Export award highlights never-say-die attitude
AUTOMATON & Electronics won the engineering innovation category at this year’s Bay of Plenty ExportNZ Awards for log processing technology. The company has revolutionised log processing by using the latest camera and laser technology and has increased yields by at least 5% over other technologies, according to the judging panel.
The award was a strong endorsement of the Tauranga-based company’s success in developing its export business after suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis.
“The recession really made us lift our game because at the time our domestic market was shrinking,” said managing director Brian Smith, who co-founded the business with Tony Cable in 1986.
“We saw 35 sawmill closures in Australasia over a five-year period.”
Although Automation & Electronics continues to work with a number of New Zealand sawmills, and to provide process automation control systems for other New Zealand companies, including Dominion Salt and Bay of Plenty kiwifruit cool stores, the focus internationally has been on solid wood processing systems.
The firm had already begun partnering in 1998 with Wellingtonbased Windsor Engineering Group, which specialises in timber drying kilns and related products.
In 2006 the two companies founded Windsor Technology Inc in the US.
The new venture provides a range of lumber drying systems, peeler log conditioning systems, sawmill control and automation and in-kiln moisture content measuring systems.
Automation & Electronics has about 15 people working for it in the Bay, with 3 staff members in the US. A&E directors are Brian Smith (managing director) and Glen Purcell (engineering director).
The company specialises in design, programming and development of industrial control solutions and software for the solid wood processing industry throughout Australasia and the US and also provides installation services in Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Chile.
Key specialised products include 3D Laser scanning integrated into a full 3D model to optimise saw log breakdown and yield the best recovery from a log. The system incorporates innovative simulation features.
“We use lasers to profile logs or boards in a sawmill to build up a 3D image of it then we run optimisation software, which considers all of the probable fits based on value or volume, then generates a solution,” said Mr Smith.
Darryl Robinson, sawmill manager for Tenon Manufacturing Limited, a major Taupo-based wood products processor, said the bar was constantly rising when it came to optimising log recovery.
Tenon uses an A&E Log View optimisation package on its Head Rig log breakdown.
“Every little bit of recovery helps in the sawmilling process,” he said. “Automation & Electronics has helped us and a lot of sawmilling companies around New Zealand with their systems and scanning equipment.”
The crew and the craft ...