What the press says about LINCK

Up to the last log fibre

German technology leads to a high level of timber log yield and transforms sawmills into full-blooded production lines.

Nobody doubts Germans produce state-of-the--art machines. But there’s nothing better than seeing this in put into practice, and actually functioning at companies with high productivity, which are highly automated, with impeccable organization, and high log yields that would make anyone jealous. So we embarked on a tour through three European countries, organized by Linck HVT, a solid wood processing equipment manufacturer, to verify the performances at six modern sawmills. Read how the Brazilian forest industry can learn from European sawmilling practices, where it is possible to process logs diameters starting at 12 cm, and still be lucrative producing sawnwood products.
The starting point was Hannover, Germany, since the Ligna trade fair had just taken place here the week before the tour. In four days, we traveled 2,000 km on very well maintained Autobahns, not to mention an air stretch from Germany to Portugal, to get to know the daily reality of lumber producers for uses as pallets, construction lumber, packaging, and various other industrial products and by-
-products at six sawmills firsthand. Four of them located in Germany, one in France, and one in Portugal. The group, led by Martin Huber, project engineer at Linck, and Martin Kemmsies, Linck representative in Brazil, included nine entrepreneurs from Santa Catarina, São Paulo and Bahia.
We all had the common goal of observing modern European production sawmilling concepts, and understanding how this model could be used back home.

Linck’s philosophy lies in using machine modules which can be organized in various ways, so as to form logical a production line. It was pointed out by Huber that each project is unique, and that every line satisfies specific needs and aims which the sawmill owner has. “This was clearly confirmed at the six sawmills visited on the tour, as each sawmill had its own well-defined, individual DNA. What all mills had
in common was the use of circular saws, whether using reduction or profiler technologies”, Kemmsies points out. A prominent feature of the German forest product industry is that virtually no sawmill owns their own forests, all logs being purchased from third parties. About half of the country’s forests are privately owned, and the other half belongs to the federal and state Governments, as well as municipalities. This makes the log costs very relevant:
EUR 70/ m³ placed in the log yard. “Raw material costs are responsible for 75 - 80% of our production costs,” says Jörg Hellmann, plant manager at the Bien-Holz sawmill, one of the companies we visited. Another factor which significantly influences price is the great log demand in Germany. “In some cases, we are obliged to buy logs from Scandinavian countries, but the price there is even higher,” he points out. Log prices are calculated differently in Brazil and Germany. In Germany, only debarked logs are paid for, whereas in Brazil logs with bark are paid for by the ton. After debarking, a quality evaluation is carried out in Germany, with classes from A to D, in which the amount and type of knots, log shapes, cracks and other log characteristics influence the price paid to the supplier. Something we noticed at all the sawmills visited: not all expected safety equipment is always used by the employees. But there is an explanation for this behaviour: production lines are fully automated and machinery in risk areas have laser sensors surrounding them. Should an employee’s body pass through this laser beam and trigger the sensor, the machine automatically shuts down. This happened twice during the tour, when a member of the delegation approached a machine too closely making the line shut down, so it had to be restarted.

The first stop after Hannover was the city of Uelzen, where we were welcomed by Bien-Holz manager Jörg Hellmann. The log yard organization and immaculately clean plant floor drew our attention. The Euro-pallet manufacturer processes 1.20 to 2.5 m long good quality Pinus sylvestris logs, with a maximum diameter of 45 cm at the wide end, and 12 cm at the thin end. The Euro-pallet is of superior
quality, and must last at least 10 trips. The company saws boards with a thickness tolerance of only 0.3 mm. The company also manufactures one-way pallets, which are less resistant and therefore cheaper. The mill processes 300.000 m³ of logs a year. This is only the factory’s annual log consumption, not the finished products volume. About 40% of production is exported, the rest is sold to the German domestic market. “We have gained ground in exports despite our product being more expensive than the Brazilian product, for example, because customers demand quality and regularity,” Jörg compares.
Overall company production efficiency, i.e. the time that all factory sectors are running with any stoppage, is 77%. The factory floor remains in operation only when there are requests, so there are periods in which production stops. Preventative maintenance is performed by two employees after the second shift, so as not to reduce productivity.

Log conversion rate lies at 55%. The remainder of the log is transformed into 35% chips, and 10-15% sawdust. This by-product is sold to pulp and paper, and MDF producers. When the log is very crooked, it is sawn into two smaller logs 1.2 m long before entering into the production line. Then it is forwarded to a chipper-canter which produces a two-sided cant. The cant passes through a cant turner, an
edger, and a circular saw to produce sideboards, which are separated from the block. If the log is very thick, it passes through another circular saw to first split the log in half, allowing the two smaller blocks to follow on in parallel to two multiple circular saws. Two machines stack the sawn boards. The packages go through an anti-stain bath and are now ready to be dispatched.

