Issue 11 Amazing birch, fascinating business Great strides in veneer slicing and drying Investing in Human Resources Raute Customer Magazine ­ August 2008 Contents From the CEO Amazing birch In good hands Working the lathe Murphy Engineered Wood Product development high on agenda Raute invests in know-how New opportunities in China Veneer slicing and drying technology Wood Technology Show 2008 3 4 7 9 14 20 22 26 27 31 Comp Birch plywood ­ product suitable for almost any application, pages 4­6 Murphy rises like a Phoenix from the ashes, pages 14­19 On cover: John Murphy, President of Murphy Company (left), and Raute's Western Area Sales Manager, Arne Nordstrand with the plaque presented by Raute to commemorate the new LVL mill. Photo: Veli-Matti Lepistö PlyVisions is Raute Corporation's Customer Magazine. Editor-In-Chief: Molli Nyman, Editorial Group: Matti Aho, Veli-Matti Lepistö, Tapani Kiiski Layout: Onnion Oy Printing house: Libris Oy Address changes: Publisher: Raute Corporation, P.O. Box 69, FI-15551 Nastola, Finland, tel. +358 3 829 11, fax +358 3 829 3511, Copyright Raute Corporation. All rights reserved. Reproduction permitted only with permission from Raute Corporation. Photos by Raute if not mentioned otherwise. ISSN 1459-3165 from the CEO etitive and profitable through difficult times ALL OF US THAT WORK in the wood products industry are facing interesting, yet challenging times. The economic climate has taken a dramatic change for the worse during recent months, a situation that possibly began with the subprime crisis in the United States and has been made worse by the energy crisis. This situation has directly affected the engineered wood products industries, leading to an economic slowdown. It has negatively impacted Raute's customer base in North America and, as a result, is beginning to affect Raute as well, leading to a slowdown that appears to be spreading to other parts of the world. To this point, however, it has not been felt as severely elsewhere. As difficult as the situation is, Raute has been fortunate enough to benefit from quite lively demand outside North America. Let's hope that the economic situation in North America also improves soon and that the rest of the world will only experience a mild slowdown. Given this kind of challenging market situation, the value of Raute's products and services are more important than ever. By offering our customers the means to achieve the best possible recovery, both in terms of raw material and other factors like energy and glue, as well as providing the means to achieve the highest quality with the least labor, Raute is helping our customers to remain competitive and profitable through difficult times. We have been doing this for 100 years now, an achievement that plays a main role in this issue of PlyVisions. As this year marks our 100th year in business, we have decided to devote more space than usual to our own activities and operations. This includes updating our readers on the first year of operation of Raute's facility in China and how we have spent our time actively searching for new ways to better serve our customers. There are two main themes in this issue of PlyVisions. The first tells of Raute's technology for the production of birch plywood, considered to be at the heart of Raute's technological development. It could be correctly stated that the Raute story is rooted in birch, and that without the success we have enjoyed in birch processing technology, Raute would not be the company it is today. The second is LVL technology, another major success story for Raute. We have estimated that almost half of all LVL production in the world is produced on Raute equipment. The most recent, and very successful startup at Murphy Engineered Wood's LVL mill in Sutherlin, Oregon, U.S.A. is an excellent example of how a fast and successful startup was achieved through open and close co-operation between a committed and motivated customer and Raute's experienced and skilled staff. We have rounded out this issue with interesting stories about two of Raute's new, rapidly-developing business areas, technology services and decorative veneer technology. I hope that all who read this issue of PlyVisions enjoy doing so and that our readers in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy a long and sunny summer and autumn while those in the Southern Hemisphere enjoy the fresh coolness of winter and the many pleasurable activities the season brings. Let's all keep fighting together through these difficult times. Tapani Kiiski President and CEO PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 3 AMAZING BIRCH text: Kimmo Suomalainen photos: Raute, UPM and Finnforest Can you name a material that is as suitable for use in concrete forming as it is for making trailer boxes, traffic signs, the walls of ice hockey rinks or kitchen cabinets? A durable material that lends itself equally to wall cladding, shipbuilding, furniture framing, playground equipment and packaging? 4 IN FACT, a product that is suitable for almost any application where a strong and stiff panel is needed. The answer, of course, is birch plywood. Birch grows widely in the Eurasian continent and in North America, particularly in the cool or temperate regions. The harvesting of birch for the plywood industry takes place mostly in the eastern and northern regions of Europe, from the Ural Mountains to the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. The most commonly utilized sub-species of birch in Europe are betula pendula and betula pubescens (silver and black birch), and, in North America, betula papyrifera (yellow birch). Collectively, these species are typically referred to as silver birch, and sub-species are seldom, if ever, separated into species sub-classes for the purpose of making plywood or for sale on the open market. Birch is a high-density, homogeneous and light-colored wood that is an excellent material for producing strong, rigid and hard-surfaced plywood panels. For over a century, birch has served as the basic building element of the plywood industry in the Baltic countries, Russia and Finland. During the early days of the plywood industry, these three regions were the major plywood exporters in the world. A century ago, birch veneer was mainly used in products like tea boxes, bed slats and furniture. Casein and al- bumen were used to glue 4' x 4' veneers together into plywood. During the years since, Raute has grown from a reputable sawmill machinery manufacturer into the leading global supplier of plywood machinery, having first entered the plywood machinery business in 1931. Around the middle of the century, Urea Formaldehyde (UF) glue was introduced and the quality of plywood improved remarkably. During the early 1960's, the introduction of weather-resistant and boil-proof Phenol Formaldehyde (PF) resins opened up exciting new areas of application for birch plywood. It then became possible for this versatile panel to be used in exposed construction applications, as a load-bearing material and as panels for use in exposed venues where its visual appeal could be utilized to the fullest. Now that birch plywood could be made weatherproof, it could be overlaid with phenolic films and its application base could be further broadened. Panel size, too, was increasing, from 4'x 4' to 5'x 5'. Today, the standard size for birch plywood is 5'x 10' (1.5 m x 3.0 m), made possible by the introduction of veneer scarf-jointing machinery, which Raute began manufacturing in 1939. Some companies have found niche markets, producing panels up to 2 x 4 m (6.5' x 13') and even 12 m (40') long scarfjointed and overlaid panels. Birch plywood is a multi-faceted panel product. It is not, and never has been, just one standard product. Open the Web pages of any birch plywood producer and you may find twenty different product lines, each containing several panel thicknesses, sizes or overlay weights and mesh patterns. Add to this the variety of glues used in birch plywood's construction, as well as the wide range of face qualities and veneer thicknesses and the result is an array of hundreds, if not thousands, of products. This versatility is one of the strengths of birch, giving it the ability to constantly find new applications and markets. White panels cover a broad spectrum of quality grades, the most important feature being, typically, visual appearance. The simplest product may be an unsanded, small panel measuring 4'x 4', most commonly used to make packaging materials, such as crates. At the other end of the spectrum there are large-sized BB grade panels that retail for over 2000 per m³. In many applications, tight peel and a smooth surface are the most desirable features of birch veneer. Both qualities can be achieved by using Optimum Peeling Geometry (OPG) technology, an integral element in Raute's Smart Peel lathe. From the veneer and plywood producers' points of view the main issues are value optimisation and face veneer recovery. Raute's laser curtain XY block optimisation and charging system, coupled with Mecano's Veneer >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 5 Defect Analyzer for grading dry veneer are the tools that optimize veneer recovery and exploit the visual potential of the raw material. Another class of white panels is LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) plywood, used in the construction of ships used to transport this material. It is the plywood's technical properties, rather than its visual appearance, that are important in the manufacture of this plywood product. Defect rules and the quality of the glue bond are critical. Raute machinery and plywood technology enables producers of this important product to achieve precise and consistent quality. By using Raute's vision technology, allowable veneer defect parameters can be set precisely at the critical stages of production, at the scarf-jointing phase, during composing and at the patching line, in order to satisfy the demands of the ship builder. On the other