Plywood Mills Eye Modernizations


Modernizations are a rapidly expanding trend in the plywood manufacturing business. "This is a fast-growing area in technology services, which has been spurred by the recent economic recession. Companies have increasingly become more cost-aware, and therefore interested in improving their present machinery through modernizations, as an alternative to new investments", tells Petri Lakka, the Group Vice President of Raute Technology Services. To companies this is a thrifty solution, which also brings them added value in the form of sustainability. Upgrading the old machinery reduces the use of raw materials and resources needed in the mill operations.

At Raute, the growing interest around modernization projects has been earmarked. "Modernizations are definitely a growing trend. Today customers want different options for their investment – some focus on acquiring new assets, but some are looking for cost-efficient modernizations for their production lines. Peeling line modernizations have been and still are the largest section of all modernization projects; modernizing a peeling line tends to be more cost-efficient than purchasing a brand new line", explains Jussi Puranen, Technology Manager at Raute Finland.

Local resources, global network of expertise

Different market areas and their individual needs provide a challenge in finding the right modernization solutions. Raute has tackled this challenge by providing local resources next to the customers' doorstep, but also relying on the expertise of its global network. "Our local people are close to our customers and have a good understanding of their specific needs. We want to be beneficial to our customers and provide them with technology that will improve their competitiveness", says Lakka.

In North America, the focus with peeling line modernizations tends to be on improving the quality and thickness tolerance of veneer, on top with increasing automation and better usability. "The ability to raise the level of automation is very important to our North American customers, where labor costs are high. Thus raising the level of automation lowers the production costs" Puranen describes.

Focus on the total process

Understanding how an individual component works is not sufficient. The challenge with peeling line modernizations is that it requires an understanding of the total process of veneer, plywood and LVL manufacturing. Raute's advantage is its process expertise, offering lifespan services for a variety of demands. "Raute is able to offer modernizations to both softwood and hardwood peeling lines. Issues such as veneer thickness, line capacity, raw materials and block diameters have an impact when thinking about the right modernization method", Puranen explains.   

Moving from hydraulic solutions towards electrical solutions

A growing amount of small service and machine manufacturers have entered the plywood markets, but Puranen sees Raute able to respond to the tightening competition: "Raute has probably the best scope of expertise in the markets. We have inextricably linked equipment manufacturing, sales and services to support our customers". To meet the future demands, Puranen sees modernizations moving from hydraulic solutions towards electric solutions. In addition, the growing demand of peeling line modernizations requires acceleration of the processes.  "The overall challenge in this industry is how to cut down the installation time. This is a question faced by everyone in this business", Puranen explains. As of now, the modernization supply chains in this industry are mainly designed for bigger projects, but Puranen predicts that in the future we will see a shift towards modernizing of smaller components as well. How to be prepared for the change? "The ability to face the future challenges is a question of competence. We have to be extremely precise in everything we do, and to handle things quickly with minimum bureaucracy. Raute is ready to take on this challenge."