Kallfass Postpointing Gates

Ransford bringt es auf den Punkt EN Ransfords makes a point

Sawmiller Charles Ransford & Son’s latest investment is an automated post-pointing line which has helped to transform the operation.

Charles Ransford & Son proudly declares itself as a timber specialist operating since 1876. It has a rich history as a producer of British timber products operating on a 38-acre site at Bishops Castle in Shropshire. During this recent period of the Covid pandemic, the sawmiller has seen exceptional demand for its range of products, which include fencing (garden, commercial, agricultural and equestrian), gates, acoustic sound panels (such as motorway fencing) and pallets and packaging.Fencing and landscaping products represent the lion’s share of its production – 70 % of this material goes to stockists, 20 % to contractors and 10 % to the highways segment. Small volumes of carcassing and pallet/packaging wood are produced, but not a significant volume.

The 55 employees work on a single shift and deal predominantly with redwood (60 %) such as Douglas fir, with spruce accounting for the remainder. Its most recently available annual results show a turnover of approximately £17m in 2020, with sales and demand remaining high last year. “Since Covid, fencing and garden products went through the roof and we could not cut the wrong thing, basically everybody wanted it,” said Ransfords engineer Alex Cooper. The massive increase in demand seen in 2020 and 2021 has since moderated in recent months to more normal seasonal demand.

To stay on top of things, Ransfords has a policy of continuous investment, with about £20m invested in the sawmill in the past 12 years. An EWD sawing line was the largest single investment. One of its main technology partners is German timber processing machinery specialist Kallfass. Its relationship with Kalfass extends many years. Ransfords bought a Kallfass saw stacker 26 years ago, followed by several investments including a drop sorting system 16 years ago. The most recent investment, completed in March 2022, was an automated post-pointing line, while a tray-sorting system for large items is currently being installed at the sawmill.

Kallfass Zaunpfosten Anlage

Zero point alignment takes place before the post-pointing station.

Kallfass Kappsägen zum Anspitzen von Pfosten

Four circular saws cutting the posts on all four sides.

Kallfass automated post-pointing system

The intention with the Kallfass automated post-pointing line was to increase productivity in the fence and gate post production by reducing manual work. The previous manual post-pointing and feeding of the incising system had been a very time-consuming and labour-intensive manual process.

The project was first discussed between Ransfords and Kallfass about 5 years ago, before the Covid pandemic. At first the focus was automating the feeding process for Ransfords’ incising operations. After Covid hit, discussions took place remotely on Microsoft Teams, but the Ransfords team was able to visit an automated post-pointing system that Kallfass had installed at A J Scott in 2020.

“It was all on Teams, it is a big advantage to have that tool and to show Ransfords what we were able to deliver,” said Matthias Link, Kallfass sales manager. “The decision was made really fast. “Kallfass and Ransfords have a really trustworthy relationship and that gives us the ability to do business in that way and it was a big advantage.” “This whole project went really well despite not able to meet up, with all the meetings done remotely,” added Ransfords mechanical engineer James Davies.

Previous to the new Kallfass line, Ransfords operated a Stenner bandsaw for pointing in a manual sawing and stacking process. For gateposts, a manually fed Graule crosscut saw was used, while round-topping was completed on a small individual machine. The new line is designed to process posts with a width of 75-200mm and length of 1.5-3m, with stacked packs being 1.2m x 1.2m.

It starts with a longitudinal push-off destacking with strip stripping, followed by automated feeding of an RJH Enterprise incising system. Before incising, bad quality wood is marked manually with luminous chalk. After incising a lumi sensor on the sorting conveyor detects the coloured marked wood and opens a flap for disposal via a chute. Then zero point alignment takes place before the post-pointing station. Four circular saws with a maximum 200mm cutting depth point the posts on all four sides, with pieces turned three times automatically between saws.

Kallfass milling with claming device

A radius milling cutting station for round-topping of square or rectangular posts.

Kallfass milling with claming device

Before milling, the posts are fixed in a clamping station.

A radius milling cutting station is designed for round-topping of square or rectangular posts, complete with clamping operation. Two motors, one turning in- and one against feed direction save the quality without tears at the edge. This station can process 5-6 pieces per minute.

Kallfass’ stacking system stacks sawn posts in single or multiple lengths with automatic stick placement at a rate of five layers per minute. The final strapping operation was a Mosca system sourced by Ransfords and integrated by Kallfass.

Reduced manual handling

“In terms of the actual machines themselves,” said Mr Cooper, “it has removed massive amounts of manual handling. “The operators don’t have to touch the wood, whereas beforehand two or three people were handling quite big pieces such as 200mm x 200mm gateposts. All of that aspect has been removed so it is significantly safer.” Staff have been redeployed in the new line.

“We can react to orders quicker now,” added Mr Davies. “In the past we tended to do products on an order by order process, but because of the way these machines work we try and batch produce and hold more in stock of the more popular products.”

