Instead of conventional workstations, Rauma sawmill operators work together in a central control room, where the entire production process is managed. All operators will be able to view the sawmill’s shared operating system on their screens.
“In addition to its technology, the sawmill is also the most modern in the industry in its working methods. Operators now work in a completely new way,” says Liisa-Maija Perävainio, Mill Manager of Rauma sawmill.
Ten operators at a time work in the control room, in teams of two to three. There are four teams, each responsible for a specific stage of the process: sawing, grading, kiln drying and outbound logistics.
“The operators work in various tasks during each shift: in the control room, field rounds and operator maintenance. They need multiple skills to be able to manage and carry out a wide range of tasks. In this new way of working, teamwork skills, responsibility and decision-making skills are particularly important.”
Maintenance is part of the operators’ work
Rauma sawmill will be run according to the 24/7 principle every day of the year. The work is in three shifts, so most operators are in continuous shift work.
Given that the sawmill’s operation will only be interrupted for brief maintenance breaks, the operators must be able to anticipate fault situations and deal with them independently when necessary.
“Workers will need to go to the line every now and then anyway for minor repairs and maintenance, so maintenance skills remain essential for every operator. Thus, manual work remains relevant alongside state-of-the-art technology,” says Perävainio.
Maintenance skills are an essential part of every operator’s job.
Data for proactive operations
Anticipating maintenance and repairs is made easier by the huge amount of information available to operators throughout the process. All the sawmill’s operations and control systems appear on the screens of the central control room.
This information shows the condition of process equipment down to the smallest detail. For example, if some part loses its effectiveness, the need for repair can quickly be identified from the data arriving in the central control room. In addition, machine vision can anticipate impending congestion situations. Automation and robotics are used to resolve situations without stopping the production line.
About 100 employed at Rauma Sawmill
The training programme for Rauma sawmill operators gave new employees time to become a good team before the work started. Common goals and responsibilities guide the activities of all personnel.
“Cooperation among skilled co-workers extends beyond each team. Multi-skilled employees and experts work together during every shift to ensure our processes remain operational in all situations,” says Perävainio.
Rauma sawmill employs around a hundred people directly, including partners.
“In addition to the new operators, the sawmill will employ several other professionals in the sawmill industry. Technology alone is not enough; we also need skilled people.”
This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2022-2023.