The Suolahti assembly plant in Finland produces a new A, N or T Series Valtra tractor every 12 minutes. The plant operates six days a week with a single shift. In addition to the assembly plant, Suolahti is also home to the engineering centre, transmission plant and spare parts centre. Altogether around 950 employees work in Suolahti.
Engine and transmission are coupled
In the first stage of assembly, two mechanics couple the transmission that comes from the adjacent transmission plant to the engine, which is delivered from the AGCO Power engine plant in Linnavuori, Finland. The transmission enters the line from the left side and the engine from the right side. Transmissions are connected to the chassis of HiTech models during the transmission preassembly stage, while the front end, clutch components and SCR system are fitted to the engine during the engine preassembly stage.
Front axles are fitted at the start of the assembly line. Customers can specify a standard front axle, a front axle with hydraulic suspension, or an Aires front axle with air suspension. Each tractor that is assembled on the line is tailor made according to the individual specifications of each customer, and A, N and T Series tractors are all assembled on the same line in random order. Not a single tractor is assembled without an order – either that of the end user or a dealer.
Each chassis goes through seven stages of surface finishing: nano-tech polymer treatment, surface finishing, robotic painting, inspection, three stages of drying and cooling. Washing and the nano-tech polymer treatment create the perfect surface for applying paint. The chassis is then dried, and non-painted parts are taped over. Two robots then apply 7 to 8 litres of paint to each chassis in the spray booth, which has a special magnetic field that directs the spray to the chassis and not the floor.
Cabs are supplied by Maaseudun Kone Oy, which is located approximately 200 kilometres from Suolahti. Each cab is delivered just in time according to each individual customer order, as are the engines, tyres and other major components. Just in time logistics mean that components are delivered to the assembly plant just when they are needed on the assembly line, which minimises stocks. Valtra is served by 230 suppliers, 60 percent of which are Finnish.
Smaller parts are collected from so-called supermarkets along the sides of the assembly plant and delivered to the assembly line either by manually operated or automated trolleys. In the supermarkets there are small screens on the shelves that indicate where each part can be found, how many are needed, and where they are needed along the assembly line. The system reads the customer’s order, as the parts needed vary according to which specifications the customer has chosen for his or her tractor. So many different combinations of specifications and options are available, as well as country-specific differences, that in practice each tractor is different.
Tyres are fitted conveniently using a crane. The tyres are first fitted to the rims during preassembly. The tyres are delivered from a warehouse 50 kilometres away only when the tractor in question has joined the assembly line, and they arrive for preassembly right before they are need on the line. Customers can specify Mitas, Trelleborg, Michelin, Nokian or Bridgestone field, row crop or forest tyres in metric or imperial sizes and with rib or block treads.
Each tractor is test-driven after assembly. Before then, each transmission, engine and cab is individually tested. Tractor must pass through four so-called quality gates along the assembly line. The test drive lasts for around 50 minutes, and between 500 and 800 individual areas are inspected depending on the tractor model and specifications. After the test drive, the tractor undergoes a visual inspection, the brakes are tested on rollers, and the forward-reverse shuttle and clutch are adjusted in a covered area outside the assembly plant.
Suolahti Assembly Plant
- It takes around 8 hours for each tractor to be assembled along the line.
- Around 300 employees work in the assembly plant.
- Around 90 percent of the tractors are exported.