Vilppula's modern sawmill

Efficiency is the name of the game at Vilppula sawmill

At Metsä Wood Vilppula sawmill, sawing has exceeded targets and production has been 20 per cent pine as planned. The sawmill has moved from the ramp-up phase that was part of the investment to the continuous improvement phase – the goal now is to continually improve efficiency.

Henrik Söderström, SVP of Timber and Upgrades from Metsä Wood, is happy: The production targets for the first half of the year were achieved, even though the high level of efficiency and new technology posed challenges for the personnel and for securing process operations in the ramp-up of the new saw line.

“As the world’s most modern sawing technology is in use here, the targets were set correspondingly high,” says Söderström.

Before introducing the new technology, the personnel were trained to prepare them for the start-up of the new line, and competence development has continued since the start-up. “Surpassing our targets in the early part of the year shows that this technology works, and our personnel’s expertise enables us to harness it.”

“Technology” here refers to the optimising X-ray and efficient sorting. Sawing is optimised log by log to meet customers’ needs and ensure the upgrade value of the logs is fully recovered.

“Customers’ requirements are also taken into consideration in the subsequent green sorting line, where products can be grouped into drying batches for each customer according to, for example, size and knots. “The degree of drying varies from customer to customer as much as it does in the dimensions, strength and visual characteristics they require,” explains Söderström.

New for customers

According to Söderström, side streams are utilised effectively; the flexibility of the saw line which was taken into use at the end of 2013 combined with technical customer service has turned out to be a workable concept. “We have been able to develop and produce totally new kinds of products for customers such as European industrial processors of sawn timber and Chinese furniture manufacturers.”

Looking at the numbers, operations are efficient: 90 truckloads of timber now arrive at thesawmill every day, and around 40 truckloads of sawn timber leave.  In addition to these, leaving the sawmill are about 30 truckloads of  wood chips for pulp cooking, 16 truckloads of sawdust for the pellet factory on the same site and around ten truckloads of bark for the biopower plant at the sawmill. This all means that side streams are utilised fully.

While Vilppula  has been in the news as it is a new sawmill, Söderström says that Metsä Wood has also succeeded in developing the sawmill industry as a whole. “Best practices and operating models are introduced at all Metsä Wood units. The supply chain management system is also based on seeking solutions that will boost overall efficiency.”

Saw blade optimisation in Vippula sawmill  

An example on efficiency

One example of the sawmill’s efficiency is how the position of the saw blades is optimised for each log even with an average line speed of 120 metres per minute. The typical speed of an older line would be about half that, and it wouldn’t be able to optimise sawing for each individual log. Jake Mäkipää changes the blade on a resaw.