Many woodworking manufacturers have the impression that going green, particularly in the area of finishing, means increased costs to maintain quality and efficiency. But at Decoboard Inc. in San Bernardino, Calif., they’ve found that boosting efficiency, productivity and quality while saving energy and being environmentally responsible are all part of the same package.
Decoboard specializes in flat panel finishing, including printing. Owner Pierre Letellier launched the business in 2005 in part to meet the needs of another company he owns, Lindsey Doors in Indio, Calif. But Decoboard has expanded beyond that to serve a wide variety of customers, including plywood distributors and high-end architectural millwork companies, including recent work that has wound up in prestigious Las Vegas hotels.
Two finishing lines
Decoboard’s two finishing lines are set up in about 38,000 square feet of a 108,000-square-foot building. The part of the building not used for active production is used mostly for storage, says Matt Munden, general manager.
Emphasizing printing wood grain on MDF and particleboard, the larger and original 10-roller line at Decoboard was purchased from Cefla and extends some 500 feet. Material typically gets two UV fillers, is sanded in a Costa sander, then three base coats of waterbased paint are applied, followed by printing with up to three rollers and two UV-cured top coats.
Sanding in the line is handled by three Costa widebelt sanders. Automated loading at the front of the line is paired with automated stacking and packing at the end of the line for maximum efficiency.
Last year, the company added another Cefla finishing line, this one a 5-foot-wide line more intended for architectural work and with no printing components. At 260 feet long, the new line does not have its own strapping and packing components, instead making use of the post finishing part of the older line. The new line features two DMC sanders and seven rollers and stain wiping brushes.
Fast, efficient, and green
With only six employees on the plant floor to run the two lines, these finishing systems are a model of fast and efficient production. “We can do 100,000 square feet a day per line per shift,” says Munden. Both lines operate at 100 feet a minute, so it takes just three minutes from raw material to a finished panel that is all cured and ready to stack and ship, says Munden.
What’s more, the use of waterbased finishes from Akzo Nobel and the Cefla UV curing system make it easy for the plant to meet California’s stiff environmental regulations, says Munden.
“There are days we pump through a couple hundred gallons of paint and you can’t smell anything,” he says. The systems are designed to recirculate finishing material in the roller units. With no spraying, there is no airborne material to create environmental issues.
As fast and efficient as the lines are, they also raise another environmental issue in the area of energy consumption. Munden says the company has enacted a whole stream of measures to deal with that. See the sidebar.
Dealing with a wide variety of custom orders, the systems are built for versatility. Roller units slide easily out of the line for maintenance and changes. Thickness controllers work in a cascade effect to adjust for material thickness as it goes through the line.
With both lines, the company has greatly expanded capacity. “We can run 10 different orders a day,” says Munden. “The key to us is speed and automation.”
Investment despite economy
Munden says the decision to add the second Cefla finishing line was made with full knowledge of the slowing economy. He said the company saw the investment as a good deal to set up the company for future growth. In fact, the company is even considering adding another shift.
“It’s been very good for us,” he says. “It’s allowed us to handle some big jobs. That’s been good validation.”
And to keep up the company’s investment, Decoboard pays special attention to regular maintenance. They also keep a back stock of wear parts on hand for service needs. And when they can’t handle something in house, Cefla has responded. “They have been good on support,” says Munden.
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