If you want to be successful tomorrow, you must think ahead today! The Swisspearl Group is constantly working on optimizing the conditions for “people, markets and machines” in such a way, that we can further strengthen our position in global competition and at the same time ensure a positive working environment for our employees.
An important machine for product development and quality management is the Mini-Machine. The biggest advantage of this machine is that trial productions can be made without disturbing the running production. In addition, significantly smaller and therefore faster trial batches can be run on the Mini-Machine other than in regular production.
« An invaluable advantage is that you can try out something seeming completely crazy without having to discuss the possible risks in advance. »
Even before the research around the new technology of fiber cement, a total of three mini-machines were set up one after the other, two of which were operated at the same time. The first experimental plates were produced at the end of the 1970s. In the years, around 1990 – after the introduction of the new technology – one machine was assembled from the best-preserved components and continued to operate. It ran regularly until 2009 but then only sporadically until the level control system failed in 2013.
From 2014 to 2019, the machine was completely out of service and awaiting dismantling. During this time, the area around the machine was used for other purposes. In 2019, the Research and Development department recognized the need as well as the added value of the mini-machine and created a restoration plan. Today, the Mini-Machine produces small plates, which can be very beneficial for the creation of new products due to their high significance. It replicates the ratios of the large production machine well, therefore mixing tests can be carried out with program accuracy.
“If the new product doesn’t work on the mini machine, I don’t even need to have it tried on the big machine,” says Tassilo Rinder.
Development can only be done if it can be tested as close to practice as possible. The aim of the "revival" is to evaluate new additives and blends, to introduce alternative raw material producers as secondary suppliers and to try out something completely new according to the motto "thinking out of the box", without disrupting daily production.
In 2020, almost 800 testable plates were produced in over 70 different trial mixes. The machine usually runs once a week with two trial mixes. Of course, this does not result in 52 operating dates due to vacation periods, and since these are trials, not every mixture works.
The conclusion after this time: The Mini-Machine is absolutely valuable for product development. The broad and growing body of knowledge that has been accumulated is very beneficial and also necessary. In addition, a whole series of substitute pigments have already been successfully tested and are now also being used in production, therefore it is easier to avoid any supply problems and to continue production.
Of course, we do not want to give too much detail about our product development. However, the main focus will be on the development of a fire plate and the switch to the more environmentally friendly cement, CEM II. We are excited to continue developing our products and the processes to consistently optimize them for our customers.
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