Incorporated in 2006, Welley Timber Industries Sdn Bhd, in northern Peninsular Malaysia, is a growing manufacturer of hardwood plywood, having invested more than US$15m in its operation.

A factory of six acres is operated by 500 experienced employees and is equipped with state-of-the-art semi- as well as fully-automatic machines, producing annually at least 60,000m2 of hardwood plywood in addition to three million m2 of flooring.

Welley’s main product is commercial plywood. Other products include 4, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 18mm multi-layered marine ‘A’ grade plywood and waterproof floorboards, 15mm engineered multi-layer floorboards without T&G, 8mm film-faced plywood, 2-12mm flexi-ply, decking and ceiling boards, with all products meeting BS1088, BS6566, BS1455 and BS314 standards.

All plywood is produced from 100% Malaysian MTCS/PEFC-certified logs, peeled at the Penang plant, mainly with mixed light hardwood cores and kembang semangkok (KSK) faces. The company is committed to environmental responsibility and says "only trees that are harvested legally are used and all these timbers are endorsed under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)."

For decorative faces, local nyatoh and merbau are used, as well as American oak and black walnut.

Its location gives the company an added advantage, because there are plenty of forestlands in the region.

"It is not difficult to get natural forest logs in Peninsular Malaysia, because it is sustainable; added to which we are able to buy PEFC certified logs," said owner Martin Beh.

Target markets
Around 80% of plywood production is exported. Markets are diverse, with Australia as a key market, but the list of others is long: New Zealand, US, UK, Korea, Taiwan, China, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Singapore, Thailand, the Middle East and Afghanistan are all in the company’s sight.

Markets for flooring are diverse, with China and Indonesia already well-established, and Australia now a key target.

In Europe, Welley is also focusing on Denmark, the Netherlands and France. Vital to most of these markets is oak, which is the predominant species for real hardwood flooring in all European and American markets and rapidly expanding in Asia, especially China.

The company is increasingly buying American oak for flooring "because it stains well and is stable," according to sales manager Dustin Tay.

Welley’s engineered wood flooring range represents an expansion from its original focus on plywood manufacture. Motivation for this expansion was based on developing engineered flooring as a more resource efficient product than solid flooring.

This required a new investment in different machinery such as a T&G profiler, new cutters and coating lines, as well as a new cold press – mainly all manufactured in Germany. Such a diversification into flooring required complete re-training of staff in technical and processing issues and the appropriate quality control disciplines. Marketing challenges also faced the company, with so many engineered wood flooring competitors and other products on offer globally.

Manufacturing technology
Welley uses a mixture of semi- and fully automated wood processing machinery from Japan and Germany to ensure the quality of its products at each step of manufacturing: A fully automatic German Howa debarker machine removes the bark outermost layer of logs without compromising the quality of the wood underneath.

Also in the factory is a lathe veneer machine able to cut timber of any thickness and this can operate at high speed.

Another piece of kit is a semi-automatic Taiwanese roll drying machine. The distinctive design capability of this machine can ensure every sheet of wood achieves a specific consistency in moisture content – normally 8-12%.

A Meinan fully-automatic 900 cutting core is used to join two sheets of the thin wood together at a precise angle to avoid them from overlapping each other, producing 99% in equal thickness.

Welley also has a fully-automatic Japanese- made hot press to compress the layers of wood into flooring boards.

Welley makes sure its raw material is as fresh as possible to avoid the use of chemicals in processing and preserving it as one approach to assure the quality of products. To further satisfy the market’s demand, Welley cooperates with the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) to conduct intensive studies on numerous tropical wood species in the hope of coming up with various different products of distinct quality.

Meanwhile, the company has also developed its Ion Wood product range. This has yet to find wide market acceptance but is a product which may well find a place in health-conscious markets.

Ion Wood incorporates a substance that reduces positive (+) ions in the air by introducing negative (-) ions, which are being produced by mixing natural minerals – germanium and tourmaline – in their product, which in turn pumps the air with natural vitamins – the negative (-) ions in the air.

Welley exhibited at the Domotex Shanghai flooring show in 2014 to introduce its Ion Wood flooring and panelling, in an effort to start the long haul towards achieving wider market acceptance.

"We believe in innovation and are willing to invest to bring new flooring products to the market from Malaysia," said Welley’s foreign trade/product development officer Dustin Twain Tay.