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State-of-the-art finishing system doubles Wood-Mode's production, while reducing VOC levels.



The customized 4,000-foot-long double-tiered flatline conveyor system, spray booths and ovens have enabled Wood-Mode to double production while maintaining a high-quality finish. Established in 1942 as a small planning mill, manufacturing toys, shell boxes and homing pigeon coops during World War II, Wood-Mode has evolved into one of the 10 largest U.S. cabinetmakers, with 1990 sales reaching $90 million. Jeff Bowersox, vice president of operations and facilities, attributes the Kreamer, Pa.-based company's success to good planning, good execution by its employees and purchasing state-of-the-art equipment.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the finishing department, where Wood-Mode exercised foresight to overcome two potential obstacles. The first: to maintain production without excessive equipment installation downtime. Second: permit resubmittance as a volatile organic compound source in a non-attainment area.

Kreamer falls under the Philadelphia, Pa.area, which has been cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a non-attainment zone. The term non-attainment is designated to those areas which exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 0.12 parts per million of VOCs. Companies which emit VOCs into the air, such as by finishing, are required to have permits as well as maintain detailed records of all materials and processes used in the emissions operation. Those companies which fail to obtain and maintain the necessary documents or which exceed allowable VOC emissions (as determined by individual states or areas) can face fines up to $1,000 per day for non-compliance.

Although Wood-Mode had never been cited in the past, the addition of the new finishing system brought the company under reevaluation for VOC emissions, Bowersox said. With the additional purchase of a Salem Thermal fume incinerator, Wood-Mode successfully revamped its entire flatline sealer and topcoat finishing system within the last two years.

New system doubles production capabilities

The decision to replace the finishing system began in 1986, Bowersox said. This coincided within the company's entrance into the frameless cabinet market and a complete redesign of the plant by a German woodworking consultant.

"We have a smaller DeBurgh conveyor system which we'd used for roughly 22 years. We decided, though, that with the new line and larger production rates, we needed a new system." Wood-Mode still uses its older finishing system for applying finish to special parts and mouldings, etc.

Bowersox said the company evaluated a variety of foreign' and American-made finishing systems before deciding on a fully-automated DeBurgh double-tiered flatline conveyer system. The system works in conjunction with eight spray booths and four custom-designed ovens. To save space, the 4,000-foot-long conveyor system winds between the ovens and spray booths. George Koch Sons supplied and customized the $1.8 million, total cost, finishing system to suit Wood-Mode's requirements.

Approximately 16,000 workpieces can run through the system in an eight-hour shift, more than double the amount finished on the previous conveyor/finishing line, Bowersox said. The system works well for all solid wood and MDF flatline products, whether color coated, natural finish or stained. Wood-Mode uses Gilbert Spruance Co. and Coating Development Group (C.D.G.) high solids and stains. According to Bowersox, the company is also experimenting with Spruance and C.D.G. waterborne finishes.

Basecoats are applied with Binks Vantage #11 air-assisted airless sprayers in another area and brought to the finishing department; painting is done primarily on MDF doors, while solid wood parts are usually stained. Staining is done manually by up to 28 workers working in pairs on 14 production lines. Employees then place the cabinet parts on the conveyor line. Painted components, usually MDF, are sprayed in another area of the department and brought to the new conveyor system for final finishing. All workpieces go through the spray booths, equipped with Binks #560 airless sprayers, for sealer coating, and then to the ovens. Employees manually turn workpieces over for finishing on the opposite side. Parts are then taken off the conveyor, sanded, returned to the conveyor, and run through the "clean room," where they are hand wiped with a tack cloth prior to the final topcoat. The tackcloth removes andy dirt or dust which may have settled on the workpiece after the sealer sanding.

Complying with VOC requirements

To eliminate the VOC emissions resulting with the addition of the new system, Bowersox said the company invested approximately $1.7 million in a Salem Thermal fume incineration unit and system. The incinerator has reduced emissions by approximately 98 percent, he added.

Ductwork connects the ovens and spray booths to the incinerator, which is located on the rooftop, immediately above the finishing area. "We're one of the first kitchen cabinet manufacturers to have an incinerator. As a result, we've had a lot of inquiries from other manufacturers about what we've done," Bowersox said.

The incinerator can handle up to 75,000 scfm (standard cubic feet per minute) and works at 1400 F. To ensure workplace/environmental safety, Bowersox said if the system does not reach 1400 F, it will automatically shut down. As an additional safety precaution, if the incinerator malfunctions for any reason, it triggers a signal to the conveyor system to shut down. This eliminates the likelihood of parts going into the spray booths and ovens and emitting VOCs.

Bowersox said that he has not noticed a big increase in natural gas cost if all pallets are filled because the incinerator is fueled by the VOCs from the finish, producing most of the energy needed to operate. "The higher the amount of VOCs, the less gas is needed," he explained.

The fume incinerator took approximately six months to install, Bowersox said. It takes approximately one hour for it to warm-up during the week; longer when unused over the weekend.

Employee impact

The new system resulted in the addition of only 40 more employees to the finishing area, Bowersox said. The number of stain lines alone doubled to 14, resulting in only 14 additional people when the system operates at full capacity.

Training was needed to familiarize all finishing department employees with the new system. "The time involved for drying and the finishing techniques are a little different," Bowersox said.

Company's mode of operation

Through insight and careful planning, 1942's eight-employee, $10,000 planing mill has grown into a 900-employee, custom and semi-custom face-frame and frameless cabinetry shop, occupying more than 1 million square feet; the finishing department alone takes up 60,000 square feet of plant space.

Although the company has marketed its products under the name Wood-Mode since 1956, it did not officially change its name from Wood-Metal Industries to Wood-Made Inc. until early last year. The original name, Wood-Metal, reflected the owner's original intent to produce both wood and metal cabinetry. However, according to company records, following the end of World War II, founders C.G. Wall Sr., T.O. Gronlund and R.E. Nellis perceived a bigger marketplace in strictly wood cabinetry.

PHOTO : Sealer is applied with Binks #560 airless sprayers. The conveyor system works in conjunction with eight spray booths and four customized ovens from George Koch Sons.

PHOTO : Products finished on the new system include this radius raised panel wood door, recently introduced by Wood-Mode.

PHOTO : The 4,000-foot-long, double-tiered DeBurgh conveyor winds between the ovens and spray booths. Up to 16,000 workpieces can be processed in an eight-hour shift.

PHOTO : Staining is done manually by employees, working in pairs, on 14 production lines.

PHOTO : The Salem Thermal incinerator has reduced VOC emissions by about 98 percent.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:volatile organic compound; Wood-Mode Industries Inc.
Author:Koenig, Karen Malamud
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Previous Article:World-class technology for North American woodworkers.
Next Article:Decorative laminate producers emphasize variety.

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