Specialising in bespoke staircases, Escaliers Plasse resolved to work in partnership with a clientèle mainly consisting of professionals. The company, therefore, decided to purchase a Superfici finishing line from SCM. A new piece of equipment that allows the company to offer even more complete, excellent-quality features, while caring for the environment.
Escaliers Plasse has been designing and selling bespoke staircases since 1973, most of them in wood. Bespoke because, as Jean-Charles Lechaux, director of Escaliers Plasse points out: “We adapt to the diverse contexts in the home, and it is precisely this flexibility that stands us apart from the competition.” A trained engineer, Jean-Charles Lechaux joined the company in 2016, after having previously worked in the woodworking industry. Escaliers Plasse, which has 95 employees, currently produces an average of around 6,000 staircases per year.
In 1992, Escaliers Plasse became part of the Huet Group, an important joinery manufacturer based in Vandea. The company works with a clientele of professionals, including independent house builders, joiners, architects and real-estate developers. As well as its laboratories, the company has a surface area of 6,000 m2 and a work area of 1,600 m2.
“As far as procurement is concerned, we tend to choose unfinished products, so we can concentrate as much as possible on our main work as staircase manufacturers,” explains Jean-Charles Lechaux. In terms of essences, Escaliers Plasse mainly chooses rubber tree and beech wood, but also, to a lesser extent, Scots pine or more quality essences like oak.
Escaliers Plasse, with its team of 11 salespeople, is operational across about two-thirds of France. “We distinguish ourselves with the service we provide to our clients,” explains Jean-Charles Lechaux, adding: “We assist clients at every stage of the project, from consultation, to measuring, production and after on-site delivery, we can also fit the staircase.”
The company places a great deal of focus on safety at the fitting stage: “For the products we create and sometimes install, we use the necessary protection devices to prevent falls,” explains Hervé Boudaud, Head of Methods and Development at Escaliers Plasse.
Production processes ever more industrialised
Even though Escaliers Plasse mainly produces wooden staircases, the company also offers a wide range of metal staircases. “We aim to industrialise our production tools,” sums up Jean-Charles Lechaux: “After adding a digitally controlled machining technology to our range of machinery, we are now about to buy a moulding machine,” he explains. This all stems from the desire of the manager to “guarantee a long-term future for our production tools, by modernising and industrialising them.”
“We aim to control the entire production chain, from design to finishing.” It’s worth remembering that Escaliers Plasse has its own design department.
In the laboratories, the production process involves a series of stages performed on various machines: cutting, profiling, machining, assembly, fitting and finish. The company has several state-of-the-art SCM technologies.
“As far as machining is concerned, we work according to the flow of the pieces,” explains Hervé Boudaud: “We distinguish various kinds of flows which respectively refer to straight stairs, balanced stairs, sides, struts and balustrades; identifying the flows allows us to optimise the stages in the machines.” It should also be said that the company, again with an eye on optimisation, uses software to calculate and laser project the optimised pieces. The pieces are assembled manually. As far as shipping is concerned, Escaliers Plasse has its own fleet of lorries.
Expanding its offer with the finishing
“For the last five years, we have been offering staircases with a painted finish and about a year and a half ago, we decided to bring a part of this finishing work internally,” explains Jean-Charles Lechaux, who adds: “We continue to work with our subcontracting partners, entrusting them with a part of our finishing workload, like the dual colour or varnished products.”
“In order to offer our clients a complete service, we decided to purchase a finishing line from SCM”, he continues, “and we appreciated the fact that SCM allowed us to run tests in Italy on their Superfici finishing system.”
“Painting, as a part of our production, has allowed us to increase orders in response to new contracts,” underlines Jean-Charles Lechaux, “bearing in mind that this increase in our offer fully reflects the underlying trend which is steadily on the rise.”
The high-performance Superfici finishing line recently delivered by SCM includes a loading station, the surface levelling and automatic spray application of the finishing product. Operating at a speed of 2 metres per minute, the line can machine around 400 m2 in 8 working hours. “This is a finishing line for flat products like furniture, doors, staircases which are between 60 and 80 mm thick, for an actual spraying width of 1.3 metres,” points out Saverio Ghiringhelli, Superfici’s Product Manager.
“The aim of this line,” he continues, “is to achieve enhanced productivity with automation and improved quality by optimising the amount of finishing product used. This tool also considers the operators’ well-being: everything is incorporated into the inside of the cabin to reduce the risks of paint inhalation and skin contact.”
Combining productivity and environmental interest
This machine is controlled by a PLC via a computer linked to Internet, which allows technical support to be given remotely. “The machine is connected to a network, and this allows information to be transferred such as the level of production or the surface treated, to optimise the process,” explains Saverio Ghiringhelli. “Thanks to Optispray software which considers all the production parameters, the quality and amount of paint used can be simultaneously optimised.” The Optispray software was developed by SCM for spraying machines, along the same lines as the Maestro software model for machining equipment.
With a view to protecting the environment, Escaliers Plasse also opted for a Milesi, water-based paint. “The product is sprayed inside a cabin,” explains the product manager, “in order to protect the operator’s well-being as much as possible.” Staying with ecological matters, it’s worth pointing out that the discharge of air is reduced to a minimum, which means only a very limited amount of heating is required in the laboratories, resulting in a considerable energy saving.
“There is also the option of recycling the paint.” The drying cabin installed at Escaliers Plasse, which measures 10 metres by 6 has a ventilation system and can contain a very high number of drying trolleys.
As well as this Superfici finishing line, Escaliers Plasse is already planning on making other investments: “The constantly evolving context of new constructions forces us to continually question and adapt our offer while simultaneously improving production costs. The next stage will be the integration at source and, in particular, the internal integration of the profiling of joists. The purpose of this project is to control quality and improve the production costs of our wooden profiled components for staircases” explains Jean-Charles Lechaux.
Stéphane Jardin (Le Bois International)
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