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A Commitment to a Classic
Old folk songs testify to the importance of plowing to loosen and turn topsoil as a farming activity. High-performance tractors have long taken over the job of horses, and some of them till fields with the help of satellite guidance systems today.
A wide range of seals and accumulators from Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST) have found a home in today’s agricultural vehicles: In the past, plow-turning cylinders made by FST in Remagen were one example. With the help of hydraulics, the components would rotate and turn the plow into the desired position and enable it to remain locked there.
44 Years Old
One of these cylinders was 44 years old when it landed at the Lead Center Accumulators in Remagen in late 2021, broken down into separate pieces like a puzzle. A farmer who cultivated old varieties of potatoes as a hobby and as a member of a club wanted to have his highly functional plow-turning cylinder overhauled as part of its regular maintenance. But a repair shop had to throw in the towel during reassembly – the component simply refused to cooperate. Without a functional turning cylinder, there was no possibility of operating the highly tuned combination of vintage tractor and plow.
Looking for help, the farmer turned to the manufacturer of the component, FST in Remagen. “I still know the part from my earlier days,” said Process Technician Erich Körbel, as Operations Manager Marcus Darms handed the job over to him. Today Körbel is mainly appreciated as a specialist in electron beam welding. But in his long career at FST in Remagen, he has handled many other tasks. But restoring a 44-year-old piece of equipment was not yet one of them.
Körbel went to work systematically. First of all, he obtained the old technical drawings and specifications from the company archive in Remagen. Then he did an error analysis and procured the spare parts that he needed for the maintenance work. Most of them were seals from FST’s stocks.
The key challenge facing Körbel was the reassembly, not the analysis. Based on his experience, he quickly understood that the repair shop had simply installed the sleeve used to block the cylinder backwards. But it turned out to be much more difficult to reassemble the individual parts without the series-production equipment from decades earlier. At times, he even retreated to his workbench at home to solve the problem. He could be sure of the gratitude of the client and praise from his supervisors for his ability and commitment.
“Then our colleagues in the test bay prepared a test rig so we could examine the cylinder’s flawless operation in a hydraulic test,” said Darms, paying Körbel another tribute. Was this a costly undertaking for the customer? No, the work on the vintage vehicle mainly polished FST’s image. For one thing, it showed the high quality of the component, which still functioned flawlessly after more than four decades of use and regular professional maintenance. For another, it pointed out how Freudenberg operates sustainably even on a small scale: Repairing is better than throwing away. Not to mention the costly investment in a replacement that the farmer would otherwise have had to make.
“We solved the financial part of this special situation pragmatically,” Darms said. The farmer has long been a donor to the existing social funds for employees in need. And who knows? When the harvest rolls around in the fall, perhaps there will be a sack full of potatoes for Körbel and his colleagues.