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Grecon Dimter Optimizes Ripping for 2 Firms
Hiland Wood Products and Smith Flooring Inc. are reaping benefits from optimized ripping solutions.
By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 8/1/2002
Putting all the pieces together is as important as having all the best parts.
Since 1970, Hiland Wood Products has been in the business of transforming rough lumber — mainly red oak, poplar and cherry — into architectural millwork, raised panel doors, furniture components, glued-up panels, as well as stock for turning operations.
Ivan Schrock, president of Hiland Wood Products in Walnut Creek, Oh. knows a lot about making the best pieces. In fact, besides running the business that was started by his father, he designs panels and doors.
Because Ivan wanted to be able to make cabinet pieces, moulding and other products as efficiently as possible, he was an early adopter of technology. Ten years ago he installed his first optimizing rip saw.
Ever keen to make further improvements, Ivan is always open to new developments in technology. "I enjoy setting up equipment and running it efficiently," said Ivan.
In 1999 he attended a woodworking trade show in Germany. He saw a demonstration of a Raimann rip saw that got his attention. Ivan began what he called "a long process" of research into Raimann and optimization for ripping, and he liked what he learned.
Eighteen months ago Ivan installed a system at Hiland Wood Products in northeast Ohio. Grecon Dimter, a company in the Weinig Group, supplied a system that integrated a Raimann rip saw with a Scanimation scanner and optimization and put the system into service at Hiland.
Grecon Dimter often plays equipment matchmaker and broker, combining machines and systems for a particular solution that a business requires. "We coordinate with other vendors," explained Roman Morris, sales engineer at Grecon Dimter. Its products and services range from any individual aspect of wood processing to complete sawmill systems.
After assessing a mill’s operation, said Roman, Grecon Dimter pulls together a "kick-off meeting." The company’s engineers determine which components are needed and generate a timeline.
"Every single piece" of equipment Grecon Dimter puts together is tried and tested, said Roman. Complete integrated systems are thoroughly tested, too. "We run a lot of equipment before we ship to the customer," said Roman, verifying that plc programs and other features work and ensuring that "installs are pretty smooth and fast."
Grecon Dimter also manufactures its own line of machines for secondary processing. It focuses on optimized cross-cut saws and finger jointers as well as material handling equipment.
When a customer such as Hiland Wood Products needs a rip saw, Grecon Dimter draws on fellow companies in the Weinig Group, such as Raimann, and on its preferred vendors, such as Scanimation, to develop solutions.
Modular components simplify the process of developing a customer-specific solution. For all the simplicity that modular components bring to installation, operation and performance, what the customer sees is an integrated system that functions smoothly.
Hiland Wood Products operates on a "just-in-time" basis on "all orders," said Henry Miller, maintenance supervisor. "What we’re working for is flow of customer orders."
The optimized Raimann rip saw system supplied by Grecon Dimter enables Hiland to do what it does best even better. "We’re cutting for five or six customers" at one time, said Henry. Pieces are automatically sorted and kicked off to stations that coincide with the correct job.
The Grecon Dimter system has "changed our operation more than anything else has in the previous years," Henry added. "Our down-time is dramatically less. We don’t have to move the arbor. We also increased yield."
The optimized Raimann rip saw system supplied by Grecon Dimter has enabled the company to run more efficiently. For example, when Hiland receives a small but urgent order that requires ripping, it can interrupt a large order that is already being processed. Orders are programmed into the system, and after the small order is done, the large order can be restarted.
The integrated system also generates production reports and simulations. For example, Hiland stores scanning and ripping data that enables it to predict yield of other jobs. The company estimates it has realized a 5% increase in yield with the Grecon Dimter system.
There are many factors behind the increase in yield, including the ability of the system to determine the optimized ripping solution for material while taking into consideration the lengths the pieces will be cut to later. The scanner detects defects and establishes a ripping solution to exclude them from finished components. Individual pieces of material also can be rejected based on scanner readings.
Material leaving the rip saw moves via conveyor to a chop saw station to be cut to length and then a moulder. The automated material handling process reduces the time to reach the final processing stage and the lead time required to fill orders.
The attention that Ivan gives to efficiency in operations goes beyond the processes of remanufacturing rough lumber. He also has a very energy efficient plant. Hiland’s 128,000-square-foot facility is located in Walnut Creek, about 75 miles south of Cleveland. A Hurst boiler heats the entire plant as well as the building of the sister company, Schrocks’ Woodcrafts, with which it shares space. Wood waste is fed to a 40 hp Zeno grinder, a low-rpm machine that processes the scraps into fuel for the boiler. The grindings are stored in a silo that connects directly to the boiler. Excess boiler fuel is sold.
Hiland Wood Products has another smaller Raimann rip saw that has been made more efficient, thanks to Grecon Dimter. The smaller saw formerly was fed material by hand, but it was retrofitted with an automated infeed system from Grecon Dimter. "That change has increased our speed also," said Henry.
