Tucked away in Pribram, a small town in Bohemia, right in the heart of Europe, is Wheelabrator’s global distribution and manufacturing centre. If you have a large mid-duty or heavy-duty Wheelabrator machine, chances are it was born right here.
The state-of-the-art production facility and adjacent warehouse sit on over 12 acres of land. In just over two decades of making blast equipment, nearly 1500 machines have left the factory here to be shipped to customers around the world.
The giant warehouse in Pribram is Wheelabrator’s biggest global aftermarket hub, holding 8000 different stock parts ready to dispatch - for all ‘European’ machines in the Wheelabrator portfolio. This means, for example, that the application testing team in Zürich doesn’t have to keep any spares on site for its brand-new test machine. They simply order them as they need them. For Wheelabrator customers, this means smaller on-site inventories and fast turn-arounds on ad-hoc parts requirements.
Pribram is conveniently located between the capital Prague and Plzeň (Pilsen), an important university city renowned for its mechanical engineering and applied science faculties. Access to this talent pool is a strategic advantage for Wheelabrator and it has been able to attract a good number of alumni to join the company.
Today, the 300-strong team of engineers, skilled technicians and craftspeople completes more than 70 machines per year, covering the full portfolio of the Centre for Product Innovation (CPI) in Zürich, Switzerland, as well as large mid-duty machines from the CPI Metelen, Germany. Wheelabrator customers benefit from this approach in a number of ways, but not least through the highly effective centralised purchasing team on site.
To serve such a large number of customers from a single manufacturing facility as efficiently and timely as possible, the team in Pribram has been implementing an ambitious Six Sigma Lean programme since 2016. A total of 39 employees now hold yellow belts in Lean, with three of them on course to green belt status. In fact, the Pribram team helps advance the Lean drive across the whole Norican Group, setting good standards and influencing other facilities and CPIs.
Martin Svadlenka, Vice President of European Supply Chain, who is in charge of Wheelabrator in Pribram, said: “Together with a second facility in Poland, we provide all the manufacturing capabilities our colleagues in the European Centres for Product Innovation need. We work in close partnership with them and are constantly raising our game to serve them and our customers better. The specialist technical and operational expertise we’ve built up here over time, is something I’m particularly proud of.”