hand, it is not only these huge ocean-going ships that utilize plywood in their construction. There is also a great variety of watercraft made from plywood that provide many years of pleasurable and reliable service to their owners. Another widespread use for birch plywood is as a material for making traffic signs and billboards. Paint-base plywood is rigid and doesn't require additional bracing. It is stable in the wind, is weather resistant and readily accepts paint. Any plywood that is to be sanded and painted or overlaid must possess precise veneer thicknesses throughout the panel in order to form a uniform base for accepting overlay material. Once again, Raute plywood technology, such as the Smart Peel lathe and hot press equipped with panel thickness control hydraulics are the right solutions. Overlaying is the most common method of adding value to plywood panels. Finnish plywood mills overlay about 80% of their production, while Baltic producers, as well as Russian mills producing large-sized panels, overlay from 50 to 70% of their output. Concrete forming provides one of the biggest markets for overlaid birch panels. Birch plywood's high degree of stiffness and strength minimizes the need for supporting members behind site shuttering, while the overlay film allows the panels to be used in multiple pours. Overlaid panels ensure that the surface of the concrete casting is straight and smooth, requiring little or no finishing. Another widely used application for overlaid plywood is platforms and walkways. Many different screen and caul plate patterns can be used to produce sturdy, non-slip surfaces. Similarly, this type of plywood is used in the construction of ramps and platforms used by skateboarders and BMX bike riders. Overlaid birch panels are used in the manufacture of kitchen countertops, as well as heavy-duty work benches. 30 mm thick birch plywood can take a lot of physical punishment and it serves as a solid base for a bench vise. A multi-opening overlaying press is the most efficient line for producing smooth or mesh pattern panels. The press can be up to 24 openings, capable of producing up to 80,000 m³ of overlaid panels annually. For mills producing small batches and a wide range of surface patterns, a single-opening line is more suitable, providing producers with the flexibility required to meet customers requirements. Birch can also be found in wide use throughout the furniture industry. Volume-wise, framing consumes the majority of the plywood used. In terms of value, however, defect-free birch surface veneers are an important product. For producing birch veneer of this kind, a Raute lathe short-coupled to a Raute screen dryer is the right solution. The plywood industry is a fascinating business. Its products are used in everything from crates and tea boxes to construction members and furniture found in the finest public interiors. Birch plywood is a versatile, high-strength material that offers value-added opportunities to the producer. Birch plywood is a multi-faceted panel product. It is not, and never has been, just one standard product. 6 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine text: Minna Pajamies In good hands Earlier this year, the number of production lines included in Raute's growing portfolio of maintenance contracts exceeded 100, a clear indication of the growing need for maintenance services of this kind. AS A RESULT OF THIS GROWING DEMAND, plans are underway to increase the number of local service outlets. Raute has concluded maintenance contracts with some of the largest plywood producers in the world. These so-called group-level contracts also cover on-site maintenance services. Raute's aim in the future is to provide expanded local maintenance services where the needs of the installed machine base require it. Today, Raute has service outlets in North America, Chile, Singapore and Indonesia. The company's customers in Finland are served through Raute facilities located in the towns of Nastola, Jyväskylä and Kajaani. Three new service outlets are currently being assessed. THE SERVICE MECHANIC'S KEY POSITION Service Mechanic, Risto Laurila, boasts more than 40 years' experience in servicing production lines. He joined Raute as a lathe mechanic in 1965. His tasks initially consisted of testing lathes, then later servicing them. He knows from experience how important it is for persons, such as himself, to continually develop professional competence. "Being a service mechanic is an interesting job. We call on plywood mills, adjusting and tuning equipment so that it achieves its optimum operating level. Summer shut-downs are the busiest times for us when we often work from dawn to dusk." "The job profile has changed over the years, partly as a result of automation, but the basics of the job have remained the same - to address and solve our customers' challenges and problems in a timely manner." "The lines need to function well, which makes proactive maintenance especially important. Reliable operation is part of the added value we create and an area in which we service mechanics demonstrate our expertise. We really are in a key position when it comes to anticipating problems," says Mr. Laurila. Raute focuses on transferring what is called `tacit experience'. Communicating the expertise and experience of Mr. Laurila and his experienced colleagues to younger service mechanics has been identified as a major part of Raute's internal training program. Greater speed and efficiency From the point of view of maintenance, today's advanced wood products technology often presents a challenge. Special technologies typically require unique skills and, in most cases, specialized equipment. Raute's customer cooperation with respect to equipment maintenance is intended to prevent problems by proactively managing maintenance and ensuring the availability of proper expertise for both training and longterm development. At its best, maintenance cooperation begins at the installation stage and before the warranty period expires. Experience shows that close cooperation and training after commissioning also improves start-up efficiency because >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 7 Modernizations have brought about excellent results, both in Finland and abroad. >> SPECIAL EXPERTISE FOR BIRCH Raute has a long and strong track record in birch processing technology. The machinery and equipment used for processing costly raw materials need to function flawlessly in order to achieve the best possible yield with the least possible loss of raw materials. there are fewer problems after the start-up and the mill employees learn how to manage the new technology and the new line more quickly. Maintenance contracts are based on customers' needs and range from daily visits to equipment inspections performed a few times yearly. In most cases the customers' own maintenance personnel attend to daily maintenance of the production machinery, while long-term servicing and maintenance development are entrusted to Raute. Equipment maintenance comprises mechanical work, hydraulics service, troubleshooting of automation systems and spare parts services. The aim of this proactive approach to equipment service is to ensure an uninterrupted and consistent production process, while minimizing the need for unplanned repairs and downtime. Optimization through modernization One of Raute's main objectives is to ensure the efficient operation of the machinery it sells throughout its entire life-cycle, which is generally from 10 to 30 years. However, the requirements of the line may change during the early stages of its life-cycle, such as the need to increase production capacity, improve quality or to adapt to different working methods. The solution in such cases is to modernize or upgrade the line. The introduction of new technology to optimize the operation of the line is aimed at attaining the optimal levels of operation with respect to line capacity, product quality and operating efficiency for both single machines and entire production lines. Modernizations have brought about excellent results, both in Finland and abroad. 8 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine A century of technical advances puts Raute on top of the world Working the lathe text: Ritva Varis photos: Raute and Lahti historical museum Raute Corporation, the international leading-edge supplier of machinery for the wood products industry, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The company has progressed by making major advances in technology and by shifting production from steamships to scales and from frame saws to plywood machinery. Today, investment in product development accounts for some 3.5 percent of Raute's annual net sales. 