It is still the setting of the homes of brothers Michael and Fritz Egger and their families, and it is still a working farm set in beautiful countryside in the Austrian Tyrol with its spectacular mountain scenery. It is also the site of the family-owned Egger Group’s first  particleboard mill.
St Johann entered the particleboard manufacturing industry in 1961 when Fritz Egger senior set up its first line. Since then, the group has grown rapidly and today his sons can  boast 15 factories in five countries: Austria, Germany, France, the UK and Russia. Those  factories employ a total of 4,900 people and the projected turnover for 2004/5 is €1,708m – up from €577m in 1995. Egger claims a market share of around 11% in Europe.
The raw panel products made by the group include particleboard, MDF and OSB and total 5.17 million m3 a year. But Egger is much more than a producer of raw board, as we shall see.
Impregnating facilities produce 460 million m2 of treated decor paper annually, while postforming accounts for 2.2 million m2, laminates 17 million m2 and coating 168 million m2. In addition, the group produces 6.5 million m2 of pre-fabricated components and 45 million m2 of flooring.
Egger’s first continuous press was installed in 1988 at St Johann. It was the second Siempelkamp ContiRoll ever made and was 23m long. It has since been extended to 33m, in 1992, and now has a design capacity of 420,000m3 a year, or 1,200m3 a day, of particleboard.
St Johann has a 40,000m2 woodyard where sawmill residues, slabs and roundwood in the form of thinnings and branches are stored. The mix is around 75 to 90% softwood and 10 to 15% hardwood species. Wood supplies come from a 150km radius.
There are three knife ring flakers for chipping and the chips are stored according to size and species in the chip bins.
The pre-dryer dries the chips to about 25% moisture content at 100oC. This is a conveyor type dryer with two perforated metal belts, six metres wide, 40m long. The chips are conveyed to the drum dryer, which reduces the moisture content to around 2.5% at 450oC at a rate of up to 35 tonnes of dry chips per hour. This is a Babcock-BSH unit (Babcock is now Grenzebach).
Heat is reclaimed from the dryer exhaust, producing a saving of up to 30% on fuel. Egger claims to have been the first mill to start air purification of its exhaust gases with water spray separators and electrostatic filters. Surplus heat from the production process is also used to heat the local public swimming baths.
After drying, the chips are separated into core and surface material before gluing with urea formaldehyde resin to E1 class of formaldehyde emission. The factory uses around 55 to 60kg of solid resin per cubic metre of particleboard. Resin is not produced on site at St Johann but is trucked in by road or rail.
Forming is by Texpan into a three-layer mat which is then pre-pressed by a Siempelkamp belt pre-press prior to entering the ContiRoll.
The control room utilises a mixture of synoptic controls and real time graphics.
Inspection of both sides of the pressed panel is carried out after the diagonal saw, using mirrors under the line to see the underside of the board. Quality control on the line is by GreCon equipment with combined thickness and blow-detector units.
The star cooler takes 124 panels at a time and the final operation on the raw board is sanding in a Steinemann sander.
However, raw board is by no means the end of the story at St Johann.
The Egger Group is very strong on branding all its products in all the market sectors which it serves. Thus ‘Eurospan’ is the brand of the raw particleboard; Eurospan 2000 for thin board. It is also the name for tongued and grooved (T&G) flooring boards.
‘Formline’ is the name for Egger’s MDF products, with Formline 2000 for thin MDF and 3000 for high density board. Formline DHF is a vapour permeable fibreboard for sub-roof panels. ‘Eurostrand’ covers the OSB family of products and Eurostrand OSB Combiline is OSB with MDF faces, for strength with a smooth surface.
The name ‘Eurodekor’ is used for particleboards melamine faced on both sides. The wide variety of designs and colours available, with different gloss factors and structural depths, means that, depending on what the customer wants, countless combinations are possible, says the company.
Eurodekor softformed elements are made from profiled Eurospan with a decorative melamine coating on both sides, provided with a contrasting melamine edge. They are characterised by high abrasion, scratch and stain resistance and are available in many shapes, colours and decors. The edge is glued with a special PVAc glue.
Postformed products are distinguished by the brand name ‘Euroform’ and include worktops and window boards (cills). The range of continuous laminates (CPL) are also branded as Euroform, as are the melamine edgings in pre- or unglued form.
Other products include Egger Melamine and Safety Edging, Egger Prefabricated components and Egger Flooring.
With such a high capacity for producing decorative surfaced products, it makes sense for Egger to have its own impregnation facility for the decor paper. At St Johann there are three Vits impregnation lines fed by a store of 1,400 tons of decor paper. The factory can impregnate 17 tons of paper a day, using 25 tons of melamine and 15 tons of urea.
At the end of the impregnation lines, the paper is cut into sheets and made up into pallets. From here on, the process is fully automated for delivery to the racking, to the short-cycle lines, or to despatch to other Egger panel plants anywhere in the group; there is a range of recipes to suit the different requirements of the different plants.
An automated treated paper racking system was installed in 1998 and is 140m long and 17m high. It can store 840 pallets for the 360 decors used in the production of Eurodekor and around 240 for Floorline.
Adjacent to the main production line building, but in the village of Oberdorf due to a quirk in local boundaries, is the postforming building. Here, worktops, window boards and furniture elements are produced.
Boards are taken from the store, passed through a machine to apply the radius and then pass on to the glue application line. Decor papers are applied to the flat surface in a Hymmen continuous press at 160oC and four bars of pressure and the postforming of the laminate then takes place with PVA glue, cured by infra-red heating to 450oC.
For unusual sizes and small production runs, there is a second postforming line by Homag.
In the component production area, there are machines for drilling, milling, dowelling and edging any quantity, to order, of 100 pieces or more. This facility includes  NC controlled drilling, milling and edging systems, again by Homag. There are three lines capable of producing 50,000 furniture parts per day.
In this area you also find the softforming line for Egger’s Eurodekor panels. This was set up in November 2003.
The laminate flooring line at St Johann is one value-adding process which does not use the particleboard made there.
The HDF base panel is brought in from other Egger factories and decors are applied in one of the three short cycle press lines at the site. One is a Wemhöner line, while the other two are from Siempelkamp.
The Wemhöner 3.66m x 5.63m press is used for the flooring product, Floorline. Egger’s softformed particleboard products are also produced on this line, which has a capacity of 20,500m2 a day.
Obviously Floorline has a fourth overlay, which is the abrasion resistant surface, compared to the three overlays used for Eurodekor production.
After pressing of the panels intended for Floorline, they are cut to width and then tongued and grooved on all four edges. This T&G section incorporates a ‘click’ profile for glue-less jointing. Finally the flooring elements are inspected on all surfaces and edges and packaged for shipment.
The two Siempelkamp short-cycle press lines for Eurodekor are 5.1m to 5.63m long and 1.87m to 2.4m wide.
St Johann has 15 different structure plates to apply textures to the Eurodekor.
Quality control is by human eye, with shifts changing every 30 minutes.
A new distribution centre was built at this site in 2001 offering a total of 24,000m2 of storage on two levels. It is served by a railway spur from the nearby main line and this handles about 18% of the site’s transport needs. Road transport utilises 60 trucks a day, specially designed to bring resin and chips into the factory and to take panels and components out.
The 15th factory of the Egger Group is not yet in production and marks the first venture of the company outside western Europe, into Russia. At Shuya, approximately 300km to the north east of Moscow, the factory is being built on a companyowned area of 110 hectares.