Alfa Laval Agri BSA GmbH Marktschorgast is an established manufacturer
of tanker trailers for liquid manure and other agricultural equipment.
The company was founded in 1963 and has currently 165 employees. This
business covers development, production and distribution of products.
Typical customers are medium-sized agricultural companies or co-operatives,
but also companies who are offering agricultural services. The market
for slurry tankers in Germany and Europe is dominated by a lot of small
manufacturers, about 40 companies are offering their products European
wide. Alfa Laval exports slurry tankers for more than 25 years to the
Netherlands, Belgium and other countries. In Germany, the company has
a market share of about 25%. This corresponds to a turnover of about
8 million € per year.
As a system supplier the company delivers slurry tankers together
with the corresponding control units for the manuring. Before the Application
Experiment, this unit was based only on discrete analogue/ digital components
as well as electromechanical parts. Only very simple control functions
could be realised. The company had only little microelectronics expertise
which was restricted to the application of these PCB based components
which were bought from third parties. The implementation of additional
functions to the system (e.g. a continous changeable manure flow) was
not possible without the installation of a complete additional board
computer. This made the product very expensive and over-dimensioned
because an unflexible standard version from outside had to be implemented.
In addition, the competing products offered partially additional features,
such as control and monitoring of position switches or automatic motion
control (however mostly realised on low technology levels) which were
not implemented in the company's products so far. Other features, e.g.
dosage functions were required by the customers.
The main objective of the Application Experiment was therefore the
improvement of Alfa Laval's competitive situation in Germany and Europe
by developing an own, microcontroller-based control device to be installed
at the tractor with the main features improved functionality and a reduced
selling price. Furthermore, a higher reliability of the system should
reduce maintenance and warranty claim costs. Another advantage of the
new solution is the replacement of the individual installation of the
tankers by a standard version.
The only way to achieve this goal was the introduction of know-how
in PCB/SMD and microcontroller technologies. This know-how will be also
necessary for future product developments of Alfa Laval Agri.
Because Alfa Laval is a real newcomer in microelectronics, the main
barrier which had to be overcome at the beginning was a psychological
and management one. Of course there was also a knowledge barrier how
to handle the tools and how to design and program microcontroller based
The project started in June 1999 and and ran for 9 months until February
2000 as planned before. The total costs up to the prototype stage were
48 k€. Addition industrialisation costs of 53 k€ will be necessary.
Within the first 5 years of life time, a ROI of 700% will be reached,
the payback period will be 12 months.