100 years of Raute 9 TO FINNISH PLYWOOD producers, the name Raute is practically synonymous with the word lathe. "Peeling technology is Raute's main business sector. Today, our focus is on manufacturing technology for the wood panel and parquet industries," says President and CEO Tapani Kiiski. Frame saws were the first of the company's wood processing machines, followed by veneer lathes in the early 1930's. Lathe speeds have since risen remarkably, from a few thousand meters per shift to more than 40 kilometers. Gaining momentum The first veneer lathes used by the Finnish plywood industry came from the USA; Coe and Merritt being the bestknown brands. The first Finnish-made lathes were manufactured in the 1920's by Onkilahti, which was later acquired by Wärtsilä. Lahden Rautateollisuus Oy, later Raute, manufactured its first lathe in 1931, shortly after branching into sanding machines, plywood saws and veneer machinery. The principle of veneer peeling has, essentially, remained unchanged. As the peeler block rotates against the knife, it is peeled into veneer. Veneer thickness is determined by the blade stroke length per revolution. Veneer quality is achieved through the interplay of cutting angles, the compression ratio between the knife and counter-knife and the support provided for the block by pressure rolls. Finally, yield is based on block diameter and shape, block rounding and the diameter of the core after peeling. Lathe speeds have increased 20-fold since the 1930's. "In the 1950's, peeling speeds were 60­70 m/min. Today they reach 400 m/min," Kiiski says. Spindle speeds were 200­250 revolutions per minute in the 1950's. When Raute introduced the 5V lathe in the 1970s, it boasted spindle speed of 330 rpm and peeling speed of 300 m/min. Lathe motors today often reach over 1,000 rpm as spindle speed increases towards core drop. The spindles used for mounting the block in the correct peeling position were initially operated mechanically. Raute developed a double spindle system to reduce core diameter further. Hydraulically-operated spindles were subsequently introduced by Raute in the mid-1950's, enabling core diameter to be set at around 50 mm. According to Kiiski, it is technically possible to reach 30 mm core diameter, however, the gain in yield would be negligible both in terms of quantity and quality. In the 1980's Raute developed a spindleless lathe, which used three driven rolls to drive the block during peeling. Raute's subsidiary, Durand-Raute, sought a patent for this concept in North America. An objective of spindleless peeling was to reduce block changeover times and eliminate spin-out, which occurs when the core of the block is decayed, causing the spindles to lose their grip. The spindleless lathe was introduced at the Ligna Fair in 1989. Although spindleless peeling failed to catch on, several lathes were sold and the peeling principle involving three driven rolls was later applied to Raute spindle peeling technology with great success. Optimized block centering Peeler block centering accuracy has also improved greatly and has evolved from a manual operation to an automated one. Before WWII, as many as five people were needed to perform the peeling operation, which consisted of centering and peeling the block and reeling or clipping the veneer ribbon. Around 20 m³/shift only were produced on a 60 inch lathe."Today, throughput is as high as 20 cycles/minute and each of the peeling, drying and grading lines is supervised by just one person," says Kiiski. 10 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 100 years of Raute During the early decades of plywood production, peeler blocks were manually placed in the lathe by operators using their knees to support the block. The first mechanical block charger, introduced by Raute in 1958, made this task easier and reduced charging time. It also improved veneer yield by optimally centering the block. If the block had a protruding knot or butt swell, for example, an experienced lathe operator could reposition the block. The next significant development was the XY charger in the mid-1980's. This computer-controlled charger optimizes block centering based on the geometrical shape of the block. Today, the block rotates under a laser curtain and the measurement data calculates the largest available cylinder. Optimum block centering is the most important factor influencing raw materials savings. the characteristics of wood in different markets. In Finland, for example, peeler blocks have always been rather small compared to those in North America, which has led to the introduction of more robust lathes for that market. Tapani Kiiski identifies his four technology premises: capacity, automation, yield and quality."Raute needs to be number one in all these areas," he stresses. "There are many things to be proud of in Raute's veneer lathes, such as their dimensional accuracy, which is superior to what is customary in conventional metalworking. The thickness tolerance for peeled veneer is plus/minus one onehundredth of a millimeter." From stand-alone machines to entire lines Increasing automation has enabled the development of more process-driven plywood manufacturing technology. Production stages that previously required human eyes and hands, are now controlled by vision technology. The first photoelectric devices were fitted to veneer clippers in the 1950's. Stand-alone machines gradually gave way to integrated lines. Raute's first peeling, drying, clipping and grading line was delivered by to Pellos Oy's plywood mill in Ristiina, Finland in 1968. Since then, the Pellos mills have been a major technological reference for Raute for the manufacture of birch plywood and, since the mid-1990's, softwood plywood. Raute took the next step towards supplying mill-scale production lines in the early 1970's with the introduction of hydraulic plywood presses. The acquisition of Infor and Enwe further strengthened the company's ability to provide turnkey deliveries. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is a major innovation of the Finnish wood products industry. Raute's first LVL line was delivered to Metsäliitto's Lohja mill in 1980. The continuous ANRA line developed for the blockboard industry in the 1960's can be considered the first step towards LVL production. LVL is Heavy-duty iron There is a basic element in machinery manufacturing that has remained unchanged ­ the importance of iron. Wood processing requires durable, heavy-duty machines. "With reference to the drawings of the moving parts of our frame saws and the weight indications sent earlier, we hereby declare that we make the crankshafts from the best Swedish shaft steel," wrote company owner and Managing Director Henrik Schwartzberg in 1930 to Artturi Käpy, Professor of Sawing Technology at the Helsinki University of Technology, who conducted durability comparisons and strength calculations for equipment from various manufacturers. Weight data was valued in machinery parts catalogues. The more heavy-duty the machine, the better it was seen to be. Durability has always been a mainstay of Raute machinery. A frame saw, one of the first by Raute, is still in operation at Rautalammin Koivujaloste Oy, Finland. Lathes, too, have become more robust and heavy-duty. Their weight has gone from a few metric tons to the latest 30 ton-models from Raute. This development has partly been dictated by To Finnish plywood producers, the name Raute is practically synonymous with the word lathe. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 11 >> related to plywood, except that plywood uses cross-banded veneers while LVL is made by gluing the veneers in a parallel direction. The production of softwood plywood began in Finland in the mid-1990's in Ristiina and Suolahti. Raute benefited from know-how gained in North America in starting up the Finnish softwood plywood industry. In addition to Finland, Raute has delivered softwood plywood lines to South America and New Zealand, among others. Softwood plywood technology uses state-of-the-art process automation. The capacity of softwood plywood mills is many times that of traditional birch plywood mills. High capacity and continuous operation have called for new applications and innovations. Softwood plywood technology would not be possible in its current form without the rotary clipper, Several talented designers and engineers achieved almost legendary status within Raute due to their persistent and intense devotion to the company. 12 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine for example. Lay-up and gluing automation has been a further challenge in softwood plywood lines. The Pellos mill also manufactures jumbo-sized 8'x 8' panels. Alongside Nordic birch and softwood, Raute focuses on the manufacturing technology for wood panels made from tropical softwood and poplar. Raute's technological progress over the past hundred years is extensive and includes veneer clipping and grading technology, drying technology, stacking, scarfing, press thickness control, overlaying, automated veneer patching and panel patching. A recent innovation is a lay-up line based on foam-gluing, while Raute's latest acquisition is the purchase of sliced veneer technology from the Italian company Intercomer. "Markets globally have what it takes in technological and operational terms," says Kiiski when asked about the feasibility of automation in various markets. "However", he adds, "maintenance skills and expertise might not yet be available in all of the countries and it is a fact that, in many countries, human labour still delivers practically the same result as automation. Automation isn't typically bought where manual labour is cheap." At the forefront of innovation Raute's position at the forefront of technology is partly explained by events following World War II. War reparations put such a strain on Raute that the owners are said to have been dumbstruck when they first heard about the volumes involved. Nevertheless, Raute's part in repaying reparations had a profound effect by raining the standard of technology and quality control. Raute's contribution included 120 frame saws, 170 edgers, 55 veneer lathes, 265 planers, 60 band saws, 160 veneer clippers, 20 veneer patching machines, and much more. At one point, 80% of the company's output went to war reparations, eventually accounting for over 3% of Finland's total debt. In Kiiski's view, the owners' belief in technology is behind Raute's success. "In this family-owned company, R&D was high on the agenda, even in bad times." The company's founder, Henrik Schwartzberg (later Mustakallio), and his sons Pauli, Aarne and Heikki, and daughter Kaija, have been strongly involved in managing the company over the years. Third and fourth generations of the Mustakallio family are still represented on the Board of Directors. Shareholders include Henrik Schwartzberg's descendants from seven different branches of the family. Several talented designers and engineers achieved almost legendary status within Raute due to their persistent and intense devotion to the company. Among the experts in peeling technology, Kiiski cites Pentti Lahtinen, Matti Paakki and Kari Sintonen. In 1986 Raute, together with Oy Wilhelm Schauman Ab, founded RWSEngineering to provide