New Zealand Logger - - Contents -

Our quar­terly fo­cus on the New Zealand milling and pro­cess­ing sec­tor cover de­vel­op­ments at Wiri Tim­ber in Auck­land and pro­files the re­cent up­grades at the Kaituna Sawmill near Blen­heim.

MAN­AG­ING DIREC­TOR OF WIRI TIM­BER, LANCE Wor­thing­ton, re­calls es­tab­lish­ing the busi­ness back in 1986 just prior to the big stock mar­ket crash. “We were lo­cated just down the road from where we are to­day, just where the mo­tor­way on-ramp is now,” he says. “We named the busi­ness for this lo­ca­tion.”

And what a lo­ca­tion it is! Five acres of prime real es­tate in the heart of Wiri’s in­dus­trial area, very near Auck­land air­port.

Given the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion at the time, it was a tu­mul­tuous be­gin­ning for Wiri Tim­ber. But hav­ing weath­ered the stock mar­ket crash and its sub­se­quent fall­out, the only way for the busi­ness was up, and that’s where Lance and his part­ner, Danny Brown, have taken it.

He moved from whole­sale tim­ber sup­ply into pre-nail and aligned Wiri with tim­ber con­nec­tion spe­cial­ists, Pryda.

Found­ing mem­bers of the Frame and Truss Man­u­fac­turer’s As­so­ci­a­tion (FTMA), to­day Wiri Tim­ber is now very much a fam­ily busi­ness, with Lance’s son and daugh­ter both in­volved. There are 40 staff, in­clud­ing 12 on the work­shop floor and five in de­sign. Their mar­ket is pre­dom­i­nantly from Man­gawai to Po­keno, with a side busi­ness (Wiri Pa­cific) that ex­ports to the Pa­cific Is­lands. There’s a tim­ber hard­ware ware­house on site too.

Wiri Tim­ber’s main mar­ket to­day is pro­vid­ing pre-nailed struc­tures for mid to high-range homes.

“We work closely with project man­agers, builders and devel­op­ers,” ex­plains Lance. “Our brand is key, and what sup­ports

our brand is en­sur­ing we pro­vide the best pos­si­ble re­sult for ev­ery job we un­der­take.”

In Wiri Tim­ber’s case, such a fo­cus on qual­ity is key when you con­sider that ev­ery truss and frame it pro­duces is a cus­tom size.

“We have a very strong em­pha­sis on qual­ity con­trol,” says Lance. “We have to. Qual­ity starts at the cut­ting. If the ini­tial cut­ting isn’t pin-point ac­cu­rate then there will be prob­lems fur­ther down the assem­bly chain.”

Sit­ting at the heart of Wiri Tim­ber’s cut­ting accuracy is a Dimter S90 Speed op­ti­mis­ing saw, from Ger­man wood­work­ing ma­chin­ery spe­cial­ists, Weinig.

“I strug­gle to com­pre­hend how we man­u­fac­tured with­out it,” says Lance. “We should have had it years ago. Its sim­plic­ity and accuracy, and the pro­duc­tiv­ity it gives us, means our busi­ness can only go for­ward. The Dimter com­ple­ments ev­ery­thing else we’ve got here.”

What led to Lance’s in­ter­est in the Dimter was a need to im­prove Wiri’s pro­cess­ing of short tim­ber lengths. Wiri’s Razer 5-axis CNC saws of­fer ex­cel­lent accuracy and pro­duc­tiv­ity on com­plex, an­gled cuts, but are a very ex­pen­sive re­source when tied up cut­ting sim­ple blocks for length. The man­ual al­ter­na­tive for pre­par­ing th­ese shorter sec­tions was time-con­sum­ing, and lacked accuracy.

“I did some re­search,” says Lance, “and saw the Dimter op­er­at­ing in Aus­tralia and the US.”

From there Lance worked with Peter Cook at W & R Jack Ltd – agents for the Weinig Dimter saw – to spec­ify the right model and spec­i­fi­ca­tions to suit Wiri’s re­quire­ments.

Putting the Dimter S90 in the mid­dle of Wiri’s cut­ting process quickly helped boost ef­fi­ciency, but for shorter lengths the Wiri team saw huge im­prove­ments in both speed, and accuracy.

