As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to take its toll on businesses, we get a behind the scenes view from Scottish manufacturer Scanstone, famous for its separators. Ewan Pate reports.
Potato equipment manufacturer Scanstone has managed to cope well with Covid-19 restrictions, right through a busy and concentrated spring season.
Gordon Skea, who runs the Forfar-based business with his son William and daughter Alison says; “We have had a steady demand for parts, but we have had no problems in keeping up, mostly because we order from our suppliers up to a year in advance.
“It might be more difficult by harvest time, however, because a lot of our supply companies are locked down and we do not know how long that will last. As a result we are cutting back on our build programme for harvesting equipment, to make sure we have the components.”
As with all agricultural machinery depots, spare part collection has been on a ‘phone and collect’ basis, with orders set out in the yard meaning there is no need for drivers and store personnel to be in close proximity.
But despite challenges, the season has been good overall, as Mr Skea explains; “We have actually had a very successful season and probably one of our best ever. Obviously, communications have been challenging but we have coped. Alison has used the Team Video link and we have been able to take that right into the field to advise remotely on the start-up of new machines.”
When production does start at the company’s premises at Burnside just outside Forfar it will be on a limited basis. Fortunately, social distancing has been made much easier by a recent £300,000 investment in a 1,150sq.m assembly hall.
For reasons of efficiency the hall was designed to have separate work stations, with all the parts for each machine delivered in stillages. The idea was to avoid fitters having to make repeat visits to the store, but it will help in keeping people apart.
“But it has still involved a big planning exercise. We have had to take special measures for canteen facilities and toilets to make sure everyone can work safely while observing social distancing. The office staff will all have individual rooms to work from,” says Mr Skea.
His plan is to bring forward next spring season’s build programme of separators, ridgers and bed tillers, which he does have parts for, as a means of keeping the assembly hall busy.
Mr Skea says; “All things told we have managed quite well this spring. It has been an easy planting campaign and a quick one, but the dry weather has made it a hard wearing season on soil engaging parts. Having said that I would not have liked to get through it without my family behind me.”
Employing 50 staff, with 45 working at Burnside, the Scanstone product range was founded on stone and clod separators.
The current range includes three web, four web and five web machines. Bed formers and bed tillers of various widths have been added over the years. The first foray into potato harvesting machinery was with a range of windrowers, which now includes the Patriot harvester.
Scanstone has an annual turnover of about £18m, with just over 50 percent of its output sold into export markets around the world. France and the Scandinavian countries are major customers.
When work does resume on harvest equipment, it will concentrate on windrowers and trailed harvesters. The company’s two-row Patriot RT 1700 harvester is the culmination of a five year development programme which started with a basic machine.
The concept has steadily been developed with the RT 1700 now available as a fully equipped harvester with Dahlman rollers, powered axle and picking table. All functions are controlled through a touch screen intelligent control system which has been developed in-house.