consulting and technology development services worldwide. Today, RWS is 100% owned by Raute. "If not for our customers, we'd never have created all of these innovations. R&D is a symbiotic process between our customer and our engineering office where solutions are sought to the benefit of both parties. Finnish plywood professionals and research institutes have also contributed to the innovation process, helping us to achieve international market leadership," says Kiiski. At present, investment is flowing strongly towards Russia. Finnish plywood mills will need to modernize in coming years, according to Kiiski. Automation, capacity, quality and yield will continue to be top priorities. Raute's globalization RAUTE WAS ESTABLISHED in 1908 while Finland was still part of the Russian Empire. Machinery was exported to Russia and North America during the company's early years. During World War I, armaments were exported in large volumes to Russia, and the huge war reparations that needed to be paid after World War II paved the way for extensive trade with the Soviet Union. In the 1950's, exports accounted for 35­55%, rising to over 50% in the 1960's. New trading partners included Czechoslovakia, GDR, China, Poland and Hungary. In the 1970's, trade with the Soviet Union accounted for up to 85% of all exports. The North and South American markets began to grow. In the 1980's, exports exceeded 80% and the Soviet Union remained the main export destination. New export areas included S.E. Asia and Europe. When trade with the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990's, the Far East and North America became the main partners. Russia once again become a trading partner in the 2000's. Market fluctuations strongly affect the world economy and politics. Wars have provided both a threat and an opportunity. Subsidies to developing countries were something of an opportunity for Finnish know-how. "What we are experiencing today is the third wave of globalization. We are facing genuine competition in an international business setting," says Raute Corporation's President and CEO Tapani Kiiski. 100 years of Raute 13 text: Rick Massey Murphy Engineered Wood The US Pacific Northwest is the birthplace of North America's softwood plywood industry. For decades, communities in the region have relied on the mills for their livelihoods. Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes 14 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine Over the past 20 years, however, a decline in available timber, coupled with environmental pressures and the dramatic growth in OSB, has seen a decline in plywood production and the closure of mills. Those mills that remain have shifted their focus onto value-added products, such as specialty plywood and engineered lumber. Given this situation, it was no surprise that the destruction of Murphy Plywood's mill by fire on July 5, 2005 had potentially dire consequences. Located in Sutherlin, Oregon, Murphy Plywood employed 300 people produc- ing 4 x 8 softwood plywood. In a town of 7,000 this sudden loss of jobs weighed heavily on the community and on the President of Murphy Company, John Murphy. Suddenly, an entire town focused its attention on the future of the devastated plywood mill. Would it be rebuilt or would the owners acknowledge that the economics and logistics were against doing so? Fortunately, for the folk of Sutherlin, the Murphy Company announced in mid-2006 that it would build a new wood products facility on the site of the old. This decision was arrived at following the successful conclusion of negotiations with the insurance carriers and with the Sutherlin city management. During the period between the fire and the decision to rebuild, Murphy concluded agreements with local mills that enabled Murphy Plywood to meet its order commitments while ensuring that the Murphy brand stayed alive. Murphy moved quickly in other directions as well, acquiring a hardwood plywood mill in Eugene, Oregon. Describing the mill as `facing challenges caused by the onslaught of Chinese imports', Murphy set about bolstering production expertise and upgrading machinery. Raute participated by modernizing the dry veneer stacking system, including the upgrading of controls and the installation of automatic grade scanning. Shortly after, Murphy also acquired a veneer operation in Elma, Washington. At the same time as the newly-acquired hardwood mill was being upgraded, Murphy was in discussion with Raute concerning the supply of a new LVL mill, a drying and stacking line and a billet handling system. After undertaking appropriate due diligence, which included benchmarking the LVL production technology available from Raute and our competitors, a deal was struck in August, 2006 and construction of the Pacific Northwest's newest LVL facility was announced. The official opening of Murphy Engineered Wood took place on St. Patrick's Day, March 17 of this year. In 2009, Murphy Company will celebrate its centennial. Precise drying control LVL is made from multiple layers of veneer aligned in the same direction and produced in long lengths. Two of the critical production factors are the strength of the veneer sheets and the moisture content of the veneer after drying. Precise control of the latter is important for several reasons. First, if the veneer is overdried it becomes weak and will break during processing. Second, overdried veneer requires a high glue spread and, third, too much moisture causes delaminations during pressing. Murphy benchmarked dryer performance within the industry and chose Raute's 6-deck roller jet dryer and dry stacking system. The successful startup of a similar drying system in Oregon just prior to his placing the order was reinforced by Raute having delivered seven similar systems in the previous five years, all of which were performing above specification. The drying line supplied by Raute comprises a 20-section roller dryer complete with 3 cooling sections, a combination VDA camera grader and DMA moisture analyzer, and a 12-bin automatic dry veneer stacker. It is equipped with a vacuum feeder, humidity sensing, automatic sheet unloading and transfer, and moisture analyzers that enable automatic speed control. Tight construc- >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 15 >> tion prevents smoke from escaping into the mill and ensuring that the dryer retains a high degree of thermal integrity. Other features include high-velocity jet boxes and individual drives on each of the six decks. The dryer is heated by thermal oil. The combination defect grading and moisture analyzing unit has a HIS lighting system that is unaffected by ambient temperature. It was customized in accordance with the customer's grading requirements and the grade standards of the finished product. ensure that the billet can withstand a prolonged stand time, should there be a stoppage at the hot press. Productivity of the line has been greatly increased by laying up and pre-pressing two billets simultaneously. This is done by preparing a double layup and excluding a single glue line separating the two billets. Once the double layup has been prepressed, it is conveyed out of the press, cross-cut to length and the upper billet is separated from the bottom billet by a drag arm. By doubling up on the volume of LVL going through the pre-press, the productivity of the line is increased significantly. The line has a MIS or mill-wide data collection and production control system. All machines are connected to an Ethernet that provides access at multiple points throughout the mill. This includes access at the machine level through HMI screens and elsewhere via PC stations. Operator screens are informative and each machine displays actual images of the operating equipment, making it a simple and intuitive system for mill personnel to work with. The dry end MIS, for example, collects data from the dryer PLC, stacker PLC, VDA camera grader, moisture analyzers and Metriguard unit. It then issues reports concerning such operating parameters as run-time, downtime and causes, the number of sheets dried, the number of reject sheets, dryer speed, veneer moisture content, humidity and temperature per zone, as well as the maximum, minimum and average values for each drying recipe and shift. Dry stacker performance is also reported in actual run time, the number of sheets stacked, the number of refeed sheets, moisture content percentages, and a tally of all graded sheets. Data provided on the VDA camera grader includes the width, length and squareness of each sheet. All data is provided in real-time and is refreshed at adjustable intervals. Variables are trended every minute. Special features Particular attention was paid to the layup process to ensure that it didn't become a bottleneck in the production process. Raute supplied a fully-automatic fork layup, which lays up face, center and core plies at the same speed with a placement accuracy of +/- ¼" (6 mm). Its modular design also allows for the future increase in capacity and provides access in case of manual veneer reject. The layup has proven to be highly efficient and is currently operating at up to 40% over rated capacity with a high percentage of uptime. Pre-pressing of the LVL billet is required so that the glue lines don't dry out prior to hot pressing and to further A solid strategic vision Mill Manager, Greg Gassner and Site Engineer, Bill Thompson are responsible for the day-to-day operations of Murphy Engineered Wood. Both men have extensive backgrounds in wood products; Gassner in plywood, including several years managing Murphy's Sutherlin mill and Thompson in multiple roles, including participation in three LVL projects prior to joining Murphy. Both men stated that the opportunity to be part of Murphy Engineered Wood was an easy buy-in. 16 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine "I first saw LVL during a Raute Wood Safari to Finland in the early 80's", said Bill Thompson. "I thought it was an interesting product, seeing that