Panel making is something of a family tradition at Green Panel – the two brothers who own the company started their first plywood factory in 1987.

Their father had established a plywood distribution business and, on graduating from university, the brothers felt that they should go into plywood manufacture themselves.
They started out with one line at Samutsakorn Province south of Bangkok and then increased their operations to what one brother, Sompong Palarit, called “two and a half lines”. That means two press lines and two eight-foot wide peeling lines for tropical hardwood logs and one fourfoot wide line for rubberwood.
Taihei and Uroko of Japan supplied the wider lines, while Cremona of Italy, which has specialised in small and awkwardshaped logs, supplied the narrower one.
“There is a lot of waste with rubberwood logs because of their shape,said Mr Sompong, “so I decided we should set up a particleboard plant to utilise that waste.”
A new Bison single-opening press line was purchased and installed on the Samutsakorn site. The line started up in 1995 with a 250m3 per day capacity, using that plywood factory waste for 60% of its raw material supply, and slabs from local sawmills for the balance. All of it was rubberwood, which is in plentiful supply in Thailand.
The waste from the tropical logs is mostly used for fuel for energy production.
The plywood lines and that original particleboard line are still operating, but the site on which they are situated has been swallowed up by the expansion of Bangkok.
The company there is known as Molar Wood.
“We wanted to increase our particleboard capacity so we had to find a new site and that’s why we came here to Petchburi, 100km from the city,said Mr Sompong.
“The land here is not so expensive and we purchased one rai (a Thai measure of area, converting to about 16,000m2) at the end of 2001.”
Green Panel placed the contract with Siempelkamp in 2002 for the supply of a ContiRoll continuous press line from after the former through to trimming and sizing.
The forming was supplied by Binos Technology because of the earlier connection with the predecessor company Bison. Drying and sanding was supplied by the same company.
The energy plant came from Intec Engineering of Germany, also as a separate package, because Green Panel had a close working relationship with the Intec agent in Thailand.
Raw material for the new line is 100% rubberwood from the southern part of Thailand, mainly in the form of sawmill slabs, although some small logs which the sawmills can’t use are also used by Green Panel. Mr Sompong explained the logic to his factory’s location:
“If we had built the particleboard mill in the southern part of the country, we would only have been able to take advantage of the local supply of rubberwood. However, nearer to Bangkok and situated at its ‘southern gateway’, Petchburi, we can take advantage of the fact that trucks have to return to the city this way – either empty or with a load of rubberwood for us – so the transport cost is not bad.”
The timing of Green Panel’s new project may be seen as unfortunate, given the number of new particleboard mills which came on stream in Thailand last year.
“In 2004, there was more than a 100% increase in particleboard production in Thailand – unbelievable,said Mr Sompong. “It is a bit of a problem at the moment because there is a little bit of oversupply and customers are not holding stock, buying only what they need. This means smaller deliveries for us.
“Consumption is still increasing but furniture making companies don’t want to hold stock – they push that onto the particleboard manufacturers.”
By the end of 2004, Mr Sompong  said the ex-factory price had fallen from US$115-120 per m3 to around US$100m3.
“I think it will improve once all the new plants have started up,said Mr Sompong in early December. “Customers will always expect the price to fall while new plants are about to start up. I think by mid-2005 we will see a normalisation of the price.”
He also pointed out that the exchange rate of the baht was a bit too strong in late 2004 which meant the particleboard producers could not achieve the desired price rise.
“The export market is still good and we export 100% of production from line two (700m3 per day average) and on line one we export 50%, or around 100-120m3 per day.”
Most exports go to China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Middle East, with some going to Malaysia. However, Mr Sompong expects the new Mieco mill to restrict that market for his company.
Green Panel does not have its own laminating facilities but has a partner company in Bangkok which has some Wemhöner short-cycle lamination lines and a Hymmen continuous press laminating line.
“They can offer paper, melamine or veneer surfacing and we offer those services to our customers, via this sub-contractor. We have no plans to bring this service in-house when I see other [panel] manufacturers not fully utilising their [laminating] lines – it would be more expensive in the end.”
End-users of Green Panels’ production are mostly furniture makers and speaker cabinet makers.
The company does produce some moisture resistant panels using melamine urea formaldehyde (MUF) glues but Mr Sompong said there is no great demand for this.
The plywood industry in Thailand is suffering from a shortage of suitable raw material and competition from China. As a result, Green Panel shut down production at its factory in June last year – and Mr Sompong said his was not the only one to have closed in Thailand.
He said that all the competitors in the Thai panel industry are friendly and help each other out with spare parts and advice. He thinks this goes some way to explain Siempelkamp’s impressive success rate in the country recently. “If you sell a good line to one company, it becomes a good reference for the next one,he said.
“We can run our line at 130% of nameplate capacity and average 120%, but I think 140% is probable with thinner board.”
The contract with Siempelkamp and the other suppliers was signed in November 2002 and construction work on the site started in July 2003 with the first panel produced in March 2004.
The chipper is by Bruks Klöckner and Pallmann supplied the flakers.
The Siempelkamp ContiRoll press is 8ft wide and 20.5m long and was designed to run at 600mm/second. Automation is by Siempelkamp subsidiary ATR.
Fumes are extracted directly from the press, so there is no press enclosure required. The star cooler is enclosed in a plastic sheet-covered framework.
Screening was supplied by Pal and glue blending was by Imal, both of Italy and both associate companies of Siempelkamp.
Boards from the cooler are transported in a long loop through an adjacent low-roofed building for conditioning before sanding. This is a Green Panel own-design facility and saves double-handling of the panels.
After sanding, there is an in-line sawing system designed and built by Green Panel to divide 8ft x 8ft panels coming from the press into 4ft x 8ft by a longitudinal cut.
When it comes to the future, Green Panel has plenty of room to add extra capacity.