Not only has SPB Panel Industries Co Ltd started up its first particleboard line, in Suratthani in southern Thailand, but this is also the company’s first venture into the panel business.   The parent company, SPO Agro-Industries Co Ltd, is focused entirely on coconut and palm oil extraction and first decided to go into particleboard production as a diversification in 2001 (WBPI issue 1, 2006, p33).   Thus Seang-Siri Particleboard was formed, Ligna 2003 was visited, and a contract was signed with Dieffenbacher for the complete line in July 2004.

As we reported last year, the rainy season, which was far wetter than this year, slowed progress on the outside areas of construction, with glutinous mud making groundworks more challenging.   However, the first board was produced from SPB’s brand new line on July 15, 2006. Three shifts have been operating since September 20.   This was not quite as early as Sontaya Sirianuntaphat and his brother Kraiwut had hoped, as they had planned to finish construction work in February 2006, but some local contractors caused delays to the electrical work, which was not completed until May last year.   Further delays were experienced when the company had problems with its emergency power supply in the form of a secondhand diesel generator.   In fact, matters electrical have been a consistent problem dogging this project.   One of the first ‘components’ of the whole factory to be installed was a 115KV electricity sub-station from Siemens. A faulty part proved to be a problem to replace in the short term and a temporary part had to be fitted, resulting in delays in getting the certificate for the sub-station signed off by the authorities.   Chipping is another area which the company is still trying to streamline, as the line is currently not producing the volume of chips in a 12-14 hour shift which was expected. This means running the chipping line at night, which had not been factored into the original staffing levels.   “This seems to be an infeed system problem which we need to solve, as it is not consistent,” said Mr Sirianuntaphat.   The sanding line was providing another bottleneck at the time of my visit, and although it was running three shifts, was not coping with 300m3 a day he said. This again is an infeed/outfeed conveying problem and all part of the learning curve for this new entrant into the business. Sanding belts are supplied by Sia Abrasives of Switzerland.   “It may also be due to a lack of experience in our operators to some degree at this stage,” admitted Mr Sirianuntaphat.   At the time of our visit on the last day of November, the factory was averaging about 300m3/day of production and he confidently expected to achieve his target of 500m3/day “soon” and to resolve the outstanding issues of chipping and sanding as part of this of course.   The wood supply for the particleboard mill is rubberwood, a plentiful resource in this part of Thailand.   Like all the other Thai mills relying on this resource, SPB had difficulties with supply in September/October 2006 due to the very high price which the wood was fetching on the market. However, by November Mr Sirianuntaphat said the price had come down and the unusually dry rainy season had helped with the supply situation.   As a new entrant to the particleboard market, SPB has not arrived at a very opportune time as prices for the panels are under pressure, with recently added and imminent new capacity making the outlook a little uncertain.   However, Mr Sirianuntaphat felt that the extensive flooding in the north of Thailand in 2006 should lead to an increase in demand on the home market as furniture is replaced, while the company is also exporting successfully to Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam.   The master panel from SPB’s press is 8x16ft or 8x18ft and the standard density is 660-670kg/m3.   “At present we are only producing E2 grade board because that is what our customers want,” he said “but we will be producing E1 and I believe that is our future when we are up to full capacity.”   It is a challenge for any company to start up a complete new panel production line, but SPB’s challenges have been more daunting than most. As a completely new entrant to the wood based panel business, Mr Sirianuntaphat and his team have had to learn fast and to learn ‘on the job’, with the ongoing help and support of the machinery suppliers.   It has not been all plain sailing, with weather problems and electricity problems throwing obstacles in his path. But one gets the impression that this man is one who likes a challenge and that he is confident of meeting his production targets.   In fact he probably has reached them by the time you read this article.