plywood was already established and OSB was beginning to emerge. From that point on I followed its progress with growing interest and have since been involved in four major LVL projects, including the Murphy one." Both Thompson and Gassner saw the inevitability of a product like LVL developing in lieu of solid sawn lumber. They cited the withdrawal of old growth, high-strength fiber in the Pacific Northwest as a driving force along with the general trend towards second-growth utilization. This caused wood industry watchdog agencies to begin derating lumber in terms of span capabilities, which saw the need for a replacement. To Thompson and Gassner, LVL was a good fit. They were equally complimentary of the work done by LVL producers, such as Louisiana Pacific, in promoting LVL, stating that they have created product literature and span tables that are valuable tools for architects and designers, while creating products like I-joists that utilize LVL flanges and OSB webs. Further, they saw the work of APA ­ The Engineered Wood Association as being just as effective through their preparation of testing procedures and their promotion of LVL to markets both inside and outside North America. Bill Thompson pointed to dual layup as being a particularly innovative feature of the new LVL line. "It is simple and optimizes the operation of the prepress", he stated. "The fork layup is mechanically sound and performs at a rate that exceeds our stated requirements. It started up on Day One and hasn't looked back." Gassner believes Murphy Engineered Wood is well placed for the future. "Murphy has a solid strategic vision. We are in control of our own veneer, which is very important because you cannot make high-quality LVL from poor quality veneer. Veneer preparation is the key to success. We are well located and have trained staff who are enthusiastic and willing to learn. They understand veneer handling, grading, gluing and pressing and are encouraged to speak up about process issues they observe during shifts. And, we are allied with Louisiana Pacific, one of North America's leading producers and distributors of LVL, who have done everything possible to ensure that both our companies succeed in this new venture." >> Left: A special feature of the Murphy LVL line is its ability to layup and pre-press two 15-ply billets simultaneously. This has significantly improved throughput. Right from the top: Sheets of graded veneer are transported on the layup conveyor ahead of the curtain coater stations. The line has feeders that automatically insert face sheets and replacement sheets. Operator screens are highly informative and easy to read. This screen shows important information concerning the Raute veneer dryer. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 17 >> As to the performance of Raute as a major vendor in the project, the comments from both Thompson and Gassner were positive. Said Bill Thompson, "The experience in working with Raute in this project has been very good. Their solutions have been innovative and their people have been very willing to listen and work with Murphy's people. They have been able to fulfill their role in Murphy's business plan. It has been a good project for Raute and Murphy Company. How the equipment was built and installed; how it was started up and how the product has gone out the door is a positive reflection of how well the project went." Acceptance testing was carried out during March, 2008. Results exceeded guaranteed capacities in each case. Dryer production on full sheet sap was at 20% above guaranteed capacity, while heart has run as high as 60 sheets/minute. The VDA camera grading has been at 95% on-grade and better since startup. Testing of the LVL layup and pressing line showed the system to be performing at 122% of guaranteed value. The billet handling line, too, performed exceptionally well at 140% of guaranteed value. With these results, and the dedication and enthusiasm of their staff, Murphy Engineered Wood can look forward to the successful operation of their new LVL business in Sutherlin. Testing of the LVL layup and pressing line showed the system to be performing at 122% of guaranteed value. Cut-to-length LVL billets are stacked ahead of the sawing line. They are then sawn to required widths and finished with a weatherproof coating. The forested hills of western Oregon provide a scenic backdrop to packages of LVL produced by Murphy Engineered Wood at their new facility in Sutherlin. 18 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine text: Rick Massey Lengths and strengths Murphy Engineered Wood "mousetrap" comes on-line in grand style PRIOR TO BEING destroyed by fire, Murphy Company's Sutherlin plywood mill had been a Pacific Northwest success story. "We hadn't had a losing month since 1992", said company President John Murphy, adding that the decision to rebuild was not made lightly. "Murphy is a family company and the family members are the shareholders. The decision had to be made whether to return insurance funds to the owners or to build a new mill." As a group, the family explored its options before deciding to construct an LVL mill that gave them entry into the engineered wood business. "We saw many advantages to entering the LVL business", said John Murphy."Our site in Sutherlin is well located, our displaced workforce already had extensive veneer experience and we had plenty of support from local government. When people heard the term `engineered wood', interest in our intentions definitely grew." Murphy went on to extol what he sees as the virtues of LVL. "It is a hightech but simple product that makes the most of its lengths and strengths. Layup recipes are easy to manage and set up, the mill environment is clean and it's made of veneer and glue. No big mysteries. And, it can be produced efficiently with a reduced workforce." Murphy further believes that the "white-floor" approach to manufacturing LVL makes it more appealing to potential employees. According to John Murphy, survival in the PNW wood basket is a challenge. Located in the middle of Douglas fir country, Murphy must compete with sawmills, plymills and other LVL and specialty plants, all of which need to high grade their wood for such products as MSR lumber and G1/2/3 grade veneer. "In a way, our new LVL mill is a kind of mousetrap, centrally located and able to capture wood locally. We are able to high-grade veneer from our mills in White City, Oregon and Elma, Washington and supplement it with locally procured wood.Veneer that doesn't make grade finds a home elsewhere." Having made the decision to build the new LVL mill, Murphy next faced what is, perhaps, the most difficult issue facing any new start-up project ­ how to sell the product? Said John Murphy, "We were confident in our ability to make the product, but we had no experience in selling LVL."To meet their needs, Murphy Engineered Wood turned to Louisiana Pacific. "LP, we felt, possessed the expertise and market penetration necessary to take our LVL to market, while we are a very competent company located on the West Coast right off Interstate 5 in the middle of the Douglas fir region. Murphy and LP were made for each other." To date, Murphy management has expressed great satisfaction with the exclusive sales agreement signed between the two companies. "For us, it has meant achieving national market coverage through LP's office in Nashville, Tennessee while, for LP, they have expressed their satisfaction with having access to some of the best product the LVL industry has ever seen." Murphy also likes having the ability to view inventories on a daily basis, which enables the mill to make quick adjustments to production. "Communication between our two companies is excellent and we have been able to get to market much faster than if we'd had to rely on our own devices. This relationship gives LP access to first-class product, while enabling a small company, like Murphy Engineered Wood, to have a strong market presence." As to Murphy's choosing of Raute as the primary vendor of LVL equipment, the Murphy Company President cited a number of reasons. "First, it was important to Murphy Company that we worked with a single vendor so that responsibility was focused. Second, I had made earlier visits to Raute in Finland and I was impressed with what I saw and Raute's reputation. Third, Raute's LVL technology is simple, proven and economical and we wanted to be in production within the period required under the terms of our insurance settlement. And, fourth, our engineering contractor, Evergreen Engineering, as well as our in-house engineer, Bill Thompson, already had previous positive experience with Raute." As to his satisfaction in working with Raute, John Murphy was very complimentary. "This was a major undertaking for both Murphy Company and Raute. I found that, although Raute is a company with global status, they acted as a local vendor and were able to quickly make decisions that affected the project. I felt, also, that Raute's engineering and project management people acted with Murphy Company's best interests at heart. When issues arose, they were discussed and courses of action were arrived at. All in all, I would have to say that we have enjoyed an excellent working relationship." The official opening of Murphy Engineered Wood took place on St. Patrick's Day, March 17 of this year. In 2009, Murphy Company will celebrate its centennial. