologies so that their usable value is then comparable to the new machine. This is the job of Fermat Pressl's 35-member team, which is located in a romantically industrial building in Rokycany. Their work could be compared to plastic surgery in humans, but the result is definitely both more durable and useful. We asked Vojtěch Vlk, managing director of the company, for details.
MM: Which machine brands belong to your "patients"?
Vlk: We are engaged in various brands, but of course we have a
certain preference. These are mainly heavy Škoda horizons and
machines produced by TOS Varnsdorf, especially WHN 13. However, we do
not resist other brands and types either. Among the machines that
have been through our workshop are, for example, lathes of Czech and
German manufacturers, horizontal mills of both Czech and foreign
production, and we can carry out modernizations and overhauls on many
MM: Is there any restriction? Manufacturer or type of machine you wouldn't take?
Vojtěch Vlk: We can't repair super heavy machines. The reason for this is the size of our hall and entrances, so such a machine might not get here at all. And also the load capacity of our cranes, which might not be able to handle particularly heavy parts. But a regular machine that weighs around 100 or 150 tons is entirely within our ability to take and modernize, since individual parts of it do not exceed 30 tons.
can we imagine under the term modernization of the machine? How's it
Vojtěch Vlk: Modernization means that we dismount the machine into individual parts, machine their mechanical parts and on the large parts install with new components, because the existing ones are already behind their lifetime. Machining of the main parts of the machine is carried out by the parent company Fermat in one of its plants - in Prague or Brno. Each modernization is a separate project. It usually includes disassembly of the machine at the customer's premises, bringing all parts here to us, cleaning, sending for machicing. This is followed by ordering the necessary parts, such as new sets of electrical equipment of the machine and new aggregates and hydraulic components. All material from suppliers will come to us together with machined parts from Fermat. In our company, we assemble, test the machine, and finally give it a new "coat" so that it is design-level at the level of current new machines. We then invite the customer to test and take over the machine, and then we dismantle the machine and transport it to the customer for installation.
How old machines are you still able to restore?
Vlk: We mostly focus on machines that are made from 1960 to the
present. Older machines are already so mechanically outdated that
modernization would be too demanding and therefore no longer
How many machines do you restore each year? After all, it is not
possible - as they say - to "mow like Bata's sportshoe"?
Vojtěch Vlk: We are able to implement about four comprehensive modernizations of larger machines every year. It depends on their size. If it were all smaller machines, we could talk about 10 a year. However, these are complex projects. But, with these projects we do not have 100% covered assembly capacities, so at the same time we provide smaller service and repairs. For example, if a customer reports that they have a problem with the spindle, that it is heating up excessively, our fitters will go to them. On the spot, they find out what is causing it, order parts and replace them. These smaller-scale services are performed directly at the customer's premises.
MM: Who are your customers?
Vojtěch Vlk: Certainly important engineering companies in the Czech Republic such as ArcelorMittal, Doosan ŠKODA Power, Unex, Trinecke Strojirny, Vítkovice and many others. Last year, for example, we implemented two projects. One, modernization of the Škoda WD 160 machine for the Czech customer Kovofiniš, is an modernization where we implement a new headstock with technical parameters comparable to modern machines. It is a headstock from machine WRF 160 machine, manufactured by Fermat. The old headstock in this case was technically unsatisfactory. It had a low speed of spindle, which does not meet the technological needs of the present. The old headstock was therefore taken to scrap, the machine adapted and a Fermat-produced headstock was mounted on it.
MM: If only the headstock was changed, how is it possible that the machine now looks completely different?
Vojtěch Vlk: A new coat and paint do a lot. We also did other coverings on it. So you don't really see much of this from your own machine. The just mentioned headstock is dominant, all the rest of the visible is the new covers. The cabin for the operator is also completely new, so the current appearance of the machine is really completely different, it also includes, for example, a protection fence that was not originally around the machine. Rotary tables were also modernized, which were equipped with telescopic cover. Of course, the machine must also meet conditions of safety operation according to the latest standards. We issue a CE certificate for it. This is also the main reason for installing new covers, although of course the appearance is also important. And after modernization, we declare and guarantee the machine as well as the new one. We have modernized this particular machine for Kovofiniš in Ledeč nad Sázavou. I must appreciate that there has been really very good cooperation with colleagues from Kovofiniš, responsible for implementing this rather demanding project, and I think we have done well in this project. Judge for yourself in the photos the change between what the machine looked like before and after the workplace was put into regular operation.