After hitting the road for three hours and heading towards South Germany, we arrived in Torgau, to visit the mill which bears the name of the city. With the same features as the first sawmill, Holzindustrie Torgau has an annual log consumption of 400.000 m³. The main product is the Euro-pallet. The plant also manufactures wood for packaging and fence posts. Part of the by-products are used by the company to produce pellets, while the surplus is sold to wood panel, pulp and paper, and briquette manufacturers. Last year 2.1 million tons of pellets were produced in Germany.
The company uses six tables for log feed which and enter into production through a unitizer. The logs go through a metal detector before being scanned. Only the logs with the desired diameter continue along the production line. Larger diameter logs are forwarded to a band saw, a seldomly-used system in Europe. The smaller logs have another destination. “The thin and short logs are processed and the chips are sold to pulp producers,” says Frank Steffen, production manager. The logs pass through a log turner so that the thin end goes in first, and then onto debarking. Logs which are within the pre-established measurements pass through the second scanner which identifies boards which can be optimally obtained from the logs, and the commercial value of every piece. This information is sent to production control, where an optimization program calculates the cutting scheme and thus transforms the maximum amount of logs into sawnwood. This leads to a 61% log recovery rate, a long way from Brazilian reality, where the average is under 50%. “The optimizing program interprets the information sent from the scanner. The machines have mobile rollers and adapt the cutting scheme even with different diameters and differently shaped logs. In principle, every log is sawn individually. The operator only interferes when corrective action must be taken,” says Linck project engineer Huber.

On the morning of the second day, our destination was the city of Issigau, home to Künzel-Holz. This was the smallest sawmill visited in Germany, but still of respectable size. The company consumes 150.000 m3 of logs annually. Unlike the previous sawmill, the final product is construction wood, as well as industrial and packaging products. The family business was started in 1998. It suffered a large fire but was completely rebuilt in 2006. On our arrival, it was possible to observe logs exceeding 18 m in length being transported into the mill. In Germany, the transport of logs up to 22 m is allowed if using a special cab attached to the truck.
Log yard handling is also different from what is usually practiced in Brazil. Top loaders lifting the logs are preferred instead of transferring them with front-end loaders as in Brazil; this facilitates loading the tables.
The mill is very clean and special care is taken to soundproof the operator´s control room. You practically can’t hear the noise from the machines working right next to the room, something which is immediately noticeable as soon as the door to access the factory floor is opened. Optimizing is carried out entirely according to the value of each log: the motto here is to increase profit and get as much value out of every log as possible.
It was interesting to follow a specific order for a customer dealing with wood buildings. The order was for planks of different widths and lengths, and beams for the construction of a roof. During the course of production, an optimization system identifies the cuts necessary to collect all the pieces for the construction of the roof. At the end of the day, the system informs which pieces were produced, and
whether the order is complete and ready to be dispatched.
“We chose flexibility over expanding our capacity. Thus, we can meet market demands in an extremely small space, which gives us an advantage over larger mills,” explains Jürgen Künzel, company owner. To attend very particular customer’s needs, the company processes logs from a 13 - 62 cm in diameter. Hence, the logistics system is very well planned, where each product is placed in its corresponding storage space. Raw material conversion rate is 64%. However, more impressive than that, is sawmill availability: it operates nonstop 99% of the time. Only eight people are needed to handle the entire production operation. “With the use of this technology, the number of people working in the factory has decreased considerably. We have less employees, but manpower which is more knowledgeable,” says Thomas Helmbold, deputy manager at Künzel-Holz.

The sawmill located in Kerkingen is unusually large. It consumes no less than one million m³ of logs per year, which are used for the production of lumber for building purposes, glue laminated beams and industrial products. To handle that volume, Holzwerke Ladenburger works in a high production tact with feed-in speeds of 50 - 170 m/min. To get an idea of the volume processed, 24 high-capacity kilns are needed for drying all these wood products.
The production line has two log feeds. First, the logs pass through a metal detector and then a 3D scanner. Then, they are forwarded to a turner, which orients the logs so that the thin end is always directed towards the front. As production volume matters, the sawing pattern does not change, and there is no need to adjust the system according to the log, as in the other mills visited.
At the end of the process, the lumber is sorted by size and quality. Of course, the generation of by-product is huge, even with a high log conversion rate of 64%. The by-product is separated by four huge screens located at the bottom of the machines. The chips are sold to pulp producers, and the sawdust and fines are sent to panel and pellet producers.
One of the strengths of this giant is in the automatic lumber classification and grading process. “This is normally one of the biggest production bottlenecks, which in many cases leads to a decrease in production, as that there is hardly any time to clear away the finished product,” says Huber.