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 19 text: Sane Keskiaho Product development Raute believes that true product development should be based on the continual development of existing products, not simply the designing of new products. IT IS DUE TO THIS focus that processing lines are able to do more with less ­ more production and better recovery with less energy and materials. During its long history, Raute has brought to market many innovative products and manufacturing methods, which have played important roles in shaping the plywood and veneer industries. This same innovative thinking continues today. Says Raute's Vice President, Technology and Operations, Petri Strengell,"Success in our business cannot be achieved without constant product development. Raute strives to positively affect environmental values through responsible product development. We do this by improving high on agenda wood yield, reducing glue consumption, minimizing waste and, effectively, reducing where we can any negative environmental impact caused by the process of manufacturing plywood." "We don't concentrate solely on improving our own quality standards at Raute. Our product development team is always trying to find ways that would enable customers to achieve optimum results in their business operations as well," adds Strengell, stating further that environmental values and the preservation of natural resources are a central part of Raute's policy. "Success in our business cannot be achieved without constant product development", says Petri Strengell. 20 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine "It should be noted that stringent laws exist in Finland to regulate industrial emissions. Raute has worked hard to be a development leader in this area as well, aiming always to operate at levels that are well within the statutory limits of industry", said Strengell. Raute achieves this, in part, by systematically developing the environmental soundness of its products and services. Hannu Keskiväli, Manager, Development Projects, explained, "Raute's production facilities in the Finnish towns of Nastola and Jyväskylä have achieved ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 quality and environmental management certificates. Inspections audits are carried out twice a year at both sites during which the Facility Maintenance Officer, insurance company representative, the Industrial Safety Officer and I participate. During the inspection the entire plant is audited from a safety and environmental perspective." Small changes lead to big results Raute's environmental issues are divided into two areas. The first deals with products and services from the customer's point of view. In other words, how much more finished plywood can be manufactured while minimizing the use of energy and glue and achieving higher recovery? The second issue involves Raute's operations at its own industrial sites. Here, the central issue is the reduction of waste. Says Keskiväli "At both our Nastola and Jyväskylä plants, the proportion of recycling in production is 90%. Our continuing goal is to increase the volume of recyclable material annually, and thus to reduce the amount of waste that finds itself in the landfill." At Raute, special attention has been paid to energy and water consumption. Investments needn't always be costly or broad-reaching. Excellent results have also been achieved through small changes. "Our factories have large doors that are opened regularly. On cold winter days the amount of heat loss used to be immense,"Strengell said, adding that the so- lution for reducing energy consumption was somewhat surprising and simple ­ air curtains installed on the doors. "An air curtain is simply warm air blown between the doors with pin-point accuracy. You can walk through it in a normal fashion, but warm air cannot flow out. We have also reduced water waste in the plant by exchanging conventional taps with spring-activated water dispensers. Now, everyone can enjoy a refreshingly cold drink of water without having to let the tap run. This has enabled us to minimize water consumption and associated costs." Every year, Raute focuses on selected areas of product development, from the standpoints of both production and process. This year, Raute undertook a survey of the chemicals used in the production of plywood. The aim of the survey is to reduce chemical consumption by 30%. Said Hannu Keskiväli,"The chemical survey was carried out in order to eliminate any unnecessary chemical utilization or overlapping of their use. Plywood products have developed over the years, so there are many chemicals around today that can be used for multiple purposes." Raute strives to positively affect environmental values through responsible product development. Expertise around the clock Raute's believes that its strengths, compared to those of its competitors, are its broad technology offering and its fullservice concept. "We serve the interests of our customers throughout the entire life-cycles of the products they purchase from us, from planning through to after-sales services. A long product life-cycle is in the best interests of Raute and our customers. We maintain their machinery and, when necessary, modernize all or part of their machines or production lines," says Strengell. Approximately fifty major projects, together with numerous modernization projects, pass through Raute's Nastola factory every year. Work is performed in one, two or three shifts, depending on the workload. Some of the production equipment operates around the clock. "Production lines are designed, assembled and test run at Nastola, after which they are delivered to their destinations. Customizing each customer's product to suit their requirements, whether it be a whole mill, production line or standalone machine is part of our key knowhow. Key technology is manufactured at our own production facility, however, certain other parts are purchased from subcontractors," says Strengell. For a long time Raute's head office was situated in Lahti, an industrial city located one hundred kilometers north of Helsinki. When the factory grew too small, operations were gradually moved to Nastola, twenty kilometers to the east. The first manufacturing hall was built on that site in the 1960s with several more being added over the years. Today, the Nastola site includes a sixstorey administration and engineering building, a 12,500 m² production facility, a 2,200 m² press manufacturing facility, a 1,700 m² test facility, as well as warehousing facilities and a staff canteen. Raute's Jyväskylä plant, located two hours' drive north, focuses on the design, assembly and testing of panel handling and overlaying machinery. In addition, Raute recently opened a production unit in China. "Our unit in China concentrates on manufacturing machinery parts, parts assembly, various conveyor solutions and products that we used to purchase from subcontractors," says Strengell, adding that Raute's China unit was set up in order to improve the cost effectiveness of simpler equipment, like conveyors. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 21 text: Sane Keskiaho INVESTING out our hundred-year history. in know-how, development and the transfer to committed of expertise Raute's success is duehasour staff of skilled,and nurturedprofessionals. This resource been appreciated through- Antti Taavila came to Raute straight from high school and is studying for a vocational qualification in maintenance. 22 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine NEW HUMAN RESOURCE challenges in Finland, where the company's main production facilities are located, have arisen due to the aging of personnel and the labour shortage that threatens the industry. The retirement of installation staff in the near future and the forthcoming labour shortage have been addressed by systematically surveying the skills of employees and developing their know-how. "We have surveyed the skills of each installation technician and, at the same time, assessed those areas of technology where we believe the lack of know-how will most likely occur in the future. By so doing we have been able to train new installation staff to perform the tasks they will need to perform," says Anne Aaltonen, Raute's HR Development Manager. The aging of personnel is a problem for many Finnish companies. The post World War II baby-boomers are now beginning to retire and it is difficult to find new employees to take their place. "Luckily, vocational training is highly valued by today's youth. This assists us in finding skilled employees. The challenge is to transfer the knowledge gained through the experience of senior staff to new employees." Learning at work Personnel training is nothing new at Raute. Know-how and skills have always been highly valued by the company. "Apprenticeships are an excellent way for us to attract new professionals.Vocational training can provide the basic skills needed for the job, however, working at Raute requires certain skills that can't be learned at school. Every project undertaken by the company is different, so learning is a long-term process. We have top professionals in the field who mentor younger employees and act as their work partners, imparting their own knowledge and experience to these future professionals. Apprenticeships are complemented by, for example, internal training, language studies and further education at educational institutions. Raute employees working at customers' mills, whether in Finland or abroad, are required to have language, social and networking skills, in addition to their professional skills," said Aaltonen. To counterbalance the demands of the job, Raute offers challenging and interesting work opportunities in an international climate. During the past hundred years, Raute has become a global leader in its field and the company intends to stay on the cutting edge of development for the next one hundred years as well. This will require recruitment of competent, innovative and motivated people. That is why Raute is also investing in physical well-being of its personnel by organizing various recreational activities, as well as by performing fitness surveys. "Being in good physical shape is an important part of coping with the demands of the job. We encourage our employees to keep in shape by providing various planned fitness activities, and by making access to fitness clubs available as well as supporting the fitness activities of individuals." "Vocational training is highly valued by today's youth. This assists us in finding skilled employees ," says Anne Aaltonen, HR Development Manager. Raute has a typical age profile for the metal industry. New professionals are needed to replace those retiring, but most importantly, the know-how accumulated over the years by the older employees needs to be transferred to the younger generation. >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 23 >> Job profile changes with age and experience Raute has a typical age profile for the metal industry. New professionals are needed to replace those retiring, but most importantly, the know-how accumulated over the years by the older employees needs to be transferred to the younger generation. Securing long-term expertise is valued at Raute and is in part secured by adapting employees' job profiles in accordance with their life situations. One of Raute's long-term employees and a mentor to younger employees is Erkki Lindqvist. Lindqvist, who celebrates his 40-year career at Raute next year, has travelled the world installing Raute machinery for 22 years. A little over ten years ago his job profile changed. "I got tired of the constant travelling. When I got the feeling that I'd done everything and seen everything for the thousandth time, I knew it was time for a change," says Lindqvist reflecting on his career. Lindqvist's change came when Matti Paakki, Raute's Product Development Manager at the time, decided he needed a skilled mechanic to assist in product development, a position Erkki Lindqvist was able to fill. Adapting a long career according to an employee's life circumstances and physical condition enhances the efficiency of that employee's work performance. Erkki Linqvist's long experience and expertise in the installation of Raute machinery is now an invaluable addition to product development. "I know what the product does and what's required of it, so the customer will also appreciate it," Lindqvst says. He is also happy that he now has more time for himself, his family and for his spare time activities. In addition, he no longer feels burdened by the demands put on installers in the field. "Working as a mentor has also given me a lot. Raute has been an excellent employer and by passing along my knowledge, I am giving back to the company," explains Erkki Lindqvist, with 40-year career at Raute. 24 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine "Schedules are tight. Keeping to them requires installers to work long hours and have a very diverse knowledge base. However, at some point we all need to slow down. I'm now on a part-time pension which has provided me with a new enthusiasm for my job," Lindqvist says. A comprehensive approach to the development of expertise THE TRANSFER OF KNOW-HOW is required in order to improve and develop internal expertise. On its own, however, it is not enough. Internal expertise also needs to be constantly developed in a variety of ways. The ongoing development of expertise is among Raute's core strategic policies, guaranteeing that we will have skilled professionals in the future. The basis for this development is the identification of important areas of expertise and anticipating the types of skills that will be needed in the future. Based on this understanding, courses of action can be planned and, if necessary, new work methods and models can be created for putting the development work into practice. Analyzing the current situation on a regular basis guarantees that the areas under focus remain on course. The motivation of company personnel is key to developing the expertise of the company as a whole. At Raute, the progress and career development of every employee is supported and advanced using a number of initiatives. These include conducting skills surveys, monitoring the personal development of employees, recruiting and training new professionals, in-house learning, mentoring, internal and outsourced training, as well as the undertaking of various educational degrees. From master to apprentice In addition to having enjoyed many wonderful experiences, the years spent travelling the world have gained for Erkki Lindqvist an immense amount of experience that cannot be found in books. He is now passing on this valuable knowledge by mentoring the much younger Antti Taavila. Mentoring is a tradition that has been reawakened at Raute. It has been identified as an efficient way to operate from both the employer's and employees' points of view. "It's great that I can pass on my knowledge to a young, enthusiastic and receptive person. Antti and I agreed from the beginning that everything can and should be called into question. There is never just one way of doing things," explains Lindqvist. Antti Taavila came to Raute straight from high school. At present he is studying for a vocational qualification in maintenance through his apprenticeship. Antti wishes to achieve a specialist vocational qualification in the future. "Raute's support of its employees' education and competence development is versatile. It was an important factor for me when applying for this job. I want to develop myself and my work skills," Taavila says, adding that it is easy working with Erkki."He advises me and assists me whenever I need help. It's great to be learning from one of the best. Erkki's broad experience has enhanced my personal learning," says Taavila. Reflects Erkki Lindqvist, "Working as a mentor has also given me a lot. Raute has been an excellent employer and by passing along my knowledge, I am giving back to the company." Working on the road as an installation technician is demanding. Installation times are usually long and installers often have to live in foreign countries for months at a time. For a young installation technician, every new factory and every new country is a challenge. "In this work being able to present yourself socially is important, second only to your professional installation skills. At customer sites you must interact with different people and different cultures on a regular basis," says Lindqvist. Antti's first long trip abroad is behind him. It was an experience that he would not change for anything. "You have to make it on your own when you're abroad. I couldn't turn to Erkki when the first problem came up, but had to solve it myself. In addition to learning new things, I also learned to speak Swedish fluently." Lindqvist explains that new installers learn the most when a new line is started up. They are able to observe, in real terms, the manufacture of the product. That is when they gain insight, which helps them to develop and learn. "Monitoring an installation cannot be compared to working at the factory. That is where I receive vital knowledge about machines and how they're built. Monitoring installations is very different," Antti says, adding that, for an installer, there is no experience better than seeing how logs are turned into veneer. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 25 text: Molli Nyman New opportunities IN CHINA In September, 2006 Raute Corporation's subsidiary in China, Raute (Shanghai) Machinery Co. Ltd., obtained the permits necessary to conduct business. Now, less than two years later, the operation has more than doubled in size. RAUTE'S BUSINESS OPERATIONS comprise project deliveries and technology services for the wood products industry. As the wood products industry is sensitive to changes in the global economy, particularly those affecting construction and transportation, many companies have been forced to seek alternative production sources in order to maintain a healthy cost structure. This is enabling such companies to benefit from flexible factory loading while maintaining ontime delivery and quality. When Raute began considering China as a possibility for both procurement and production operations, the main goal was to reduce Raute's vulnerability to economic fluctuations. Raute began making structural changes to its production process in 2005. Now, the company concentrates on maintaining its core competence inhouse while outsourcing those activities not requiring a high level of technology and expertise. "From the start it was clear that we wanted to be able to maintain the high quality of our operations. We knew that China was the place to go when considering our opportunities, but we wanted to keep matters in our own hands. By starting our operation in Shanghai, we could still get all the benefits, however, control of delivery times and the quality of the operation was still in our own hands. We also wanted to be close to the Chinese market in order to be able to serve local customers", says Tapani Kiiski, President and CEO of Raute Corporation. The Shanghai facility began as a trading operation employing three persons. It has since developed into a fullscale plant employing 40 people. Floor area has more than doubled to 3,800 m2. Equipment manufactured in Shanghai is shipped to Raute's factories in either Finland or Canada for further processing or delivered directly to the customers' sites. We are interested in expanding our international operations by localized procurement and production. The Shanghai operation has exceeded all our expectations, and are convinced that this model can work well also in other places. The official opening ceremony of the new premises was held on 28 February 2008. 