A family business

20 June 2012

Tengchong Gulin Tree Industry Co Ltd has four production lines and a tree plantation, all run by members of the same family. Their latest MDF project saw Siempelkamp’s largest scope of supply for a single site in China

Set on a hillside 1,700m above sea level in Yunnan province in south west China, outside the city of Tengchong, is the 8,400ha site of Tengchong Gulin Tree Industry Co Ltd.

The board chairman, Zhang Guo Bang, has four sons who help to run the business, each controlling one of four operations.

There is a plywood line, a door line, an MDF line supplied by Kunming Engineering Co Ltd and the latest addition, a Siempelkamp-supplied, continuous-press, MDF line.

This newest line, which went into production in 2011, is managed by son Zhang Ding Xing.

The company claims that it has a unique advantage in that it has a rich supply of wood raw material.

The company was established on this site in 1999 although it goes back to the 1970s in forestry.

In 1982, Zhang Guo Bang started his solid wood door manufacturing business on another site in Tengchong, moving it here in 1999.

Five years later, in 2004, the company bought the single-opening press line from Kunming, with a design capacity of 30,000m3/year. The line had a refiner from Jilin Chengming. Mr Zhang gave a hint of things to come when he modified the line himself to more than double its capacity to nearer 70,000m3.

In 2006, Mr Zhang decided that he had sufficient large-diameter logs to set up a plywood making line with a capacity of 20 - 30,000m3/year, although availability of that large wood has since declined and so has plywood production.

The wood supply is mixed hardwood and softwood, mostly from plantations. The company cooperates with the government's forestry department and also owns 2.8 million mu (190,000ha) of plantations.

Tengchong Gulin makes best use of its log supply by using the centre of the trunk for solid door and plywood material and the rest for MDF.

In 2008, Mr Zhang decided to investigate the purchase of a continuous press line for MDF production and in March 2010 placed a contract with Siempelkamp for a line with a 4ft-wide ContiRoll press. That line produced its first board on October 8, 2011.

The company chose a 4ft-wide line over an 8ft one because it felt it could produce medium and thick board well - as well as the consideration that investment in the narrower line is less, of course.

Markets for the company's MDF are mostly in Chengdu City and Yunnan province and it goes mainly to furniture producers.

Unusually for China, Tengchong Gulin is considering adding value-added production to its portfolio, in the form of surfacelaminated panels and laminate flooring.

The future for the panel industry in China is the subject of much debate at present and Tengchong is keeping an eye on things.

"The market condition for the future is not so clear," said project manager and another son of the founder, Mr Sun Ying. "We will keep looking and then decide whether we build another MDF line, or a particleboard line, or nothing.

"The margin [on MDF] is very low now, due to the capacity available on the market, and wood raw material costs are generally very high. Some manufacturers have stopped producing in the last year because of the low price. This mainly applies to mills with domestic machinery but to some imported lines as well," said Mr Sun.

"We have an advantage because we have our own wood supply and it is very cheap.

"In China the MDF market has a very tight relationship with real estate so it depends on the housing market. Recently the market has been down but I think it will improve slowly during this year."

Like many panel producers in China, Tengchong Gulin also has an eye to the particleboard market.

"Compared to MDF, particleboard has some advantages such as in screw-holding, especially for doors and some kinds of furniture, but it also has the obvious disadvantages of not being suitable for moulding and being too heavy for some applications," said Mr Sun.

However, he did acknowledge that waste from the company's plywood line could be suitable raw material for particleboard, but pointed out that the company is already making very efficient use of all its raw material.

A large site such as this, with its variety of products, needs a lot of people to make it work and Tengchong Gulin employs around 1,000. That is a lot of people to feed and there are areas set aside for growing vegetables to supply the canteen. There is also a herd of pigs and two are slaughtered each day to feed the masses.

The production line
The design capacity of Tengchong Gulin's Siempelkamp MDF line is 400m3/day, but in March this year, the line was already running at 500m3/day, said Mr Sun.

The ContiRoll continuous press is 4ft wide and 38.7m long. Scope of supply for Siempelkamp includes sifter, dryer (Büttner), glue kitchen, forming (CMC Texpan) and press line, cooling and stacking.

Contibelt of Austria supplied the endless stainless steel belts for the press.

The refiner is an Evo model from Metso of Sweden and has a diameter of 50in.

Gluing was all by Siempelkamp and was pre-assembled and tested at the company's Krefeld, Germany headquarters and supplied as a module that could be simply fork-lifted into place and connected up (welded not screwed for a better job). The system measures both density and volume throughput at the same time.

On-the-line quality control was supplied by Siempelkamp, using its Sicoscan system, developed jointly with Electronic Wood Systems (EWS) of Germany.

The sander was supplied by Imeas of Italy and is an eight-head unit.

There is no cut-to-size angular saw at Tengchong Gulin - panels are cut to 4 x 8ft as they come off the end of the production line.

The cyclone tower incorporates a sifter by Scheuch of Austria, installed by Siempelkamp's Wuxi factory.

Normally there would only be one cyclone for a 4ft-wide line, but because of the thinner air at the high altitude at this site, there are two.

Tengchong Gulin has two cyclones due to thin air at the factory’s high-altitude site
Main roller at end of ContiRoll press
Silos tower above the MDF factory of Tengchong Gulin
The 4ft wide, 38.7m-long, Siempelkamp ContiRoll press
Gluing system was supplied as modules by Siempelkamp
Entry to the press