Alpego factory tour in Italy

By: Jaiden Drought

Alpego factory tour in Italy Six-metre 400HP Power Harrow on the assembly line. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy Alpego's new factory with machines awaiting dispatch. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy Elia Bergozza (service manager) and Sam Pecorari (export manager) in Alpego's new extensive parts warehouse for global distribution. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy Original Pegararo family homestead and workshop - soon to become a museum. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy The heart of the Alpego power harrow - twin force rotor drive system. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy Alpego use SSAB Swedish high tensile steel on all its machines. Alpego factory tour in Italy
Alpego factory tour in Italy Assembly of Power Harrow bed gears. Alpego factory tour in Italy

Farm Trader's Jaiden Drought spent some time in Europe recently, touring some of the big machinery factories, including the Alpego factory in Italy.

Alpego started back in 1949 and the old homestead is still situated in front of the Veneto factory along with an original subsoiler. There are plans to renovate the homestead into a museum paying homage to the Pegoraro family, their strong family history and the milestones the company has achieved to become the award-winning manufacturer it is today.

The factory

Two years ago, Alpego started building a larger and more modern 12,000m² (covered) factory for the assembly and painting of the machines to take place. A large administration block covers the day-to-day running of the business and the R&D facility. The Veneto factory manufactures and welds the parts, while almost all gears, gearboxes and casting are outsourced, but based on Alpego's design.

Although the company has wholesale branches in the UK, Spain and France, plus all the importers such as Origin Agroup in New Zealand scattered around the world, 70 percent of the machines that the 200-strong workforce produce each year are exported.

However, this needs some planning as the Italians have a two-week summer holiday at the end of August. They enjoy having a good time and are exquisite hosts, something we could learn a lot from.

The machines

I like companies like Alpego because they don't try and make everything under the sun – instead they stick to a few machines, and do them well.

To quantify this, Alpego use SSAB steel, a high grade Swedish steel also used by crane manufacturers due to its high strength and low weight. SSAB technicians came to the factory every month for two years to check the quality of the machines before they could place their sticker on the product. This is a real credit to the Alpego brand and level of quality control.

Alpego _factory _4

The trough and frame are made in the old factory, then brought to the new factory where the rotors and shafts are added to the machine. The gears are then placed in the bed, but it's not as simple as it sounds. The four-metre version we watched being built has 16 rotors. The first cog is placed in the bed (with the rotors already at 90 degree angles). There are 16 dots on the teeth of the first cog and as a new cog is added to the bed, the technician needs to turn the first cog one tooth. Once this is complete, the gearbox drive is added to the middle gear and each of the cogs are tightened by a nut with a 52kg rattle gun and lock nut glue, then punched into a grove in the shaft so it can't move.

The next clever innovation is the twin force rotors which can be spec'd on these machines. Two rotors are held together by a set of bars additional to the bed. This spreads the load as they turn into each other and drive together, giving the best possible outcome – even in the most trying conditions.

At the heart of the twin force system is the cartridge and two tapered bearings. These are manufactured in the factory by a special machine which preloads the bearings to a specific Nm reading. These are used in the twin force system in conjunction with double bottom seals to keep dirt and large objects out.

The drive is also beefed up by more Alpego innovation. The teeth on the crown wheel and pinion are pressed for much higher load characteristics. As the crown wheel and pinion in the gearbox work to pump oil through the gearbox into special galleries in the casting, this means the gears are completely immersed in oil which again significantly extends the life of the machine.

Other innovations worth mentioning

The rotary hoes (or spike rotors, depending on the tips) have a central drive gearbox with twin seal protection which reduces the risk of the main rotor bending in the middle placing more stress on the outer bearings. The central transmission ensures equal drive all the way across the rotor as there are two 1.5m sections (on a three-metre machine). The only downside of this is there is no folding option so four metres fixed is as wide as they go which is illegal on our roads.

The rotary hoe and power harrow one piece mounting frames are bolted to the troughs rather than welded so forces from the tractor are not sent back into the trough, significantly reducing vibration.

Alpego _factory _9

The sub soiler was the first machine the company ever produced and have just released the Mega Cracker KX folding deep ripper and a Hydro Pneumatic auto reset model where pressure on these can be adjusted via the accumulator. There is also a safety system – if the leg reaches the max pressure and still is in contact with an obstacle a shear bolt will give way to prevent further damage.

The Franter double-rear roller on the Super Crackers use aggressive hooks facing in opposite directions so one picks up the clod and the second smashes the clod and buries the trash. This has also been revised so the mounting points are still as strong but are much less bulky and easier to adjust (can be manual or hydraulic).

The Alpego TR 26 and 36 series mulchers have a patented door system which can be used for mulching grass with the rear flap open (but still closed so no material comes out) which is much safer and is particularly useful in orchards where flying objects damage the fruit. This machine can also be used to mulch wood or branches with the door closed to create wood chip mulch.

The new Puma rear-tine cultivator, available from 3-5.5 metres, can be mounted or trailing. This can work from 15-35cm and the faster you go the better with depth control either from front jockey wheels or a rear roller. The major benefit of the machine is its ability to bite into the hardest ground with up to 750kg of pressure on each tip which is almost 300kg more than their nearest rival according to Alpego.

The verdict

Alpego is a company based on strong family heritage, with the third generation now in the business, and looking after their customers is of upmost importance. The Pegoraro family epitomise this with Luca 'Slash' Pegoraro bringing his own rock band to our hotel to play an exclusive two-hour concert to our group of 13. Better still, we were in a place which overlooked magnificent wineries, had a swimming pool with a bar and superb Italian hospitality. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

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