I use the term ‘life-changing’ deliberately, because the decision that Saviola took was to produce 100% of its particleboard, which by that time was well over a million m3 a year, from recycled urban wood, or ‘post-consumer waste’. Not only did that mean a complete change in the life of the company – the way it collected and prepared this raw material – but also a life-change in terms of the ‘green’ credentials of Saviola. It was a brave move and today this e826m-turnover company has around 200 trucks collecting wood from the urban areas of northern Italy and over 1,000 trains gathering material from further afield in Europe. Its promotional literature extols the virtues of Saviola’s green policies with statistics such as “10,000 trees saved every day; reduction of 800,000 tons of CO2 in the airand points out that it has 20 certifications for quality systems and products, including the coveted Forest Stewardship Council accreditation (FSC 100% recycled).
The middle of next year will see the start-up of the group’s latest investment, which began construction in July.
At the original Viadana site, group company SIA srl is replacing its old Pagnoni 18-daylight press with a new Dieffenbacher CPS continuous press, which will sit alongside the existing Siempelkamp ContiRoll continuous press installed in 1986.
When it was installed, the ContiRoll, at 23m, was the first and the longest continuous press in the world, said Luigi Gozzi, chief executive of Saviola’s panel interests.
The Pagnoni press was being dismantled in July and will be scrapped, unless a keen buyer comes along soon. In its place will go the new Dieffenbacher unit, which is 40.5m long and 2.4m wide (nett working width). The nett result of the change of press will be an increase of 100,000m3 in capacity at Viadana, taking the site’s total annual production to 550-600,000m3. Group total capacity will then be 1.7 million m3, the vast majority of which is in particleboard, with one small MDF line. All but one of Saviola’s production sites are in Italy, with a 100,000m3 a year particleboard line in Argentina.
I asked Mr Gozzi why he was making this investment at this time, when the European particleboard industry is suffering poor demand – and worse prices.
“The multi-opening press was fixed at 3.76×1.83m so the new continuous line will enable us to improve our service to the market by offering a wider range of sizes when the market is asking for larger, longer panels. Also, the continuous press is more convenient for us in terms of production cost and efficiency,he said. Another factor is the company’s most recent product offering, LEB, which stands for ‘Lowest Emission Board’. This panel offers very low formaldehyde emissions – even below the Japanese F**** standard. However, production of this board reduces our capacity because it requires a longer pressing time, while, at the same time, demand for LEB is increasing. Thus we need more capacity to compensate for this decrease in speed of production,explained Mr Gozzi.
The major factor in producing LEB is the resin, developed by Saviola group company Sadopan Chimica and available on the market to other board producers. There is also some logic to upgrading your production facilities at a time when the market demand is generally poor, since SIA will lose 250,000m3 annualised capacity for 10-12 months while the Dieffenbacher press is installed.
Saviola’s “Ecological Panel LEB’ is claimed to be the panel with the lowest formaldehyde emission in the world and is the great hope for the group, which is suffering severely in a depressed European particleboard market. The particleboard market in Europe is generally not very good,confirmed Mr Gozzi. “Prices are very depressed, especially for raw boards, and demand is currently down on 2007, which was itself down on 2006.
“Producing LEB automatically reduces our capacity but the resin and production cost is higher and ultimately we are able to achieve a higher price for the board. There is high demand within the market for furniture with very low formaldehyde emissions and this product suits the ‘green’ philosophy of our company – and that philosophy applies to our resin and fertiliser [Sadepan Chimica] products as well.”
At least Saviola has no problem with its wood supply. We utilise mainly waste wood that is not ‘clean’ because we have developed our own technology to clean it. Energy producers, who compete for other wood supplies, do not want our raw material because of the emissions produced when burning it, unless they go to the trouble of cleaning it as we do. They specialise in the technology of burning, not that of cleaning waste wood.”
The Saviola group does not just manufacture particleboard but is a truly vertically-integrated producer. It laminates with phenolic Kraft, decorative melamine, varnishable and decor papers. It produces CPL (continuous pressure laminates), post-formable laminates in standard and high pressure (HPL) and offers decorative edge-banding in a variety of materials. It also has several decor paper impregnation lines.
Taking things a big step further, the group is unusual in Europe in that it also produces semi-finished products in the form of ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture.
This is another area of current investment at Viadana, where the existing RTA production line is to be expanded. Completely new RTA capacity for the group is also under consideration. Laminated, or surfaced, particleboard is not a commodity market,said Mr Gozzi. “It involves surfaces, designs, dimensions and so on. It is about service. We are not interested in supplying commodity markets. The Italian market for particleboard is different to others such as Germany – it is much more oriented to furniture than construction, with only about 5% of domestic output going to construction.Of the particleboard which Saviola exports, about 99% is concentrated on special colours and designs. “The customers want Italian design for the furniture, even if it is produced in Russia for example. Saudi Arabia is also increasingly important as a buyer of panels rather than made-up furniture,said Luigi Gozzi.
“For the future, we will continue to focus our activities on creativity and new designs because our surfaced particleboards are concentrated on the furniture industry and our mission is to give that industry strong support to help them maintain their markets worldwide.