The last two sawmills visited provided an idea of what could be incorporated into Brazilian sawmills. Scierie Feidt based in Molsheim, France, just across the border to Germany, had a modest size factory compared with the previous ones visited. The company consumes 77.000 m³ of logs per year, and even has some features of yesteryear, for example, in log handling in the yard. This system was widely used about 40 years ago to address the problem of little space in the sawmills of that era, where front-loaders couldn’t move around the tight yards. The French sawnwood manufacturer for pallets and
packaging works with 2-5 m long logs. Production is carried out in one shift with only six people. The 3D scanner information is fed into the log optimizing program, which in turn generates the sawing patterns for the given logs. Spruce, fir and Scots pine logs, but also beech and poplar logs, are of poor quality - the company receives logs with differing diameters ranging from 12 - 48 cm, with a log yield of around 52%. The company has 40 employees in total and a production capacity of one million pallets per year. One of the major highlights is the production speed, the result of a well scaled and simple factory layout. It was one of the sawmills on this tour which most caught the attention of the delegation members. The last travel stretch was made by plane from Frankfurt to Lisbon, Portugal. We visited Pinhoser, a member of the Palser Investment Group, which produces paletts, lumber for building purposes, pellets and thermo-electrical energy. Here we were accompanied the friendly Antonio
Fernandes, the owner of the company, who personally conducted the tour and showed us all operations. Despite the large volume, 210.000 m³ of timber is annually needed to meet sawmill’s demand. The quality and shape of the wood is worse than that found in Brazil. The main species
processed is Pinus pinaster. Despite very crooked logs, a high rate of log conversion of 50-55% is nevertheless achieved. The logs are short, between 2 - 3.5 m in length, and 13 - 36 cm in diameter. Production also is restricted to only one shift. Only 3 people run the mill. Pinhoser has three sawnwood production lines. One is used to process crooked logs, prepared to work with smaller lengths and diameters. Another line is used for very large diameter logs or those with special characteristics, which do not allow large production. The last line is a large capacity milling line, for logs with dimensions which the twisted timber line cannot support, and which would not be profitably processed on a smaller scale. “The technical availability of the line is almost 100%. In Brazil the priority lies in developing very advanced silviculture, whereas in Europe the emphasis lies in high-tech machine R&D”, says Antonio Fernandes, who has also previously owned forest businesses in Brazil. He confirmed that tests have been carried out with eucalyptus logs, and that these show similar log recovery rates as those achieved with pine. The by-product is also very well utilized at the Portuguese company: in addition to the sawmill, Pinhoser has a 5 MWh thermoelectric generating station which uses forest biomass, and provides energy to the national power grid. Pinhoser also produces its own pellets at a unit recently
inaugurated 1 ½ years ago, exporting them to the UK and Germany. And lastly, they also produce 300.000 pallets per month.

Before departing on the last leg of the trip, the Brazilian delegation met on the premises of the sawmill manufacturer. Linck HVT is located in Oberkirch, a quiet town in Baden, southwest Germany. Martin Huber, product engineer for the company, guided us through the premises. The company has an annual turnover of EUR 50 million, 280 employees, and sells on a global scale. During the tour, we saw production, assembly line, painting line, and inventory.
It was also possible to see the equipment packaged for faraway destinations such as Ukraine and Canada, ready to be dispatched. “With the exception of debarkers, we manufacture and deliver all equipment for log yard work, right up to the complete sawmill, sorting and stacking lines: complete turn-key projects. We are world leaders in profiling technology,” asserts Huber.
He commented that over the last two decades, Linck restricted itself to operating mainly in the European market. Now it is focusing on Australia, USA, Canada, Russia, Asia and South America, with a fond eye on Brazil, which has large areas planted with softwood forests. “But Brazil still lags behind in terms of technology,” argues Huber. “We guarantee high timber conversion yields, 93% technical
availability of our machines, high precision and low tolerances, excellent surface quality, and equipment built to last 35 years and more, as well as delivering lines with high flexibility: this because our system is modular,” he points out.
According to Huber, most Linck lines are operated by one or two people. For the same production in a traditional Brazilian sawmill, 15 to 20 people would be needed. “In the future, timber product industries in Brazil will have to operate with large scale production to be economically viable. This has already occurred in Europe, is already occurring all over the world, and it will also inevitably happen in Brazil” says Huber. According to him, there will be a restructuring on the market. Most small operators will disappear, and only the large ones will remain. “The first companies to start investing will be a big step ahead.
” During 14 years, Linck had a subsidiary operating in Brazil, as well as in other countries. Part of the equipment was manufactured in those subsidiaries. But the company decided to centralize production in Germany, and now has a network of local representatives instead.
Everything is manufactured by the company in Europe, including spare parts. “Our machines don’t have much wear and we always supply a kit with the spare parts that are the most important to the mill,” informs the project engineer.
Martin Kemmsies is responsible for representing Linck in Brazil. According to him, for a long time, the country has used very simple sawmill equipment, based on the band saw technology, without scanners, cutting optimization, chipper-canters, or profiling technologies. “The trend is that medium-sized producers seek this out new sawing
concepts because they desire expansion in a more efficient way,” he believes. He states that most sawmills today sawing pine have a very low log yield. “The raw material has become more expensive over time, and the available material must be used more rationally. We see very low log conversion rates, starting at 40%, while in Europe they can reach 70%,” he points out.

