March 2007 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
GETTING TO HOME (DEPOT)
New Zealand-based Claymark International has been able to achieve successful market penetration, and gained home improvement giant Home Depot as its main customer, thanks to its perseverance and focus on constant improvement.
By Tony Kryzanowski
While some equipment suppliers bemoan the scant amount of money that New Zealand’s sawmill owners have invested into their facilities, forest products company Claymark International is an example of the opposite, and has benefited greatly from it.
Claymark—headquartered in Rotorua—has invested a significant amount of money to modernize two sawmills (one that was in receivership) and to construct a remanufacturing facility, all of this on the way to becoming an international supplier of visual grade radiata pine wood products. Owner Mark Clayton, a joiner by trade, has established a clear vision of the company’s objectives, with an intense focus on detailed production methods to maximize recovery of high-end wood products.
The company also aims for maximum utilization of its exclusively radiata pine resource. It has successfully penetrated the North American market with its products. Its main customer: Home Depot.
The secret to its supply agreement with Home Depot is perseverance. The company began its foray into the North American market 16 years ago by promoting radiata pine as a cheaper substitute for ponderosa and white pine among contractors and homebuilders. “Having that established presence in the United States helped secure our relationship with Home Depot,” says Dean Camplin, Claymark Group general manager.
Over the past decade and a half, the company has also been working hard to redefine its radiata pine product as more than just a cost-effective substitute. “I believe that radiate pine has real traction now as a preferred species to use as opposed to being just a cheap substitute,” says Camplin. “Our product line is a white wood that is defect free. It’s very stable and easy to use, whether you are planing it, screwing it, or nailing it.”
In addition to operating sawmills that closely reflect the production process of typical hardwood sawmills in Canada, Claymark’s value adding facility produces dried, four-sided planed, and bar coded cut-to-length material that typically appears on Home Depot’s shelves. The wood is one-inch thick material in six-, eight- and 12-foot lengths, in widths between two and 12 inches.
What motivated Clayton to invest in New Zealand’s industry was his technical knowledge and frustration over the volume of high value “prune logs” that were being exported for manufacturing elsewhere. Radiata pine is a fast growing species that typically reaches maturity in about 30 years. When harvested, the log is merchandized into three sections. The bottom third of the log, known as the prune log, typically delivers high volumes of clear lumber. “Mark’s whole focus has been on adding value to the tree right here in New Zealand,” says Camplin.
Clayton also correctly surmised that there was demand in the North American market for high quality, appearance grade lumber. “It’s all about precision, accuracy, and clearness,”says Camplin. “Everything has to be just nice and right tight. With these discerning standards, the North American market was a logical fit with the culture that Mark brings to his operations.” Claymark owns two sawmills in the communities of Katikati and Rotorua, about an hour inland from the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s North Island. The remanufacturing facility for the products marketed internationally is located in Rotorua.
The company owns no forest resources. Nearly all of New Zealand’s commercial wood resource is grown on privately held plantations, with the majority being radiata pine and a smattering of California redwood and eucalyptus. While other New Zealandbased companies raise concerns about wood supply because of the amount of logs being exported, Camplin says Claymark has managed to establish longterm arrangements with specific suppliers who have a clear understanding of the stringent log specifications demanded by the company.
“In reality, it gives us an opportunity to test the quality of the logs when they arrive at the sawmill,” he says. However, the price is renegotiated every quarter. The logs arrive at the Katikati sawmill after an average 150-kilometre log haul.
From its appearance, it’s immediately obvious that Clayton has invested significantly into the Katikati sawmill. The yard is completely paved and all the buildings look practically brand new. On closer inspection of the processing equipment, it’s apparent that there has also been continuous investment in upgrading the production line.
Once the logs arrive, the loader operator inspects each log and sets aside those that do not achieve Claymark’s log specifications. Using a Kawasaki log loader, he feeds acceptable logs on to a log deck, and a conveyer system transports individual logs through an unmanned VK debarker and then into the sawmill. The company negotiates a better price with the log resource owner forthose logs not meeting the grade.
As the debarked logs enter the mill, they are scanned for optimum recovery using an Inovec three dimensional log scanner before being placed on to a Pacific Timber Engineering carriage.
Claymark replaced its older headrig at Katikati with a McDonough headrig. “We made the investment because we felt the McDonough headrig would provide us with better accuracy, higher speed, and more production,” says Katikati sawmil site manager, John Kaye.
The opening face of the log is cut and sent for chipping. The subsequent slabs proceed to a board edger from Southern Cross Engineering, where the edger operator uses laser lighting tools to determine the highest value recovery from each slab prior to it proceeding through the edger. After the edger, the boards are centre cut on a resaw.
Then each board continues to a grading station where graders stamp the boards according to their visual grade before they continue through two trim saws. Boards with minor defects can be diverted to what’s called a breast bench, where an operator equipped with a circular saw can chop out defective pieces to achieve higher value recovery from the defect free portion of each board.
All boards converge at the round table, where they are manually sorted according to dimension and grade. Next, the stacked lumber is transported a short distance to an area where the kiln charges are all hand stickered, or “filleted,” to extremely exactly specifications to create the highest probability of consistently dried lumber from the dry kilns.
The stickered charges are dried in one of four Windsor dry kilns, which are manufactured in Wellington, NewZealand. Two of the kilns hold 100 cubic metres and the other two hold 75 cubicmetres. One is a higher temperature kilnthat can operate at 130 degrees Celsius. Windsor also provided the kiln control systems and software.
Windsor is expanding into North America, having established its presence in the Southern Hemisphere with over 400 kilns in operation in Australasia. Its primary focus will initially be on the southern yellow pine market, because of its similarities to radiata pine.
Kaye says Claymark aims for moisture content of between 10 and 12 per cent for its dried lumber. Heat for the dry kilns is generated from burning wood residuals. The residuals are transported to a boiler supplied by Easteel Industries, with the dust extraction and filtration system for the wood residuals provided by Vortex Engineering. There are practically no emissions released into the atmosphere from the incineration system.
Once it exits the dry kilns, the lumber either proceeds to the remanufacturing facility on site, which targets random length product for the domestic market, or to the remanufacturing facility in Rotorua, which produces cut-to-length lumber for the international market.
The Katikati remanufacturing site is capable of planing the lumber as well as optimizing the wood through fingerjointing. Claymark intends to nearly double its remanufacturing capacity at Katikati.
Camplin says Claymark’s facilities and approach is quite unique to New Zealand, but he has no doubt that it could be duplicated in other parts of the country. However, it would take the right combination of infrastructure and commitment from log suppliers to operate as successfully as its facilities in Katikati and Rotorua. That infrastructure would have to include close proximity to a port and locating a facility close to a high quality forest resource.
On the resource side, Camplin says Claymark is very loyal to its suppliers, as long as they ever lose sight of the lumber manufacturer’s business objectives and high quality standards.
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Monday, August 06, 2007