Suolahti factory gets new state-of-the-art paint shop

A brand-new paint shop went online at the Valtra factory in Suolahti, Finland, after the summer holidays. The project was completed on schedule to the day. The old paint shop was too small for the Q Series and especially the S Series, whose production can now be moved to Suolahti. With the new paint shop, the paint on Valtra tractor chassis will be of even higher quality than before.

The roots of the old paint shop stretch back to 1969. Practically all parts of the paint shop have been updated since then, some even several times, but still the old paint shop set certain limits, especially in terms of dimensions. For example, the front and rear linkages of the Q Series had to be painted separately, because they did not fit together with the frame in the old paint shop. Painting the new S Series would have been completely impossible in the old paint shop due to the lack of space.

“The focus in the project was very much on the quality of painting. Now we can paint the tractor chassis easily from all sides as they hang from conveyors. Likewise, the phase times of washing and paint drying can now be optimised,” says Project Leader Mikko Torvelainen.

Project Leader Mikko Santakallio and Project Manager Mikko Torvelainen are satisfied that the project progressed according to schedule.

Space and flexibility

The new 2000-square-metre paint shop was built next to the assembly plant. The two are connected by large doors, but the paint shop is still a separate building. The chassis are transported from the assembly line to the paint shop by automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Inside the paint shop, the chassis hang from chains attached to conveyors.

Moving the paint shop out of the assembly plant freed up much more space for the assembly line.

In the new paint shop, tractor chassis hang by chains from a conveyor. This allows the painting robots to move around them without hindrance. In addition, the new paint shop is more flexible, more spacious and enables the production of even bigger tractors.

“The assembly line has 35 workstations, of which the old paint shop needed 10. Now just two of those ten work steps are needed, as one work step was needed to lighten the workload on previous steps and one work step is needed to lift the tractors going to and from the paint shop. This freed up eight workplaces that we can utilise in the future as production volumes increase,” says Project Manager Mikko Santakallio.

The paint shop also brought flexibility to the assembly line, since the paint shop now provides a small buffer. Before, a problem anywhere along the production line stopped the entire line. Now, thanks to the buffer, the paint shop and the assembly line can operate independently of each other.

“The focus in the project was on the quality of painting.”

On schedule to the day

The project for the new paint shop progressed according to schedule. The building was completed on the last day of November, and the equipment installations began on the first day of December 2022. Testing began on the first day of May 2023, and the production line began to be filled on the first day after the summer holidays. Normal production speed was achieved already on the second working day. Keeping to the schedule required a big effort from all those involved in the construction project and the employees of the paint shop.

Moving the paint shop also improved working conditions inside the assembly plant by eliminating the noise, humidity and excess heat from the paint shop. Working conditions inside the new paint shop are also significantly better than in the old one.

The new paint shop enables annual production at the factory to be increased. The phase time can be accelerated from the current 12 minutes to 8 minutes per work phase. The painting process itself was kept unchanged, but the new paint shop also enables the use of new paints and pretreatment chemicals. •

Text and photos Tommi Pitenius