“We’ve linked the saw to our Pryda soft­ware, so de­sign soft­ware is gen­er­at­ing the cut­ting list for all our cut com­po­nents – not just the an­gled cuts on the Raz­ers. What this means is on our Dimter S90 we do in 20 min­utes what we used to do in 2 hours,” ex­plains Lance.

The Dimter S90 Speed is ca­pa­ble of tak­ing tim­ber up to 6.3 me­tres long, and isn’t named ‘Speed’ for noth­ing. A cross-feed chain buf­fers and feeds tim­ber onto the in-feed ta­ble, over which a pusher, in­cor­po­rat­ing a laser photo-eye, is mounted. This pusher scans each in-go­ing piece dur­ing the back stroke (at up to 240m/ min), mea­sur­ing the tim­ber length and op­ti­mis­ing ac­cord­ing to a pre-de­ter­mined cut list for length. The saw is ca­pa­ble of scan­ning for grad­ing marks of up to four grades too, but in Wiri’s case this isn’t re­quired as they’re us­ing stress-graded fram­ing tim­ber.

A pow­er­ful 13.5kW mo­tor housed inside a strong steel frame, combined with pre­cise and dy­namic push­ing and po­si­tion­ing, re­sults in a fast, re­li­ably ac­cu­rate cut, and a very high daily out­put.

Wiri’s S90 also fea­tures a long 10-me­tre out-feed ta­ble, with a vari­able speed belt con­trolled by fre­quency con­verter and five kick­ers. This means ac­cu­rate han­dling of tim­ber of var­i­ous sizes and weights – with very heavy or long lengths trig­ger­ing the belt to au­to­mat­i­cally work a stop-and-go op­er­a­tion.

An­other key el­e­ment to Wiri Tim­ber’s ef­fi­ciency for assem­bly is the Dimter’s work­piece la­belling. Mounted be­fore the saw­blade on the fence side is an HP car­tridge printer, clearly mark­ing each work­piece even be­fore it’s cut. The saw takes data from Pryda’s cut­list, as well as its own mea­sur­ing soft­ware, and la­bels each work­piece ac­cord­ingly, with length, wall and stud num­ber.

Such de­tail on ev­ery work­piece is in­valu­able for assem­bly. Hav­ing a smooth and au­to­matic sys­tem pass­ing clear in­for­ma­tion all the way from de­sign through to fabri­ca­tion is cru­cial to Wiri’s ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion.

“Our Dimter wasn’t cheap,” says Lance, “but the ben­e­fits have

been huge and it has been well worth the in­vest­ment. If I was to start up an­other pre-cut op­er­a­tion else­where, the Dimter would be the first piece of kit I’d buy.”

As well as be­ing core to the com­pany’s pro­duc­tiv­ity, Lance also speaks highly of how sim­ple it is to op­er­ate.

“It’s well built, and log­i­cal to use,” he ex­plains. “In­stal­la­tion was quick and easy, and Pryda con­nected their soft­ware with­out any dra­mas. We’re cur­rently work­ing a nine-hour shift, and with three trained op­er­a­tors, we’ve got pro­duc­tion hum­ming.”

Al­though it has the sys­tems, ma­chin­ery and space to do so, Wiri Tim­ber isn’t chas­ing vol­ume.

“We’re fo­cused on qual­ity, not quan­tity,” says Lance. “I know what hap­pens when you go down the vol­ume­based route – you cre­ate a mon­ster that needs con­stant feed­ing, and the first thing to suf­fer is the price.”

Over its long his­tory, Lance and his team at Wiri aren’t about to tin­ker with their suc­cess­ful for­mula.

“Over 30 years we’ve cre­ated a suc­cess­ful brand based on qual­ity and accuracy,” says Lance. “Rep­u­ta­tion is ev­ery­thing in this game and I’m very proud of ours.”

The out-feed ta­ble and kick­ers

The pusher, feed­ing in a length of tim­ber to the op­ti­mis­ing saw.

A se­lec­tion of frames and trusses pro­duced on the Dimter S90 Speed wait­ing to be shipped to cus­tomers.

An op­er­a­tor sets up the Dimter S90 Speed for an­other run.

Wiri Tim­ber’s in-house de­sign team cre­ate and send the cut­ting list di­rectly to the op­ti­mis­ing saw.

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