It is never easy to build a business from nothing and make a success of it, but Hans-Peter Kleinschmidt has done just that.
Starting from scratch in rented premises designed to assist young companies such as EWS 12 years ago, he worked long hours designing and creating products to build the company which he heads as chairman today.
Boasting a growing range of quality control measurement equipment for use on the production line to give real-time feedback, EWS has itself grown and there is a plot of land waiting to accommodate the company’s planned new factory.
Electronic Wood Systems started life in Hameln near Hanover in northern Germany.
Famous as ‘Hamelin’ in the children’s story of the Pied Piper, who legend says cleared the town of rats, the town will continue to be the home of the company when it builds its new factory on an industrial estate on the outskirts in 2009.
The reserved site is 7,500m2 in area and EWS will build a production/research & development (R&D) facility as well as offices. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009, with completion in mid-2010.
However, EWS has no intention of becoming a large unwieldy company, says Mr Kleinschmidt.
“There are advantages to being a relatively small and flexible high-tech company. We have leading-edge technology and we enjoy what we do. After all, very experienced technical people have come to EWS from larger companies for a reason – there is more possibility to influence decisions and more involvement in the
company,he says.
Illustrating this point is the presence of Matthias Fuchs as one joint managing director and Hans-Peter’s son Hauke as the other.
Mr Fuchs arrived in April 2004 with considerable experience in the electronic measuring industry and Hauke Kleinschmidt joined EWS in 2005, also bringing relevant experience to
the company.
Recently, the board was expanded and enhanced with the recruitment of Markus Rückert, who is responsible for R&D (on which the company spends 15% of turnover annually), and Jan Pippert, commercial manager.
Mrs Elke Kleinschmidt is responsible for commercial/human resources and Monika Wilbois for marketing. Other specialist staff cover software development, engineering and technical service.
Among its range of products, the company has produced the Thick-Scan thickness gauges for some time but recently addressed a problem common to all
such instruments: In order to calibrate it, the thickness gauge frame is normally withdrawn from the production line, calibrated and then reinserted.
Now, EWS has installed an additional measuring head outside and alongside the production flow and this calibration track gives automatic continuous calibration to the measuring tracks.
Meanwhile, addressing the need for greater accuracy in measuring weight-per-unit-area on the MDF production line, the company has introduced a calibration method here, too.
For the first time, says EWS, this development takes into account the ‘beam hardening’ effect of x-ray radiation.
“An x-ray is made up of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ beams and the soft beams are absorbed more by the thick MDF mat, thus ‘hardening’ the beamexplains Matthias Fuchs. “For instance, you may have a mat of 20kg/m3 density and an MDF board of 20kg/m3, but the thicknesses will be very different. From this kind of information we can produce a density curve which forms the basis of our calibration and this is patented,he says. “The common method used to calibrate such gauges is to use various panel samples with known raw density values but this disregards the phenomenon of beam hardening.”
The company’s Mass-Scan X is the solution offered to overcome these problems.
Another innovation is in blow detection. The Ultra-Scan system from EWS uses a patented system of sound resonance which is said to increase the sound penetration through the board a hundred-fold. Thus very thick boards can be measured and the system is rendered insensitive to external noise, heat and steam, says the company.
Mechanical weight scales commonly used at the end of panel production lines need to be the maximum length of panel produced, plus 50% to allow accurate weighing. This makes them cumbersome and gives them a tare weight of up to two tonnes, which means lower accuracy.
Electronic Wood System’s answer is a non-contact board scale called Conti-Scale. This only requires a 300mm space in the production line as it is an isotopic-based system employing several heads across the width of the line. When combined with a thickness gauge, it also gives density distribution information.
Moisture analysers (infra-red, microwave and resistance types), cyclone plug-up detection systems, spark detection systems and the Dense-Lab laboratory density profile systems complete the
EWS range.
In collaboration with Norwegian company Argos Control, the company also offers the Argos Grading System for
surface inspection of raw and decorative-surfaced panels.
Another, recent, example of collaboration is SicoScan. This time, the partner is Siempelkamp, the supplier of complete panel production lines and short-cycle press lines (see p32), which joined forces with EWS in a cooperation announced at the Ligna 2007 exhibition.
SicoScan is a complete system integrating the measurement technology of EWS into the machines, process control and automation technology of Siempelkamp.
Thus mat moisture content on the forming line, weight-per-unit-area behind the mat former, board thickness and any delaminations at the press outfeed, as well as board weight, are recorded by the EWS sensor technology.
The sensors then interface with the Siempelkamp line control software in the central control room and provide the information to the controllers without the need for a separate computer and screens dedicated to quality measuring equipment. The measuring signals are recorded and evaluated by Siempelkamp’s Prod-IQ system, which gathers and coordinates all production information and applies it to the production process, thus optimising control of the line.
The two companies continue to discuss further technical developments in measurement technology, and cooperation in R&D to develop these ideas, while retaining their independence and creativity as separate companies.
“The key is the blue SicoScan box Gauge-Controller made by EWS,said Markus Rückert. “It is this which evaluates all the data from the sensors and interfaces with the ‘Siempelkamp world’ PLC via data cable. Should that link be severed, the data is still stored safely in the Gauge-Controller.
PiperWare is the software employed by EWS’s systems and is a common structure for all the various gauges. It has the flexibility to be set up for continuous, multi-opening or single-opening press lines, explains Matthias Fuchs. “We spent e300,000 just on developing this software, which makes visualisation as simple as possible for the operators.”
Electronic Wood System’s turnover has increased by almost 30% this year and the future of the company which Mr Kleinschmidt senior founded 12 years ago seems secure, especially with the collaboration with one of the biggest players in the global panel machinery business, Siempelkamp.
So Hans-Peter is planning to take more of a back seat and to hand over control of his company to his young team of experienced people, who will be responsible for the future of the business.