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"?
Vojtěch 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 other machines.
Is there any restriction? Manufacturer or type of machine you
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.
MM: What can we imagine under the term modernization of the machine? How's it going?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"?
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?
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.
If only the headstock was changed, how is it possible that the
machine now looks completely different?
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
MM: Was this case exceptional, or is such a project your normal practice?
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.
It looks like it's a completely different machine than originall...
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
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?
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.
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
Do you operate worldwide or just in some destinations?
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.
A big problem in many companies at the moment is the lack of
technically-based workers. How are you doing on this page?
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.