MM: Was this case exceptional, or is such a project your normal practice?
Vojtěch Vlk: It is definitely not an exception. For example, the second project I would like to mention is of a similar scale and, once again, it is a modernisation of heavy machine for the Austrian producer of special steels, Voestalpine Böhler Edelstahl. It was the W160G horizontal boring and milling machine. This machine worked for about 30 years at a Czech customer and also looked like very used out. We dismantled it, brought it to us and modernized it. And you can see the result in the photo.
MM: It looks like it's a completely different machine than originall...
Vojtěch Vlk: That's right. The customer knew that he was buying a machine of this type, he completely trusted us that we would only use large cast iron components and deliver everything else new. The machine you are now seeing is fitted with completely current electrical equipment, especially the Sinumerik 840 Dsl control system from Siemens. We also supplied two new rotary tables with a load capacity of 25 tons. They were made for us by Fermat. The delivery also included new milling heads and a completely new assembled workplace. And what was important for the customer - as well as for other our customers - was that in 10 months we were handing over the modernized machine for trial operation.
MM: This means that the customer will actually get a new machine, but at a significantly lower price than if they actually bought a new one?
Vojtěch Vlk: Exactly like this and at the same time saves additional costs with construction work, because in this case we use the old foundation, which is "mature" and of high quality. For these types of machines, the foundations are very important. Last but not least, if the customer is environmentally oriented, it is also very important for him that the machine is "green". Since we do not produce large cast iron parts of the machine frame, which after modernization serve for decades to come, we do not produce exhalations. It is therefore an "organic machine", in this case the "bio horizontal machine". In addition, each engineer confirms that the older the cast iron, the better it is. It transforms and dumps in a certain way, so that the machine is more stable, better behaves during the cutting process during machining.
MM: Looking back, which project do you find most interesting?
Vlk: There are many interesting projects, in addition to the
aforementioned WD 160 project for Kovofiniš, it was definitely the
delivery of the W160G horizontal machine for Voestalpine Böhler
Edelstahl last year. A customer from Austria chose the old type of
skoda horizon simply because they like it there. The production
manager said, "I want the old tractor, we're the forgeshop,
we'll work on it!" But then, when we told them the delivery
date, they said, "Gentlemen, you can't make it. We don't believe
that..." But we made it, and the company is operating in
four-change operation today with the horizontal machine. It has a
guarantee from us and all services. We then brought the owner of
Fermat to the company so that they could say directly to him, "You
MM: Do you operate worldwide or just in some destinations?
Vojtěch Vlk: We prefer customers from areas where we can drive. If we had to fly to India or the Far East, it would be very difficult for us economically. This means, for example, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, where transport is not a problem and we can focus intensively on projects and customers. In the far abroad, Fermat group has service teams, for example in China or India, and in the USA owns Lucas Precision, which makes Lucas machines.
MM: A big problem in many companies at the moment is the lack of technically-based workers. How are you doing on this page?
Vojtěch Vlk: We are a small family company, we all talk and know each other here, so we work much better, we are more flexible and flexible for the customer and I think that the quality we provide is at a solid level. Quality is importent to us, and I have to knock that we are able to hold it. We offer our employees and technicians a little more self-realization and involve them in solving more complex problems, and this makes more fun to young colleagues.
Fermat Pressl is part of the Fermat Group, one of the leading Czech machine tools manufacturers, but operates completely independently. It deals with modernization, overhauls, service. The history of the company began to be written in the 1990s, when one of the two founders, Mr. Stanislav Pressl, originally a fitter in Škoda, and a partner founded their own machine tools service company. Later, however, Mr. Pressl became seriously ill, so in 2010 pressl s.r.o. was sold by partners to the owner of Fermat. The company continued as the original owners started it, but later began to make more and more use of the new elements of Fermat machines, which is now a great competitive advantage in the area.