26 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine Automatic direct veneer slicing and drying line text: Matti Aho great slicing and drying technology strides in veneer Those involved in the veneer industry will be familiar with the expression ­ hurry up and wait. This situation occurs when the auxiliary functions are not synchronized with the main production process, resulting in non-productive operating time and less-than-optimal performance. A GOOD ANALOGY is a motorist who pulls up next to you at a red light and speeds off when it turns green, only to be sitting and waiting at the next red light when you pull up next to him. Steady progress wins the race! Raute's engineers considered this scenario when designing our new horizontal veneer slicer. The design philosophy focused on maximizing productivity by looking beyond the maximum operating speed of the machine to a system that performs on a continuous and reliable basis, from one shift to the next, day after day. In this way the goal of minimizing non-productive downtime would be met and optimal operating time would be realized. By operating the slicer at its optimal, not necessarily maximum, speed, slicing operations would realize several important benefits, among them precise control of slicing parameters, the best sliced veneer quality possible, and less equipment wear resulting in reduced maintenance. Raute's credentials as a technology provider to the decorative veneer business are our extensive experience in the wood products industry, globally, and the important development work we have undertaken since 2005 based on the proprietary slicing and drying technology acquired by Raute previously. Raute makes >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 27 >> Formula for success A proven formula does exist for the profitable production of wood products, including decorative veneer. When slicing and drying technology performs at the level necessary to ensure profitable production, the following success parameters are being met. This applies to: · recovery ­ maximizing the volume of usable veneer obtained from each flitch, · quality ­ producing veneer of uniform thickness that is free from cracks, · productivity ­ optimizing veneer output per shift, and · capacity ­ potential volume that the line can produce. With the knowledge that these performance standards are being met, mill personnel will perform their tasks with greater confidence, while buyers will be assured of receiving product that performs to specification and represents value for money. Technology and safety combined The following performance parameters can be considered the preferred qualities in a modern veneer slicer: · it produces high-quality veneer on a consistent basis, · it maximizes recovery and productivity, · it is safe to operate for the operator and maintenance personnel, and · it follows the flow-through principle; i.e., it fits seamlessly into an automatic direct veneer slicing and drying line, when required. Raute viewed the horizontal slicing method as offering the best solution for satisfying these design criteria. After consulting with users and reviewing alternative slicing techniques, it was determined that horizontal slicing provides optimal performance with respect to veneer quality and smooth operation. The gravity minimizes automatically the play in the movements of both the flitch table and the knife carriage, and as a result, the tolerances re- main constant and within specification over time. Safety is also a relevant factor in horizontal slicing. At no time is the operator required to put himself between the knife and the flitch and the flitch cannot fall off the horizontal table. The noise level of the unit while operating is also low. Operation Flitches are positioned on the flitch table by a traveling carriage charger and held in position by clamping dogs or optional vacuum table. When required, the carriage charger will turn the flitch automatically. The flitch table then moves horizontally under the knife carriage in a back and forth motion. With each pass of the flitch across the knife, the carriage adjusts vertically in increments equal to the thickness of the cut. Immediately after the veneer is sliced from the flitch it is automatically conveyed to a crowding conveyor installed between the slicer and dryer. When required, veneer can also be stacked manually after slicing. Raute veneer press dryer at UPM's Lohja veneer mill. 28 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine Dry veneer moisture analyzer at the press dryer exit. The conveying speed of the discharging device is synchronized with the cutting speed of the flitch table. The handling of the veneer is achieved without damage to the surface of the veneer and at high speed. Each piece of veneer is discharged with the finished surface right-side-up, which eliminates the need to turn the veneers. The backing board is discharged automatically. screen press drying system has several unique features that result in: · veneer with a smooth surface and no cracks, · veneer that is flat with no buckling, · veneer that has uniform final moisture content, and · veneer that does not undergo color degradation. In addition, the drying system enables mills to remain competitive by delivering high productivity, measured in sheets per minute, low energy consumption, low labor requirements, and easy control over the process variables. Maintaining quality through the dryer It is essential that the quality of the green sliced veneer isn't compromised during drying. To ensure this, Raute's These results are achieved through a high level of automation, tight and leak-free dryer construction, the use of energy-efficient, inverter-controlled fans and optimized humidity control. A multi-tiered MIS reporting system is also available. Veneer is transported through the dryer between high-quality stainless steel mesh belts in a curved multiple omega path. The difference in peripheral velocity between the outer and inner belts in turns creates an ironing effect on the veneer to enhance its smoothness. The belts are driven, guided and supported by precision-made rollers. Belt >> PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 29 >> tensioning and tracking is controlled pneumatically. Veneer is stacked manually after the dryer. If it exits the dryer too hot, it will absorb moisture from the air and may buckle. For this reason the temperature of the veneer coming out of the dryer must be as close to the mill ambient temperature as possible. An efficient cooling section ensures that the veneer is at the proper temperature after drying. Advanced control A highly-accurate dry veneer moisture analyzer (DMA) is used to measure the moisture content of the dry veneer. This moisture data together with the moisture data collected on the green veneer is then used to automatically control the dryer belt speed. The control system has pre-programmed drying recipes that are written according to the species, veneer thickness and the length of the veneer sheet. Each recipe has default values that are programmed in accordance with air temperature, air velocity, air humidity and belt speed. An optional Management Information System (MIS) provides on-line information concerning operating parameters, including production levels and downtime fault data. This information is downloaded directly to the mill's ERP system and may be accessed from anywhere in the mill or from a remote location, enabling troubleshooting to be carried out without the presence of a Raute service technician. Modern technology meets long traditions The first Raute made horizontal veneer slicer will be installed at UPM's veneer mill in Lohja, Finland. It will be connected to an 8-section Raute veneer press dryer to form an automatic direct veneer slicing and drying line. This mill has long traditions as the leading manufacturer of decorative birch veneer in Europe. The Raute horizontal veneer slicer at Raute's R&D center. 30 PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine Wood Technology Show 2008 12­14 March, Portland, Oregon text: Rick Massey photos: Mikko Pajamies GIVEN THE CURRENT situation of the North American wood products industry, all exhibitors at this year's show were understandably concerned about the level of attendance. During downturns in our industry, it is usual for corporations to limit the number of people they allow to attend trade shows. Such was the case at this year's show. However, while the number of attendees may have been down, many of those who did attend were corporate decisionmakers, responsible for capital purchases. At this year's event, Raute chose to showcase two technologies that are very much at the forefront of our technology offering to the North American plywood industry ­ robotic panel patching and XY block optimization. Using a static display and video, visitors were introduced to Raute's panel repair technology that combines the precise defect recognition capabilities of our VDA camera scanning system with the precise positioning accuracy and reliable operation of industrial robots. Advantages of using this new technology are many. They include the ability to easily define the grade and patch count, to make proprietary products according to recipe-driven grades and the certainty that the quality of the patched panels will be consistent. One operator only is required for monitoring purposes. Other benefits include the elimination of the demanding physical labor associated with panel patching and the elimination of the risk of injury to mill personnel. To demonstrate how our XY block optimization works, a simulation was used. It consisted of three curtain lasers positioned above a rotating block. Video of the system in operation was shown, while an animation demonstrated the finer details of this technology we call Smart Scan. The data generated by the Smart Scan block optimization system is used to automatically position the lathe's knife carriage. Its 8,000 plus data points per block provide a true 3D image to ensure precise scanning. Other "hot" topics included the recent start-up of the Murphy Engineered Wood LVL line in Sutherlin, Oregon in which Raute was the primary equipment supplier and the vigorous business activity Raute is experiencing, especially in Russia and South America. Thanks to all who visited our booth at this year's show. PLYVISIONS ­ Raute Customer Magazine 31 A century of global expertise Raute is the leading technology company in its sector serving the wood products industry worldwide by adding value to its customers' businesses. The core of operations comprises the manufacturing processes for veneer-based products. The company was founded in 1908. 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