Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of Wood & Wood Products Editor-in-Chief Karen Koenig's travel blog, chronicling her ongoing visits to Chinese wood products plants as part of a delegation of U.S. woodworking executives.

MingZhu's RTA Production
Today we saw what many would consider the factory of the future. The MingZhu Furniture Group is the third largest furniture manufacturer in China, but based on the level of technology going into its factories, it could soon rank at the top.

Within just 22 years, the Chengdu City, Chongzhou-based company has moved from a two-man shop using handsaws and cutting its own logs, to a multi-million giant, producing roughly 5,000 sets of RTA melamine and painted furniture a day to the Chinese domestic market. MingZhu employs approximately 4,000 people at the company, which has five production bases spread over 3,000 acres of land (all locations combined).

MingZhu is in the process of building and outfitting a new manufacturing factory, showroom and offices, located a short distance from the main plant. Scheduled to go online in the by May, the production area will include a panel cutting building, edgebanding section and CNC machining area. The company has already planned for adding more machining cells within the next two years, giving it more than 4 million square feet of total manufacturing space combined.

At the new cutting facility, plans call for four Holzma angular saw systems along with three additional Holzma CNC panel saws. “This is a completely new investment,” says Wang Jian Bin, president. According to Wang Yu, vice president, it will have a capacity of cutting 500 cubic meters, per two shifts.

Rows of roller conveyors will move the cut-to-size parts to the next processing facility, where they will be edgebanded, bored and routed. MingZhu is in the process of installing 10 Homag BAZ CNC machining centers, six with a single table and four with a double table for added capacity. The company already has on order another seven Homag additional production lines. The current substrate used for the RTA furniture is MDF, but future plans call for the use of honeycomb panels for production.

The lines at the new facility — Plant B — will be similar to those at the MingZhu Road facility (Plant A), but only faster, says Wang Jian Bin.

Plant A has an angular panel cutting system which feeds into a Bargstedt panel lifter, then directly to the Homag KAL edgebanders, working in sequence to band all four sides. From there, another Bargstedt material handler stacks the panels in preparation for the next phase of operation.

For standard flat panel parts, a series of Homag BST work to bore holes on first the bottom, then the panels are manually flipped, then holes bored again. The company also has Weeke boring machines on the floor; complicated profiles are currently machined at another facility. When finished, they are grouped and packaged using the company’s new Ligmatech VKV automatic cardboard boxing machine.

MingZhu’s RTA furniture comes in melamine or a high-gloss lacquer finish. The company currently uses two Wemhoner fast-cycle presses, with plans in the works to purchase an additional five presses.

MingZhu’s melamine and painted RTA furniture is sold in hundreds of retail stores throughout China.

This completes my recap of the companies visited as part of the Tour of Technology to China, sponsored by Stiles Machinery in conjunction with Homag China Golden Field Ltd. You can also read about the operations at Kinwai and Oppein, toured Feb. 28, Hong Kong Royal Furniture and Sogal Furniture (Sofia), toured March 1, and Fortune Furniture and Decca Furniture, seen on March 2, by clicking on the appropriate links.

The Tour of Technology to China

Stiles Machinery sponsored the tour in conjunction with Homag China Golden Field Ltd. The tour began on Saturday, Feb. 26, and runs through Saturday, March 5. Among the companies  toured were: Kinwai Furniture, Oppein, Sogal, Royal Furniture, Fortune, Decca and Mingzhu Furniture (group picture, left).

In addition to myself, those on the tour include: Craig Elias - executive vice president, AWI Quality Certification Corp.; Fari Vakili – owner, Cabinets by Design; Jay Streu - president & CEO, Mary Streu – vice president of operations, and Ann Duebner – vice president of sales & marketing, Eggers Industries; Peter Funder – president, Funder America Inc.; Tim Schad – chairman & CEO, and Mike Fedrigo - vice president of operations, Nucraft; Dan Sauder - vice president product & process engineering, and Steve Jones – vice president of manufacturing, Sauder Woodworking; Todd Wegman – president, Stevens Industries; Eric Wolff – president & CEO, the Stow Co.; Doug Clausen – president, and Jason Farver – vice president/architectural wood doors, VT Industries; Jim Elliker – owner, Victory Woodworks; and Ricardo Villarreal – vice president of engineering, WoodCrafters Home Products LLC.

Participating from Stiles Machinery are: Dave Rothwell – executive vice president, Steve Waltman – vice president/sales & marketing, Russ Suor – vice president/technology, and Doug Maat – Homag product manager. Those from Homag China Golden Field include Addie Kwan - managing director, Sandy Ho – director, and Alan Ho - CEO.

For information on upcoming Stiles' Tours of Technology, visit stilesmachinery.com

Read more of Karen's blogs including her previous three blogs on high-tech Chinese woodworking plants.

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