A Flexible Future With Holz-Her01/20/2020
When you’re competing against well-known kitchen and bedroom manufacturers with multimillion pound manufacturing facilities, fully equipped, nationwide showrooms and hefty marketing budgets, how does an independent kitchen and bedroom producer make its mark on the KBB industry? For Grimsby-based Haagensen Wardrobes and Kitchens Ltd, the answer can be found in its flexible approach to design.
“Everything we do is bespoke and as a result, our designs are led by what our customers want, not what our showroom has in stock. Most larger manufacturers can’t afford to offer unlimited design choices and that is why our business is growing,” begins Luke Haagensen, General Manager of Haagensen Wardrobes and Kitchens Ltd. Whilst this approach offers customers complete control over the design of their custom-made kitchen or bedroom, it has led the established manufacturer to come up against some challenging requirements in its 35 year history and as orders continue to rise, the need for machinery that offers high levels of flexibility, consistency and reliability, has led the KBB manufacturer to invest heavily in its workshop over the last three years.
“The introduction of new machinery, particularly the CNC machine, led to a significant bottleneck in our production line. Thanks to our CNC machine, we were able to cut and drill panels and have the tools to build carcasses significantly quicker than we were able to edge panels. The limited speed feed also meant that the old edgebander required two operators on the machine at all times, doubling the labour costs and increasing the amount of handling each panel required.
“What’s more, because of the machine’s restricted capabilities and ability to use only EVA, the edging on each panel wasn’t as tight as we wanted, especially when it came to working with high gloss finishes. To compensate for this, we would have to leave a tolerance on each edge and hand finish every panel to ensure our quality levels remained high. When you consider one kitchen is often made up of 200 panels and each panel has four sides, the amount of man hours being spent on hand finishing our edging was unsustainable. We needed to find an alternative if we were to continue to develop the retail side of our business and position ourselves in a way that could see us work in the commercial sector in the next 12 months.”
With this in mind, Haagensen Wardrobes and Kitchens needed an edgebander that could not only simplify the manufacturing process but also accommodate EVA, PU and Laser edging. “To us, our requirements seemed straightforward but but the market was filled with machines designed for mass manufacturing and they simply didn’t meet our requirements.
“At the beginning of our search, we were keen to stay with the same edgebanding manufacturer because we knew what we were getting with them but, like many other manufacturers, they couldn’t accommodate the use of EVA, PU and Laser Edging in one machine or, those machines that could offer multiple gluing options, were clumsily designed. Many gluing stations were placed side by side, increasing the size of the machine which, when working in a relatively compact workshop wasn’t an option for us. They also had lengthy cleaning times and the adhesive changeover process would have created another bottleneck in our production line. The Lumina 1380 was very different to anything else we’d seen on the market. It didn’t offer any of the barriers associated with the other edgebanders and its flexibility was a huge selling point for us.”
Luke singled out the Lumina 1380 and visited the W18 exhibition for a demonstration in October 2018. “We know that machinery demonstrations can be quite controlled at exhibitions but this didn’t stop the Holz-Her engineer putting the machine through its passes. We asked him to feed several panel thicknesses though the machine, use different edging types and change the two detachable gluing systems several times over. It was extremely versatile. offered one operator handling and could clearly cope with one-off designs that might require fine adjustments and pint point precision, as well as volume orders. It was also easy to operate thanks to its pre-set programms and fuss-free screen.”
As well as the machine’s compact size and impressive German build quality, it was the detachable glue heads on the machine that makes this machine one of a kind. The hybrid design features two detachable application systems that offer unrivaled flexibility. Whilst the energy-efficient LTRONIC laser edging unit has been designed to transfer heat energy quickly and precisely to the edge to create an invisible glue join, the Glue Jet glue application system is the ultimate all rounder and can be used with PUR and EVA adhesives to produce wafer-tin glue joints on high gloss edging and solid wood edging alike.
“The changing of glue heads couldn’t be more easy. Each head is on rails so, as one slides off, the other slides on in its place. All you need is an access point to change the glue heads around but nothing more than you’d need to be able to service the machine. It also means that, when working to the strict time limits given when using PUR, the GluJet hybrid system enables super fast changeover from EVA to PUR thanks to its clever touch-button purge system that facilitates the machine’s clean down.
“In fact, we underestimated just how much time this process would save us. Now we have more than one gluing option, we tend to group orders together to improve efficiency and productivity but, urgent orders do crop-up and that could mean that we need to change the glue to complete the order. With the Holz-Her, this doesn’t put a strain on production. It has been known for a single panel to be fed through the Lumina laser head in under 15 minutes and that includes the 10 minutes needed to clean the PU system with a wax cartridge before changing the head over. It’s so fast. We can now switch colours or adhesive types at the push of a button and not have to worry about filthy gluing stations, blocked nozzles and poor heat up times.”
“Each machine now works with each other, lowering machining errors to almost zero and thanks to the machine’s left to right handling, it fits seamlessly into our clockwise production loop.
It’s intelligent features have also aided production. In the past, our CNC would drill holes into door panels to accommodate hinges or slides but because the old edgebander would detect a hole, it would think the panel had finished. You’d end up with an incomplete panel which left our team having to drill holes by hand to avoid any issues. It defeated the object and increased the chance of human error. Now, the new machine works around this and reads each panel, eliminating errors. It’s adaptive features also calculate the trimming needed on each panel, regardless of its thickness or height, the pressure needed to apply the glue and the quantity needed - a neat trick for any batch one manufacturer. It even tells you when glue is running low and features an automatic cleaning function. It really does take the guess work out of using an edgebander.”
“Since installing the machine last year, we’ve racked up 65,500 metres of edging and counting and in this time, we’ve been able to increase production and focus our attention on new markets at the same time. We’re now completing five bedrooms and three kitchens every week and we’re still only running the machine at 70%. In the past, our old machine would be running at least eight hours a day and we’d often need to rely on overtime to fulfil orders at peak times.
“We’ve now eliminated the need to hand finish panels and by running our machine for just six hours a day, we’re able to complete projects more quickly without impacting on the quality of out work, whilst also having the ability to fulfil time-sensitive orders with confidence. The time-saving benefits have also allowed us to offer our customers more competitive rates prices due to amount of time we’re saving on each job without impacting on our margins.
This machines gives medium sized businesses the opportunity to compete with bigger suppliers and offer the same, if not higher, levels of quality and service and unrivalled levels of design flexibility. By investing in high quality machinery and materials, we’re now in a position to grow and expand into new sectors. This machine has been a game changer for us and we’re excited to see where the future will take us.”