Kallfass Stapelpaket spitze Zaunpfosten

Finished stacking package with pointed posts.

“Even when the pointed part of a fence post goes in the ground, it’s good the customer can see down the side of the pack that all the points are in line and all look the same. That’s part of the Ransfords quality we strive to achieve.”

James Davies, mechanical engineer at Ransfords

Previously, the manual process to produce a four-way pointed post measuring 125x75mm would take three operators 30min to produce a pack of 126 pieces. Now it can be done in 5-10mins. The round-topping and incising process is also now considerably quicker. It used to take two hours to complete the manual incising and round-topping process for a pack, as opposed to approximately 10mins on the Kallfass line. The quality of finish is also important, particularly with gateposts which are a visible feature at the entrances of properties.

“If someone is doing this cutting by hand there might be a discrepancy, maybe you get a slightly different angle on each side,” said Mr Cooper. “On the new line, the machine guarantees every cut is the same.” “Even when the pointed part [of a fence post] goes in the ground, it’s good the customer can see down the side of the pack that all the points are in line and they all look the same,” added Mr Davies. “That’s part of the Ransfords quality we strive to achieve.”

With the incising process, Ransfords had been unable to visit the supplier RJH during Covid restrictions, but it did visit a similar unit at James Jones to see it in action. The existing AV Birch incisor is still being used for small orders or orders of longer lengths. “Incising seems to be the new normal now, the standard,” said Mr Cooper. “For instance, part of the Highways Agency’s requirement is the posts are incised and treated to UC4 to achieve 30 years’ service life.”

Further investment

The automated post-pointing line is not the only recent investment at Ransfords. In 2018, a building was constructed on site to house a new treatment plant, comprising a high pressure autoclave and two working solutions tanks – one UC3 and the other UC4. The autoclave has a 30m3 capacity per trolley, using Wolman preservatives and is able to run 24/7. It represents a doubling of treatment capacity. A new biomass boiler was installed to heat the solution in the facility, while also heating the previously existing treatment plant, comprising of three small tanks and a kiln. “The new treatment tank was fantastic timing to cover the demand over the past two years, because the old trolleys would only hold 15m3, so there is a doubling of capacity on each charge,” said Mr Davies. The older treatment plant is still used for one-offs, small packs, half packs and brown treating.

Meanwhile, currently a further Kallfass installation is taking place at Ransfords and will be completed in October. This is a new tray sorter process at end of the main EWD sawmill line and before the post-pointing operation. The tray sorter deals with large 6-8in square sections for gate posts and sleepers. The installation will feature automated stacking and crosscutting processes. At the moment Ransfords is using a forklift to offload items, which creates a bottleneck and items are crosscut on a small machine. “It is a huge installation and a big investment for Ransfords,” said Mr Link. The installation will improve Ransfords’ production time still further.

These large investment projects certainly show the company’s confidence for future business and there are likely to be some further spends to come, according to Ransfords. Ransfords is a single shift business with an annual sawn capacity of 50,000m3. There is no intention to increase output much beyond that, Ransfords is looking for more efficient ways of doing things. The next significant investment will be high speed edging. The current edging system was installed in 2004 and that is the oldest part of the mill now, so over the next five years that will be one the changes. It will not be an investment to drive production output but to keep Randsfords as efficient as possible and replacing what they think needs replacing. According to Ransfords they are not a business out there trying to rule the world but quietly go ahead and do their own thing!”

Kallfass Abschiebeentstapelung, push-off destacking

Longitudinal push-off destacking with automated strip stripping to remove intermediate strips.

Kallfass Kappsägen zum Anspitzen von Pfosten

Zero point alignment before the post-pointing station. Four circular saws point the posts on all four sides.

Kallfass milling with claming device

Kallfass radius milling cutting station for round-topping of square or rectangular posts.

Kallfass milling with claming device

Before milling, the posts are fixed in a clamping station.

Kallfass Stapelpaket spitze Zaunpfosten

Finished stacking package with pointed posts.

Kallfass Stapelpaket runde Zaunpfosten

Shipping package of round-topped posts.

Pictures Kallfass, Text Stephen Powney, TTJ Timber Trade Journal

TTJ Timber Trades Journal Online

A&J Scott, UK investiert in neue Linie EN A&J Scott, UK invests in new line

A&J Scott has made its secondary/value-added production automatic with the addition of a new line by Kallfass. A&J Scott MD Robert Scott tells Stephen Powney how the investment has revolutionised its operations.

Long established family sawmilling company A&J Scott was one of those timber industry businesses which kept operating right through the Covid-19 lockdown period. Based in Alnwick, Northumberland and with an extensive product range which is heavily focused on fencing components, landscaping and garden products, the company has experienced huge recent demand. Recent significant investment in technology – an automatic value-added product line from Kallfass – has helped service the demand during this unique period.