Luiz José Sguario Neto (Shareholder of Sguario Florestal and Sguario Indústria de Madeira)
The group has 8,000 ha of pine forest, located in the southwestern region of the state of São Paulo. The company focuses on sawnwood production. Currently, logs with a diameter below 18 cm at the thin end are sold to the pulp industry. “The idea is to make better use use of this timber in the sawmill,” he states. The goal is to process logs with minimum diameters of around 13 - 14 cm. “That is why I believe that it is possible to use the equipment we saw during this tour in Brazil, with some adaptations.”

Nicholas Peter Rogers (Managing Director of BPM (Bahia Produtos de Madeira))
The company supplies dried, planed and classified sawnwood eucalyptus for furniture production. The
inferior quality lumber goes to the construction and packaging sectors. The company’s capacity is 50.000 m ³ of sawnwood per year. “We are evaluating options to process smaller logs, because our sawmill was based on the concept of adding value to large sawlogs – however, these logs would need 15 years to reach point of maturity,” he acknowledges. With the onset of the decrease in supply of this large logs, the need to process thinner logs has become a necessity. For this reason, the need to purchase other equipment is evident. “The equipment we observed during the tour, and others that we have seen in Europe with similar technology, will serve our goal very well, as they are highly productive and automated.”

Cristian Alvarez (Production Manager of Solida Brasil Madeiras)
This lumber and remanufactured product producer has the USA as its main market. Located in
Rio Negrinho (SC), it consumes 50.000 tons of pine logs per month with diameters between 16 - 30 cm.
“These are different realities, and I realize that our equipment is not as outdated when compared to
what we’ve seen here, because our sawmill is relatively new and very automated,” he guarantees. “But European productivity is undoubtedly much greater than ours,” he acknowledges.

Paulo Levek (Technical and Maintenance Manager of Solida Brasil Madeiras)
“Our sawmill is set up for large diameter logs,” he says. To maintain the productivity levels that the company has had in the past, when there was a greater supply of larger logs, new alternatives are required. “I have seen several simple ideas that we can apply, and others that are more complex.” He acknowledges that despite the machines that the company uses being modern, the electronics is still a long way from that used in Europe. The dynamics in the log yard is also different. “The feeding of the debarked logs into the mill also drew attention. They use machines with longer arms, allowing the movement of logs from above, leading to less equipment wear.”

Leandro Pereira Miranda (Industrial Manager of Indústria de Móveis 3 Irmãos)
The company has two factories, both in Campo Alegre (SC). One is focused on the domestic market and the other on the export market, in which products are produced from solid pine wood and sold in North America. “We saw units with a capacity of one million m³ of timber logs per year and another with 70.000 m³ with practically the same operating costs,” he points out. He claims that his company seeks to keep up with the with the technological evolution. “It would be short-sighted to think that our competitors are only in Brazil,” he says. For him, the country is technologically outdated. “We have technology being used which are at least 30 years ago.”

Diego Bordignon (Industrial Director of Artefama Móveis)
About 65% of company sales are abroad. Unlike most members of the tour, the timber log diameter which the company operates with is not a problem. “Our large diameter sawlog supply is guaranteed for many years,” he assures us. The purpose of the trip was to verify how well Brazil’s production can be compared to that in a country with a lot of wood-working tradition. Despite the sawnwood supply for Artefama products being outsourced, the company has plans to implement its own sawmill -, however, this is not an immediate priority. “What we saw here can also be put to practice in Brazil – new ways of working with wood, very good log yields, and few people working in production,” he says.

Ivan da Costa Nunes (Managing Director Soro Pack)
The pallet manufacturer from Sorocaba (SP) works with eucalyptus wood. In addition to their main product, it also produces separating panels for goods, soft drink cases, and lumber. The company projects maintaining its 30% per year growth - for this, it needs to expand, and this includes a high production sawmill. “There are no machines available in the Brazilian market which achieve the production levels that we have seen here,” he says. Today the log conversion in the current industrial plant is 50%. “We have seen 65% conversion rates, which a big difference. The extra 15% we can get out of the log justifies the investment,” says Ivan. Raw material represents more than 70% of the cost of their product, according to the general manager. “Three very important points were observed on this trip - less labour, economies of scale, and high log yield.”