In common with the vast majority of machinery makers, Pallmann of Zweibrücken has been through a period of dramatically reduced order intake for its wood size-reduction machinery and MDF refiners in the last two years.
However, 2010 saw a substantial upturn in business for this long-established family company, which first opened its doors in 1903 as flour millers and mill designers.
Today’s products have a fairly natural connection to that original business as the seventh generation of the Pallmann family runs a business which designs and manufactures machinery to cut and grind wood for the production of composite panels.
But that is not the whole story – the company does not wish to be regarded ‘simply’ as a maker of these machines, but rather as a supplier of complete systems for the so-called ‘green end’ of panel mills.
“From what I have heard at recent exhibitions, it looks as if all the ‘orange’ lights are set to go to ‘green’ and the last couple of weeks have been like a race as projects which have been on hold have been released,said Harald Fried, area sales manager, who has been with the company for 17 years, when interviewed in Zweibrücken in early October.
“Russian prime minister Mr Putin said at the recent Lesdrevmash exhibition in Moscow that his government would be freeing up funding for wood projects – big projects,he added. “We are hoping that this will be sustained as 2009 and the first half of 2010 have been bad, but since July/August time it looks like that race has begun; we hope it will be more than a 100m race!”
One recent project which Mr Fried sincerely hopes – and believes – will be successful is that of Chinese panel maker Hubei Baoyuan which produced its first OSB strands, using Pallmann stranding technology, on September 24, 2010. “It is very important to us that this [first proper industrial size OSB line in China] is a success. We are expecting a second order for a stranding line in China this year, depending to some extent on the success of Baoyuan of course.”
Pallmann has had a number of orders given that ‘green light’ he mentioned. In Chile, the two new wood based panel lines of Arauco, at Trupan and Teno, have ordered Pallmann debarking and chipping lines.
In Russia, Apsheronsk MDF has ordered a complete green end from Pallmann, including a 62in refiner, chip washing, the Pallmann new-style rotor debarker, big chipper and chip screening equipment.
The company also supplied the green end to a further Russian MDF line, including 62in refiner and chip washing, which is due to start up before the end of 2010.
In 2010, Pallmann OOO was founded in Russia to better serve that market with aftersales service. “The new company is based in our existing office in Moscow and we have technicians there as well as spare parts,said Mr Fried. The original Moscow office has already been open for five years.
An order received in September came from Rayong in Thailand, which has ordered a complete green end for its MDF line.
Crossing the world again to Argentina, Cuyoplacas Particleboard has ordered a woodyard with rotor debarker, chipper, flaker and surface layer mills to be supplied by Pallmann, through Pal srl of Italy which is supplying the dry-end equipment.
In addition to the now-enlarged presence in Moscow, Pallmann has recently moved into larger offices in Beijing, China, and is implementing a service centre there.
Other international offices include Charlotte, North Carolina and Clifton New Jersey (spare parts and service centre), serving the US market, and Diadema near São Paolo, Brazil.
During the quiet period of 2008/9, Pallmann turned its attention to its production facilities at its Zweibrucken headquarters, investing in new machines for special applications and modernising the whole shop floor layout.
“We have installed even larger machines with higher throughput capacities and increased the precision of our milling and drilling machines,said Mr Fried.
“We have invested continuously in machinery, including five-axis CNC machines. We bought a smaller one for training in programming and some new big machines for the automatic preparation of parts. This includes a five-axis machining centre with the possibility for 98 separate tools and a three-axis one for up to 60 tools. This is part of a strategic investment programme over the last six years.”
Pallmann has had three main divisions for some years: wood; the plastic and process industry, from pet food preparation to carpet and foam recycling and a lot of other things; and service and parts.
Seeing the opportunities presented by the proliferating legal imperatives to recycle these days, a fourth division has recently been established to recycle tyres for example.
However, the wood industry remains the principal business area for Pallmann.
“We are the only green-end supplier which is active in all wood areas – particleboard, MDF, OSB, wood pellets for fuel – and has all the key equipment and competence. It gives us a spread of business opportunities.
“We are also the only large independent supplier left,added Mr Fried, referring to the recent takeovers in his sector by complete line suppliers Siempelkamp and Dieffenbacher.
“We supply all the panel manufacturing sector except plywood. For MDF we offer from small-scale refiners up to the biggest ever built, which was a 72in diameter unit. We offer chippers, flakers, stranders, hammermills, debarkers, crushers and chip washers.
“We have also developed a special machine for crushing pellets to produce burner dust in a modular system in a tower. We developed this jointly with a Belgian partner company.”
All Pallmann’s new orders now include the PZSE knife grinding and setting robot which does the job of five to six men and reduces the time required from about two and a half hours to 40-60 minutes, depending on the ring size.
New products developed in the last two years are the two- and three-shaft rotor debarkers specifically developed for some Russian customers debarking frozen logs.
In the same period, Pallmann re-designed its drum debarker to have a modular construction to handle the bigger capacities of the company’s chippers.
Besides the log handling and conveying equipment, a new step-feeder for logs and a new cross-cut log saw are also recent additions to the range, together with conveyors to split material flow.
“Ten years ago we were just a machinery supplier, now we are a complete line package supplier [for the green end] with technical and technological solutions tailored to our customers’ needs,said Mr Fried. “The key is continual development and improvement for the future of the industry – and Pallmann.”