We spent three days taking in all we could at the vast Hannover fairgrounds during this year’s LIGNA event. The world’s leading woodworking trade fair did not fall short of the hype, leaving us very impressed with what we saw and excited to take some ideas back to our plant.
Going into the show, we had a couple of key things we were eager to learn more about. If you missed our pre-LIGNA run down, you can read it here. During our time at the event, we met with familiar faces at our manufacturing partner’s booths, learned about solutions to expand our current capabilities, and explored new solutions—all with the mindset of "smart, futureproof solutions." According to show management, "Ligna 2019 made it amply clear that technology users are now 'getting smart' with regard to digitization and automation. Major emphasis was placed on integrated solutions enabling companies of all sizes—from niche woodworking firms to large-scale manufacturers—to meet current market demands and prepare for future challenges. And digitization featured prominently for the primary wood industry, as well."
Here’s our three-day recap:
We arrived at the show and started the day off in the IMA Schelling booth. They have been a long-time manufacturing partner for us, so it was exciting to see the technology they had on display. First, we saw the new IoT and service platform being presented at the show. Closing the gap between the machine manufacturer and the customer offers significant benefit in an ever-changing industry. We also got to see the IMA Performance.one laser edgebanding machine running in their booth, which is the same edgebander that we will have in our plant by the end of this year. The machine features the combination of high-quality edgebanding technology and a return feed system, but what we were most attracted to from this machine is the servo-infeed table for fully automatic rectangular workpiece feeding.
After finishing up in the IMA Schelling booth, we started making our way all over the fairgrounds and taking notes to remember what we wanted to revisit and learn more about. We knew a key theme for this year was customized automation and Industry 4.0, but to say this is the year of the robot is an understatement. However, automation technology was not the only trend at the show.
No surprise here. This was a recurring theme in technology being shown by exhibitors. There were robots everywhere we looked. From material handling to collaboration by humans and machines, there are so many applications. Currently, we are installing robotics and automation with our PUR line and integrating more across our plant as our capability expansion continues. We are looking into additional ways we can utilize the technology and efficiency a robot has to offer.
As the market continues to change, so do the products and capabilities our customers request from us. Prior to the show, we hadn’t given much thought to digital printing in our facility. The digital printing technology we saw at the show would allow us to keep up with the demand and offer new capabilities. Large format custom design is becoming more prominent, but custom laminate is expensive with long lead times. The machines use software to generate challenging decorative laminate layers in a high level of quality, which got us thinking about what it would look like to use digital printing to print directly onto core materials. While we don’t have any plans to add digital printing to our current offerings, you never know what the future has in store!
We did a tour of the Homag booth to start our second day of the show. Their current key focus is digitalization, so much of the technology they were showing featured this idea. To quote our guide, “start small, start now.” When it comes to digitalization, there are applications for companies of all sizes to use. We also got to see the highly anticipated InnovationCenter while we were there. The InnovationCenter gave visitors an inside look at the company’s journey into the future of machine operation. We can’t give up any secrets, but, trust us, it will be interesting to see what’s next!
After our time at Homag, we met with Jowat Adhesives to discuss a potential supplier partnership for our PUR line. They presented us with several glue options to use in our PUR line, as well as our new laser edgebander, which will also use PUR glue rather than EVA/PVA glue. Needless to say, we will be going through a significant amount of PUR adhesives! With our new PUR laminating line going in this summer, we are getting close to making a final decision on a supplier for the adhesive required to run our new machine.
BIOMASS FOR ENERGY
In general, the United States is behind the curve when it comes to using biomass in energy production. As we mentioned in our IWF blog post, we decided we wanted a wood grinder in our plant to reduce the volume of our scrap wood. So, earlier this year we bought a Vecoplan wood grinder, but as we were walking the show, we started thinking more seriously about what it would look like to do something more valuable to reduce our footprint and repurpose our wood waste. While it doesn’t make sense for us to produce boiler fuel since we only require heating the plant a few months out of the year, we are looking into options to convert biomass into electricity. The biggest question is what is the ROI considering the cost of the machinery?
Finally, we ended day two with one of our newest manufacturing partners, Burkle, who is providing a big part of our PUR laminating line. In their booth we got to see a similar line to ours running and discussed the upcoming installation in our plant. Burkle invited us to stay for their VIP event following the show for some networking and entertainment–big thank you to Burkle for having us!
We spent the morning with our friends at IMA Schelling. They invited us to their factory for a tour, where we got an inside look at the projects they are currently working on. We’re looking forward to coming back to their factory very soon for the run-off for our new laser edgebander.
After getting stuck in traffic on the Autobahn for nearly five hours, we finally made it to the show for our last day! We met with another one of our new manufacturing partners, Biesse. We just got our Brema Vektor 15 (watch the video below) up and running this past month, so we discussed different ways to optimize the machine to run as efficiently as possible. Biesse also had several ideas to help achieve our goal of streamlining our packaging process and moving orders through our facility.
AUTOMATED GUIDED VEHICLES
In addition to the robot in a traditional sense, such as picking up material and placing it on a machine, we had the opportunity to learn more about automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from our partners at Biesse. This is definitely a solution we are eager to research and consider for our plant in moving stacks of parts from one machining center to another.
Our capacity is going to be doubled with our new machinery, so this means we need to be able to keep up with the speed in which orders are going through our plant. Once an order is complete and goes to packaging, there are quite a few steps that are involved with inspecting and packaging to specification before getting on the truck to be delivered. At the show, we saw some packaging solutions that sparked our interest. The first being a robot that spins around the perimeter of a pallet, quickly and efficiently wrapping the entire stack of parts. We believe this is something that would cut down on man hours in the packaging department.
The next packaging solution we saw was a man-guided robot used to strap a pallet, or stack of materials. We thought this is something we could implement in our plant to strap stacks of particleboard very efficiently.
Lastly in packaging, we looked at machines making cut-to-size cardboard boxes. This is something we have been looking into as customers have started requesting certain parts be individually packaged. We are not sure how cost effective this technology is for us, but it definitely a solution we plan to research more.
We made our way back to the IMA Schelling booth to attend their VIP event. There, we enjoyed good food and conversation before saying goodbye.
It was an action-packed, fast-paced three days at LIGNA. We made a lot of new connections in the industry, got new ideas, and had a great time. Needless to say, we hope to return in 2021 for the next LIGNA woodworking fair.