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Furniture Technologies

Introducing Estel, experts in the production of home and office furnishings since 1937, which entrusted its entire "batch 1" production process to SCM. Thanks to the support from this technological partner, the company has managed to satisfy its need to be flexible and fast, especially with nesting, edgebanding and drilling machining.

There is a star that has been shining brightly for over eighty years in the made in Italy design sky. It is the bright path of a company that, under the guidance of its founder Alfredo Stella, followed by his son Alberto and grandsons Massimo and Matteo, has conquered the home and office furnishings market with elegant, modern and hi-tech solutions. The first solution to lay the trail to success? A sliding, folding door patented in the 1950s which managed to become a genuine best seller in no time at all: “Estensibile Stella”. It is no coincidence, therefore, that this company's name, Estel, stems from the combination of these two words.

Two headquarters, one in Thiene and the other in Arsiero, both in the province of Vicenza. A 100% made in Italy and in-house production, mostly for contract and office furnishings. A turnover in excess of 65 million Euro in 2021 and 260 employees, more than half of whom working in the production departments. With these figures, Estel proves itself to be a solid and expanding company operating mainly on the Italian market but is increasingly looking with interest towards countries in central Europe, the Middle East and the United States, with a significant export growth in recent years.

Experience, experimentation, evolution

"We offer an extensive and in-depth range of products: management and operations offices, chairs, partitions, cordons, technical areas and new furniture sections dedicated to dynamic, deft and modern work" explains Massimo Stella, owner of Estel and representative of the third generation of the founding family.

With the expanding market, the company has managed to focus on clearly defined cornerstones: excellent production flexibility, the logistics ability to reach and accompany all its clients with a tailor-made and punctual service, its speed in offering an integrated service ranging from design, sample taking and batch-one production to delivery. Strong points that have led key brands and important banking and insurance institutions to choose Estel furnishings for their numerous branches and headquarters in Italy and abroad.

"In recent years, the market has changed - continues Stella -, the volume of work remains the same, but the mix of furniture and components requested has changed considerably. It is essential to create different series of production batches, and ensure that the client has their tailor-made office that meets with the architect, designer and interior-designer's instructions... There is a need to be flexible and fast: despite the client's decisional process being lengthy, the final creation is achieved today for tomorrow".

Is there such a thing as ideal technology?

Over the decades, Estel has increased its investments in research and development, technical-organisational know-how, logistics and technology with the aim of offering increasingly personalised and sophisticated products in terms of design, innovation and multi-functioning, even within the short time frame imposed by the market.

Estel's long history has been interwoven with that of SCM for several decades. "Market demands lead you to make the effort - explains the owner -, You realise that your technological structure does not meet with client demand, so you need to invest in modernisation that is anything but easy. Everything becomes simpler, however, if you find a partner who manages to stay at your side, providing advice on the right technology at the right time based on your actual needs".

For Massimo Stella this is a matter of "choosing the partner who best meets your needs and for years, SCM has been dealing with and satisfying those needs for us. Thanks to SCM, we have always managed to find the most suitable solution to the business model in vogue on the market".

"Batch 1", digital transformation, Industry 4.0

Nowadays, Estel's entire "batch 1" production process is managed by a system of state-of-the-art SCM cells with a potential of 800/1000 pieces per shift. Varying elements and different orders end up in the same production loop, from nesting to edgebanding and drilling, and are manually re-organised at the end of the process.

A smart&human choice that provides the operators' work with a decisive quality control role and one that was shared with SCM which fully comprehended the DNA. There is no excluding the possibility that this cell system may evolve further in the future with solutions that are even more automated.

The latest made in SCM purchases are instantly visible at the Asiero plant. The entire "batch 1" process starts from the "morbidelli x200” nesting cell complete with built-in automatic loading with labelling system. The cell's cutting speed allows for a previously inconceivable productivity even with highly flexible machining work. "Our aim was to deal with the smaller batches more efficiently and with a qualitative result in line with market demands" explains Giancarlo Sola, Operations Manager.

But, above all, the nesting cell is part of an integrated production system that sees it operating in synergy with a flexible “stefani cell H” edgebanding and squaring cell. "Nowadays, we can produce pieces in the most fluid flow possible - continues Sola -. Compared to previous machinery, we manage to continually monitor performance. The nesting cell is easy and intuitive. It gives us the opportunity to train the operators quickly and achieve maximum efficiency in the shortest time possible. Furthermore, for certain kinds of products, we can also route and transform the finished, made-to-measure product and avoid subsequent machining work; this is not possible with a blade panel saw.

In the nesting cell unloading area, a female operator (and it is worth pointing out that there are numerous women in production at the Estel factory) performs a first re-organisation of the pieces based on the relative orders.

The panels are then introduced into the "stefani cell H" edgebanding cell. This is also a highly evolved solution, designed by SCM for a highly flexible "batch 1" industrial production. The cell has an automatic loading and Pickfeed recirculation bridge that simplifies the handling of mixed stacks with pieces that differ from one another and a Pickback panel return system complete with automatic unloading.

There is no need to stop production to change the machining parameters of the format, finishing and gluing quality, something that can occur frequently during a shift. "Our product is highly personalised, so we needed a very flexible machine that can perform numerous different kinds of machining work, with different kinds of edges, radii and glue, routing up, under and to the side...With this cell we can reduce the through time set out in the loading or shipment plan. This solution means we can achieve a better-quality product and improve our efficiency on a daily basis thanks to the production data collected each day".

The drilling stage completes the process and for this Estel has chosen two very different solutions. The first is a "morbidelli ux200” drilling cell with automatic loading and unloading system. "Its uniqueness lies in its ability to machine all six sides of the panel and can, if necessary, route with two high-powered electro-spindles" comments Sola. Another advantage is its high productivity and, in the case of uniform batches, it is also possible to machine two pieces one on top of the other, cutting times by half.

At its side we find a compact "morbidelli cx210” drilling machine, another solution designed specifically for "batch 1", capable of drilling and routing with a production rate of 350 pieces per shift. High-powered and highly efficient drilling heads, shaped clamping gripers for a significant reduction in the cycle times, a made-to-measure worktable even of the most delicate surfaces...Numerous advantages encapsulated in such a small size.

The entire process is controlled by supervision software for the edgebanding and drilling cells and SCM's IoT Maestro connect system for all the machines mentioned, with the chance to remotely collect and analyse all the production, performance and maintenance data in real time. The flow of data is linked to Estel's MES corporate management system and all the machines are equipped with the same HMI Maestro active.

"The most significant advantage in having contacted SCM to be a single technological partner is the integration - comments the owner Massimo Stella -. Shifting from a traditional production to a "batch 1" process managed by computer systems and 4.0 technologies requires a cultural leap and adequate training".

And the latest new entry to the Arserio factory is also from SCM; a “morbidelli p800” drilling-routing and edge treatment machine. "As well as for the more traditional machining work, it is particularly useful for the 45-degree edged pieces that have always been our distinctive trademark. Thanks to this machine - explains Sola - we can reproduce a typically artisan machining process with the advantage of achieving constant quality in the product over time, greater efficiency and guaranteed times".

Towards new objectives

Estel is already focusing on the next objective: achieving precise control and tracking of the entire order progress status. "Not only do we want to optimise the use of raw materials but we want to have the most accurate delivery date possible".

Sola adds: "Ours is a production line where the information shared in the batch 1 process for nesting, edgebanding and drilling needs to be accurate and correct. We have rethought our way of designing and creating furniture, of simplifying and optimising the machining work that, depending on the requirements of the architect, worksite or client, should have highly customised sizes, finishes and drilling. This has been our greatest technological challenge".


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