Germany, March 10-16, 2018
The WCMA just wrapped up their second European Plant Tour event, and it was a great success. Members and Tech Partners that participated in the tours all had positive takeaways. The event was sponsored for three days by Stiles Machinery, and two days by Pollmeier, Inc.
WCMA President, Steve Mashl, with Valley Custom Door, stated “This was my second trip with the WCMA group to Europe and it lived up to our expectations. We saw many highly automated factories engaging in panel and wood processing, along with tours of the HOMAG factory and Pollmeier sawmills. The combination of the plant tours, networking with other members, and just taking the time to see how other businesses operate was amazing. This will certainly help me in the future to make better decisions in our company's growth in technology and manufacturing. Thanks again to HOMAG and Pollmeier for their hospitality and time spent with us on the tours.”
Steve Gerber, with Gerber Wood Products, added “I found the quality of the plant tours to be excellent. They offered a diverse view into the European philosophy of manufacturing by utilizing more automation and technology, replacing aging equipment quickly, and utilizing a wide range of wood composite materials. I saw levels of automation in action that I had often dreamt of but never believed were being applied in real woodshop applications. I left my week in Germany inspired and ready to apply aspects of what I learned in my own business.”
Attendees arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, and had the first night to explore the city on their own. The group then headed to Heidelberg and toured the Heidelberg Palace. Our tour guide was dressed in historical costume and guided us through an exclusive route throughout the castle. The evening concluded with a group dinner, and it was a great way for attendees to meet and discuss the upcoming week.
Monday was a busy day, beginning with a tour of Munch & Munch Co. This highly automated factory is a producer of wooden furniture and high-end store fixtures, with a focus on high-end interior design and fitting out. Their slogan is “store in motion”, and with the sophisticated equipment in the shop, it is easy to see how their focus on quality products is the key to satisfying their esteemed customers. The plant is quite impressive and incorporates a significant amount of natural light to give employees a more natural work environment.
The group then ventured into the Black Forest area, and toured Ruhsi GmbH & Co. Founded in 1949, Ruhsi specializes in the manufacture of supplier parts for the contract furniture industry, with a focus on table tops, reception areas, and flocking. Their trademark is state-of-the-art technology, high-quality products, and customized solutions at the highest level. The owner of the plant updates all machinery in the plant every six years in order to have top-notch technology and stay ahead of the curve. They currently produce 500 table tops per day, and it is truly an impressive facility.
Tuesday kept us in the Black Forest area with tours of Nestle-Fenster and the HOMAG Group. Nestle-Fenster is a high-quality manufacturer of windows and doors utilizing high-tech equipment for customized, one-of-a-kind products. With 60 employees, this beautiful new facility delivers just-in-time orders of products that are shipped or installed the next day. This batch one shop, where every window is custom sized, produces 12-15 thousand windows per year in a highly automated facility.
HOMAG Group was the next stop on the tour. Known as the leading manufacturer of machinery and equipment for the woodworking industry and the trades, HOMAG assists their customers in analyzing their factory to identify where they want to be, and then choosing the right equipment to get them there. The tour of the facility included insight into how HOMAG is focusing on the future of the industry, and attendees got look at the new expansion that will help reduce lead times on machinery. Attendees wrapped up Tuesday evening with a chance to visit Freudenstadt market square, the largest in all of Europe.
The group then traveled to Wilburgstetten for a tour of Walter Bosch, GmbH. For over 125 years, the name “Bosch” has been associated with forward-looking technology and trailblazing inventions that have made history. This second-generation company focuses on just-in-time delivery of high end parts. They have been known to produce components with as little as a four-hour lead time. The volume of high-tech equipment at this plant is truly remarkable, some of the equipment is not used regularly, but is kept on hand to ensure their customers have a reliable source for their component needs.
It was then on to Wiesenbronn for a tour of Georg Ackerman GmbH. Ackermann is a company whose reputation as a creative supplier for carpenters, joiners, shopfitters and trade construction companies, has steadily grown in recent years. Their winning solution is with architects – you dream it, they do it. This very creative operation uses a variety of materials and processes to design and install exhibition construction and interior design. Innovation was clearly the spirit at Ackerman, attendees were very impressed with the ability of the designers to create whatever the customer could envision.
The week wrapped up with visits to Pollmeier’s BauBuche Beech LVL mill, as well as the Creuzburg sawmill and ripping line, and the Aschaffenburg Sawmill. BauBuche is a laminated veneer lumber made from locally sourced beech manufactured exclusively by Pollmeier. BauBuche is produced in a completely new, yet highly economical, process. Peeled veneer layers of 3mm thickness are parallel or cross-laminated and turned into beams, boards, panels and flooring elements. The LVL mill was very impressive and the level of automation inspired attendees. The Pollmeier sawmill in Aschaffenburg, one of the largest in all of Europe, employs 170 workers over 2 shifts, and produces over 50,000 boards per day. It was amazing to see such a highly technical sawmill running state-of-the-art equipment at a very clean and inspiring facility.
Overall, quite a bit of ground was covered during the week, and the group saw a variety of manufacturers – from high end global suppliers, to local custom shops. The consistent method for their success was utilizing automation to meet customer’s needs, production times, to work around an unreliable workforce, and efficiently produce the quality products their customers expected.
As Jacques Michaud, with OSI Machineries stated “all attendees appreciated the quality and diversity of the content of this tour. The event was very professionally organized, and it we enjoyed every one’s company.”