The city of Shouguang, in Shandong province, was the location chosen for Chenming’s first paper mill, which went into production in 1958.

Not much happened in the company until 1987, when the appointment of a new director led to the establishment of the Shouguang mill as the leading player in Shandong’s paper industry.

Expansion of the company proceeded in the ensuing years until the Chenming Group (which was established under this name in 1993 and launched on the stock exchange) became the largest paper producer in China, with 10 subsidiaries nationwide.

The company has seven international first-class, and 15 national first-class, paper making production lines, producing many different kinds of paper. Total annual production is four million tons.

In addition, Chenming has a paper making machinery manufacturing arm, while it has also diversified into bricks, cement, energy generation and, of course, wood based panels.

Today it is one of the top 500 enterprises in China, one of the top 50 paper makers worldwide, and the first company in the Chinese paper industry to list both A & B shares for public purchase.

To some extent it is a natural step from paper production to MDF manufacture and Chenming took that step in 2000, creating Chenming Panels and placing an order with Siempelkamp of Germany for its first MDF line. Construction work commenced on a large site adjacent to its Shouguang paper mill that same year.

However, it was an unusual first step in that Chenming Group opted for a continuous line from day one, whereas most Chinese panel makers begin their career in panels with Chinese-made multi- or single-opening presses. Chenming did the reverse.

Siempelkamp delivered its ContiRoll continuous press, the drying and sifting system, glue preparation and dosing, forming, trimming, cooling and part of the stacking line during 2002. The refiner was supplied by Andritz of Austria.

The first board was produced in December of that year.

That ContiRoll is 2.7m wide and 13.8m long with a design capacity of 250m3/day (8mm basis). Design speed of the press was 650mm/second.

This gave a theoretical output of around 50-75,000m3/year but Chenming is actually producing 105,000m3, or 8,800m3/month. This it puts down to careful management and optimisation of the line.

The company has no problem with wood supply, according to vice general manager Mr Dong Yanbin, utilising plantation-grown wood, which is mainly poplar with some mixed woods.

“The company has a plantation area of approximately three million mu (200,000ha) in Guangdong province and has invested more than nine billion yuan in planting trees and in pulp production,” he said.

Chenming’s investment in panel production didn’t stop with that first continuous line either. In October 2004, it built two HDF/MDF lines in Heze, Shandong where there is said to be an abundant wood supply. That mill is equipped with one refiner, from Andritz, feeding two multi-opening press lines from a domestic supplier. Annual capacity is around 200,000m3, making it the largest-capacity line in the locality.

In March 2005, Qihe Chenming Panels in Shandong went into production with another Andritz refiner and Chinese-made press line for HDF/MDF. Capacity is again around 200,000m3.

This gives a total MDF/HDF annual capacity for the Chenming Panels companies of 500,000m3.

Juanchen Chenming Panels Co, again located in Heze City, produces not fibreboard but particleboard, employing an 8x48ft single-opening press line supplied by Schenck of Germany (now part of the Dieffenbacher group). Capacity here is 60,000m3/year. This company also offers melamine faced particleboard panels.

Seeing an opportunity to add value to its fibreboard production, Chenming Group established a subsidiary company at the Shouguang factory to produce laminate flooring. Shouguang Chenming Flooring Co Ltd went into production in April 2004, using equipment imported from Europe.

The line employs a Wemhöner short-cycle press, Paul multi-rip saw and Torwegge Hüllhorst tongue-and-groove line, with a Kallfass packaging line for plastic wrapping.

The capacity for laminate flooring is five million m2/year, using decor paper from Chinese and overseas suppliers.

Impregnation of the paper is also carried out on site.

Thicknesses of laminate flooring produced are 8.2mm and, more unusually, 12.3mm.

Chenming Flooring is able to offer surface structures of various kinds and also offers in-register embossing.

Of course it is also possible to ‘add value’ to raw board in terms of producing a niche product and this is something that Chenming has achieved.

The company is very quality- and environmentally-conscious and saw a market for E zero board, particularly for its laminate flooring.

“We were the first company in China to use MDI resin in our boards,” said Mr Dong proudly. “We started production in January this year, just in HDF boards for the laminate flooring. This is where we see the main market for E zero board at the moment, but maybe there will be other markets later. We are the first to produce E zero laminate flooring in China.”

The MDI (methyl diphenyl diisocyanate) is supplied by Huntsman Polyurethanes, which has a production plant in Shanghai.

A tour of the Chenming Shouguang factory reveals a spotlessly clean and efficient production environment and the company is proud of its ISO9001 quality certification and its ISO14001 and China Green symbol environmental management status, feeling this attention to detail and quality sets it apart from many of its Chinese competitors.

The chipping line was of local supply, as was the energy plant from Jilin province, whilst all the other main components of the line were imported from Europe.

The logs are not debarked but the chips are washed. Sander dust and rejects from the sifters fuel the energy plant.

The Andritz of Austria refiner is a 44in diameter unit and the drying system is by Büttner of Germany.

There is a hood over the line before the press entry to maintain the mat temperature.

The entire production process is monitored and controlled from the ground level control room alongside the press, which is equipped with real time graphics screens.

After the press there is a GreCon combined thickness/blow detector and this is the extent of the quality control equipment located on the line; the rest of the testing is carried out in the laboratory, including careful monitoring of the formaldehyde content of the boards. Chenming only produces to E1 specification (or E0 where MDI is employed); there is no production of E2 grade panels.

Master panels are cut to 2440x1220mm or 2460x1250mm, the latter being a standard size for flooring production.

There is a Steinemann six-head sander at the end of the line.

A separate building houses the two Chinese-made paper impregnation lines while another is occupied by the laminate flooring production line.

“Although 2005 was quiet for new production lines, capacity is now increasing again,” said Mr Dong. “Market demand is still increasing but there is fierce competition.

“We have to focus on quality, our brand name of ‘Chenming’, and on service. However, there is big demand for our laminate flooring on both the domestic and export markets. We export to the US, Canada, South Korea, Australia and the Middle East.

“We are a diligent and hard-working company and we are known for that.”