October 31, 2012
Symaga : taking on the world better, faster and with more flexibility
An eFeedLink Exclusive
by Geraldine EE
With ample opportunities amid increasing global competition, the silo manufacturer lets the robots take over as it continues to refine its silos and processes.
With burgeoning world meat and bioenergy consumption boosting the feed grain trade's demand for storage facilities, good news is on the way for silo manufacturers. Offering storage solutions for seeds, cereals, malt, oilseeds, granules and pellets, flour and rice for customers from the agribusiness, bio-fuels and biomasses industries, Symaga is well-poised to benefit from this growth.
A family business founded in 1985 as a manufacturer of silos and livestock equipment, Spain-based Symaga is a world leader in the manufacture of metal silos, with a presence in over 90 countries. Its headquarters is situated on a 350,000 square metre site at Villarta de San Juan. Approximately 50,000 square metres are dedicated to production and storage. The production facility boasts a 60,000 tonnes a year steel transforming capacity.
According to Alfonso Garrido, Symaga's sales director of silos, "By leveraging on our manufacturing capability, we have been able to serve different sectors which have experienced huge growth in the past years."
Today, silos remain the company's core product, accounting for 89% of annual revenue. Its livestock segment accounts for 9%, with its agriculture and steel divisions each accounting for 1% of revenue.
In 2011, the silos segment brought in a total of EUR41 million (US$51.62 million) in revenue, 10% more than in 2010. And the company expects the uptrend to continue, with annual growth of 5-10% projected for the years ahead.
"There is a general increase in demand for grain storage and for silos of bigger capacities, not only from farmers, but also from traders, feed millers, millers and breweries," says Garrido.
That said, the market is expected to continue to drive growth, though the exact amount largely depends on feed crop prices. With feed crop price volatility rising in recent years, the scope for market growth has both increased and become more uncertain. Garrido explains that, "One of the biggest concerns of grain producers at the moment is whether to invest in storage, because grain prices from harvest time to the rest of the year can vary by 30% to 50%."
In addition, demand is also spurred by government food security programmes, which contribute to feed crop storage expansion, thereby stimulating demand for the infrastructure required to sustain the resulting larger inventories. The National Food Reserve Agency of Turkmenistan, for instance, recently added silos for its Strategic Grain Reserve Project in different locations all over the country, with storage capacity for over 300,000 tonnes of wheat.
Letting the robots take over
To keep up with the agriculture sector's momentum of the growth and its myriad opportunities, Symaga can only move in one direction - forward.
As a 100% family-owned company, Symaga makes it a point to reinvest all profits. "We do not think in short-term financial profits, but in long-term improvement and growth, which will result in increased effectiveness as well as in long-term customer satisfaction," Garrido elaborates.
In 2010, Symaga fully automated production at the new factory. It acquired 15 new robots, bringing the total number of manufacturing robots to 25. It also acquired a 150-tonne-per-day profile machine for the 14-76 silo wave and a new 6-millimetre-thickness punching machine for 6-meter-wide sheets with long-cross and cross shears.
This EUR12 million (US$15.07 million) investment in automated manufacturing machinery brought about huge improvement in production efficiency as compared to its early days. While it took 5 days to product a farm silo manually when it first started operation in 1985; today, 100 silos can be produced in a single day with complete automation.
"The new technologies applied to manufacture, along with the experience of our technical department, enable us to offer a comprehensive solution to storage requirements in shorter periods of time," says Garrido.
Beyond reduced delivery time, with automation, prices are kept competitive and capacity is increased. At the same time, automation results in increased standardisation of production and reduces human error rates, which leads to higher quality products. Extra care is put into planning automated production to ensure that production flexibility is not compromised as a result of the production standardisation offered by automation.
The Symaga silo - looking beyond the bin
Today, grain facilities are increasingly demanding, with requests ranging from silos built to withstand seismic, wind and snow loads. Some customers require silos with a high grade of galvanisation and superior material strength; or greater storage and handling capacities.