Raimann machines are "built very heavily," said Henry, and maintenance is fairly routine. "We’ve not experienced anything major" in terms of maintenance, he said. A glue line, for example, may require replacing a bushing once a year.
Grecon Dimter offers on-line trouble-shooting for problems with scanners or optimization technology. "We can dial into a customer’s machine" via a modem, Roman explained, and assess performance.
Grecon Dimter recommends that customers attend a three-day training program at its headquarters in Hickory, N.C., but company representatives also provide on-site training. The company recently conducted training for Smith Flooring Inc. at its facility in Mountain View, Missouri.
Grecon Dimter supplied Smith Flooring with a scanning system and two optimized Raimann rip saws last fall. "We looked at several different systems," said Jon Smith, president of Smith Flooring, "and thought Grecon had the best package."
The integrated system from Grecon Dimter was the first investment in optimization technology by Smith Flooring, which has been in business since 1949. "It was a big move for us," said Jon, and it took a while to get comfortable with the idea of adding optimization technology.
However, the addition of the optimized Raimann rip saws has significantly impacted the company’s operations for the better, he said. "Our utilization is up," said Jon. "Our waste factor is down," which adds up to higher yield. "We have a much better rip factor and much better product because of it." Smith Flooring’s production is all unfinished flooring strips, normally 2 1/4 inches wide.
Using its expertise in wood processing and materials handling technology to develop integrated solutions is just one aspect of the service and products that Grecon Dimter supplies. Built into the process of developing the solution is reducing down-time for the new system. The company uses "quick disconnects," explained Roman, so that if components malfunction — such as photo-electric eyes or pneumatics — they can be taken out and replaced immediately. Off-the-shelf components are used so "customers can go to any shop" to get help with components and repairs.
In the last two years, Grecon Dimter has taken integration to a new level, working collaboratively with vendors to design and manufacture components as a joint venture. In January Grecon Dimter introduced its OptiScan Chop cross-cut scanner in partnership with Scanimation. Last fall it introduced an OptiCut 104 integrated work cell; it combines technologies from Grecon Dimter’s MillVision machine integrating software with a push-feed optimizing cross-cut saw and a 33-foot sort line with five kickers. The work cell also integrates an ink jet printer to label each piece of wood, printing up to 30 characters at industrial speeds to identify customer, job, date and other information. Last summer it brought out the OptiCut 350 cross-cut saw in three versions and with feed speeds as high as 1,150 feet per minute.
Hiland Wood Products manufactures parts for cabinet and furniture makers and specialty wood shops throughout northeast Ohio. It ships panel doors throughout the U.S., often via United Parcel Service.
The company’s roots were put down in 1918 when Ivan’s father, Sam, started a woodworking business on his farm. That grew to Schrocks’ Woodcrafts, which branched out to Hiland Wood Products.
"I enjoy wood working," said Ivan. "I grew up with it. I enjoy designing new door styles, trim and moulding. I enjoy doing quality work."
Jon studied forestry at the University of Missouri before joining the company his father started in the 1930s. He has been with the firm for 26 years.
Outside of his commitment to the company Jon said, "I like to do a little bit of wood carving." He often carves sassafras boat paddles, which he gives to friends. He also likes playing golf at the Dayne Glass 18-hole course in Mountain View.
"We’re sitting on top of a hill," Henry said, describing Hiland’s location. "We have gorgeous views, crisp mornings." He said it’s not unusual for people arriving at the company’s facility in the early morning to pause outdoors to take in the scenic view.
Smith Flooring buys strictly red oak and white oak logs and lumber from Missouri. Situated in the Ozark Mountains in south-central Missouri near the Arkansas boarder, it has good access to oak forests. The company operates two sawmills, one with a band resaw and one with a Corley gang resaw. Most of its flooring is sold wholesale nationwide, but the company also owns a retail store, Classic Hardwood Floors in Springfield, Mo. The company’s operations employ 130 people.
Quality takes the highest priority at both Hiland Wood Products and Smith Flooring. Hiland’s reputation serves the company so well that it sells itself, said Ivan. Smith Flooring’s strong reputation also is a significant factor in sales.
Although Hiland Wood Products and Smith Flooring are distant, unacquainted neighbors, they have something else in common besides a commitment to quality. Both companies are enthusiastic about the systems supplied by Grecon Dimter – the Raimann rip saws optimized with scanner technology from Scanimation.
"We are particularly fond of the rip saws," said Jon. "They do a great job."
Henry likes the fact that only one person has responsibility for the machine. The single operator easily oversees and maintains it.
In addition, Henry noted, efficiency with the system will only improve. As the companies becomes more proficient in the programmable features and captures more data, ripping will become even more efficient.
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