In Sweden, the wood-based packaging industry is the single largest user of sawn solid-wood products. Now that SCA Tunadal can supply precision-cut components direct to customers, this frees up capacity at the sawmill while also reducing waste and increasing value.
There are currently around 300 Swedish manufacturers of woodbased packaging, each year using around three million cubic metres of sawn and dried timber. The manufacturing is highly mechanised, with long production runs and often good profitability.
When SCA Wood sales manager Robin Mikaelsson started looking at what could be done to boost the value of the large volumes involved in the packaging segment, waste and customer value quickly became the focal point.
“It’s about getting the greatest possible value out of each board of timber,” he explains. Ready-cut pieces are favoured over woodchip, despite this being a sometimes overlooked segment.
Robin’s train of thought took him to Stocka, north of Hudiksvall on Sweden’s east cost, where SCA had a long-standing customer, Stocka Emballage, that purchased timber for the production of animal bedding and loading pallets.
The company was started on a small scale in 1962. At that time the company only manufactured fish and berry containers, which it nailed together by hand. When the next generation took over management, the business expanded into producing animal bedding and disposable pallets. In 2013, the third generation of the Enros family took the helm.
“At the same time, the company was divided between me and brother,” explains Patrik Enros, who now runs a company with five employees mainly producing animal bedding and pallet liners.
Patrik has worked for the family business all his life, starting at a young age when he helped nail boxes together. When, many years later, Robin Mikaelsson visited the company and suggested Stocka Emballage write a new chapter in the company’s history, Patrik was interested. The contract was signed during an ice hockey match.
Who won the hockey match?
“No idea,” says Patrik with a smile.
The arrangement proposed by Robin Mikaelsson was for Stocka Emballage to produce finished components for SCA’s customers. As security for the investment that was required, a multi-year sub-contract was offered.
“Instead of sending the sawn timber to the grading mill in Tunadal, it now goes to Stocka where it’s cut to precise lengths and then straight on to customers,” explains Robin.
But first a new production line had to be built in the former timber warehouse where Stocka Emballage is based. The company now has a brand new fully automated timber cutting machine and five yellow robots in a row at the premises, which has been remodelled.
“This is totally new for us, with robots and stuff like that,” says Patrik Enros. “It’s been really hard work, but it’s been great. It’s cost almost SEK 4 million, but it’s turned out really, really well.”
SCA Wood’s sales manager Robin Mikaelsson, pictured far right, together with Patrik Enros, far left, and Urban Lindholm, at Stocka Emballage.
When it’s received, the spruce timber, sawn to 16 x 75cm dimensions with varying lengths, is sent on for cutting. The timber cutting machine optimises extraction from each board with the minimum possible waste. Some 13 lengths, ranging between 69 cm and just over two metres, are preprogrammed into the machine, and each board is divided into up to five pieces.
The robots’ task is to stack the pre-sawn pieces into each length so they don’t topple on disposable pallets produced by Patrik’s brother Thomas, for onward shipping to customers.
The robots’ trajectory plan and task breakdown still has to be calibrated. That’s why Urban Lindholm, with his extensive experience of industrial robots and programming of control systems, has been involved in the project from the outset.
“We’re continually tweaking and enhancing the fine details,” explains Urban. “We’re looking for stable cutting patterns, but the entire production line is already exceeding expectations.”
Since it started, between early summer and mid-September four 70 cubic-metre truckfuls of finished packaging components have been dispatched to customers. These customers assemble them into pallets and specialist packaging to protect and facilitate the handling of all types of goods.
“We have a contract that ensures for both us and Stocka Emballage an annual volume of 7,000-8,000 cubic metres of finished components,” says Robin Mikaelsson.
Jack Vasegaard, CEO of Denmark-based Timbuy A/S.
Denmark-based Timbuy A/S, which supplies its five co-owners with around 175,000 m3 of processed raw material each year and has a long-standing relationship with SCA, was one of the first to be introduced to the concept. CEO Jack Vasegaard decided early on that he wanted to
“Ready-cut lengths that go straight into production provide significant advantages,” he says. “It’s an arrangement that benefits both parties.”
Text: Mats Wigardt
Photos: Frida Sjögren