Committed to delivering the best quality, Symaga adopts the security coefficient to ensure that its silos, made only in highly galvanised or pre-lacquered steel are designed to last. Apart from galvanisation, the protection of screws on the outside also prevents perforation by corrosion; while a reinforced and more robust roof prevents possible deformation due to impacts.
Additional features and unique designs also smoothen the movement of grains, ensure rainwater falls directly to the ground from the body of the silo and reduces internal temperature differences to prevent condensation. All these measures work to improve the preservation of foodstuffs.
Through its continued research and development efforts, Symaga recently introduced the isolated and covered silos for extreme cold and warm conditions. The standard silo has been designed to allow a double layer that creates a 75mm air pocket 75 mm in between the two sheet metal planes. The improved silo now can also be built to include fiberglass between the sheets.
This further insulates the interior from external weather, thereby helping avoid avoid wall condensation due to high temperature or extreme cold. This in turn lowers the rate of mould or mycotoxin infestation, which is an increasingly serious feed crop storage problem.
In addition to product improvements, Symaga also designs its silos according to different consumer needs and in accordance with the regulatory requirements of different countries. To cater to specific needs, varying capacities of hopper silos of up to 2,800 cubic metres are available. Farm silos for mechanical or pneumatic loading and flat bottom silos are available for capacities ranging from 5 to 25,000 cubic metres. Special silos with lateral discharge and 670 hoppers are also made available within its wide range of products.
The company's flexible production processes and its approach of designing the plant in collaboration with its customers and suppliers ensure that it provides optimal solutions suited to the individual needs of the customer. Its products could be supplied with components such as silos with access ladders, inspection hatch in roof or cylinder, handrails, supports, temperature sensors and sweepers.
As one of the leaders in its field, "Symaga does not only offer a bin, but an engineering service to our customers, to ensure that we develop the project together successfully," says Garrido.
The big deal of going global
Since Symaga started expanding beyond Spain in 1988-first in Europe and South America, then to the rest of the world-exports account for 94% of its business today.
"Competition is increasing in our industry. Competition has become global in the last few years and since Symaga is operating worldwide, our competitors are also present worldwide," says Garrido.
Geographically, the demand for new grain facility construction is fuelled by growing global population and increasing industrialisation in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some of the recent projects in South Africa, Mexico, Russia and Ukraine are installations commissioned for inland grain terminals, port terminals, flour mills, feed mills and biofuels plants. And these projects are undertaken by equipment suppliers spanning the globe, from Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Thailand and Turkey.
Backed by over 20 years of experience with projects in over 90 countries, Symaga has successfully developed large storage projects in Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Russia in recent years.
Currently, it is developing one of the biggest grain terminals in the Black Sea at Odessa, Ukraine. Symaga will supply silos for the new port in three phases, installing flat-bottom silos, with a total storage capacity of 316,386 cubic metres.
The first phase includes the delivery of 11 silos each 19.86 metres in diameter, with storage capacity totalling 94.974 cubic metres; the second phase includes the delivery of 10 similar silos, with total storage capacity of 86.34 cubic metres; and the final phase will include the delivery of 12 silos, each 22.15 metres in diameter, with total storage capacity of 135.072 cubic metres.
Going full steam ahead
Looking ahead, grain storage is a sector that will continue to grow in the coming years and Symaga expects competition to heat up as many businesses vie for a share of the pie. In particular, new companies in emerging countries are experiencing exceptionally rapid growth rates at this time.
With this in mind, Symaga is gearing up for the increasingly competitive landscape. While focused on its key markets of Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, Symaga seeks opportunities in the South American and Asian markets.
Currently, Symaga is concentrating its efforts in South Asia, developing India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where it expects to see growth in the coming years. As infrastructure for grain storage and feed mills will continue to modernise in these markets, they present huge growth potential to Symaga.
Symaga will also increase its production capacity in 2013 and will continue to enhance the technical features of its silos. Features such as a full aeration floor and new ventilation systems are expected to improve the quality of storage and grain management.
"The key strengths of Symaga are its human team, continuous investment in R&D, the highest technology used in manufacturing and a determination to always offer the best quality," says Garrido.
Armed with these assets and beliefs, Symaga has indeed paved its road to success well.
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