“We managed to keep working two shifts right though the whole period, including the initial 2-3 week lockdown period when it appeared quite bleak for many people,” said Robert Scott, managing director of A&J Scott. “We only dropped two shifts in total when we had a bit of self-isolation.” The sawmill ran at about 75% for a couple of weeks initially and was up to normal speed within a couple of weeks. “In the main it has been good. The fencing and landscaping sector has been very busy, so I feel we have capitalised on it as best as we could. The demand has been insatiable since April and we have been struggling to keep people satisfied with timber.

“It’s been a perfect storm, you had a lot of people sitting at home on 80% pay, mortgage holidays, not having to work but they can’t go anywhere, they can’t go to the pub, there is no sport on and they’re sitting looking at the fence which probably blew down in February. They’ve all taken the decision to invest in the garden which is great.” The decision of some other mills to shut for a period also opened the door to new customer conversations for A&J Scott. “We have a far greater customer base then we did prior to this episode. So, it’s been a difficult but overall positive experience.”

Investment with Kallfass

A&J Scott has a primary sawmill line – (hybrid of Soderhamn Eriksson and Brodbaek technology) for cutting small to medium sized logs and another line (EWD) for cutting the oversized logs. The new Kallfass line installed in May, 2019 is focused on secondary processing.

“We had quite a sprawling, manually-operated secondary processing department which over the years had grown arms and legs and consisted of lots of small machines across the site,” said Mr Scott. “We wanted to consolidate it and upgrade the machinery in the process. Essentially the aim was to increase the volume of wood processed per hour per person – which we have done with the Kallfass line. We have also improved health and safety / environmental provisions and future proofed secondary processing/value-adding for the next 10-20 years.”

Conversations started between A&J Scott and Kallfass three years ago and included some visits to Kallfass customers in Germany and Holland, as well as several visits to Alnwick to find a solution to automate the mill’s secondary production processes.

“We looked at what was available in the market,” added Mr Scott. “We deemed the Kallfass solution and the equipment to be the best and chose them as our supplier and further developed the project with them.” A&J Scott had not previously worked with Kallfass as a technology provider – Kallfass was the turnkey technology partner for the project. “We designed the line, integrated the different machinery and also installed the complete line in the building,” said Matthias Link, Kallfass sales manager.

Kallfass technology included cross-cutting, strapping, pointing, round-topping, stacking and destacking. It also integrated an existing resaw, a new Rex planer, Mosca mini-bundling and a Fromm bundling system. The cost of the entire project was in the region of £4m and installation took about six months. All work steps for the manufacturing of fencing products are now integrated in one fully automated production line in a confined space. The line process starts with a forklift truck feeding the line with raw material ranging from 800-4900mm in length, 75-250mm in width and 16-200mm in thickness. This is followed by destacking, cross-cutting to length, post pointing, radius trimming of fence boards, resawing of single parts/cants, singling out and planing, mini bundelling and multiple crosscutting and stacking/strapping.

“We have an extensive range of everything from a 450mm 50x50mm peg which is 4-way pointed to a piece of decking and everything in between – panel battens, featheredge boards, panel cappings,” added Mr Scott. “Everything we produced up until the installation for the Kallfass line we did on smaller machines so the idea was to consolidate, take out those smaller machines, upgrade and also build in some extra capacity as well.”

New line features

One of the biggest advances for A&J Scott has been the revolution of its post-pointing operations. “We expanded into the highways post and rail market, not long before we commissioned the line,” explained Mr Scott. “That market involves a lot of post-pointing. Previously, we had a man working full time, overtime, all sorts of hours just to keep-up doing it all manually. Now we can comfortably cope with the level of demand within normal hours in a fraction of the time using the Kallfass line. “We’ve gone from doing 1-2 posts per minute at the very most to doing 10-12 a minute, so it’s a huge uplift in productivity. It has revolutionised that product operation.”

Kallfass designed a fully automated post pointing machine with four motors for pointing posts with a biggest section of 200 x 200mm. Mr Link highlighted the haunching machine for profiling fence boards as another important feature. “In this line Kallfass shows the ability that we can build up the whole process of fencing and post pointing in a line. There is not another line which includes so many functions as this line. It was not so easy to design it, but at the end it is really impressive. “In this line, the post pointing, haunching and feeding the planer were important, as well as integrating the existing resaw.

“In conjunction with other parts of the line, the post-pointing can offer a very flexible very versatile, very extensive product offering,” added Mr Scott. “In the line we can post-point, incise, bundle and stack and crosscut. We can do everything, it’s a bit like a Swiss army knife!”

Mr Scott said producing the featheredge boards in the resaw and then stacking them as a pack afterwards in the stacker was a highlight and had increased feed speeds. “The stacking and destacking functions are integrated so it’s fully automatic. We now have end-to-end production whereas previously we had to have a slight wait.” Mini-bundling is another interesting feature of the line, giving A&J Scott the ability to build mini-bundles as part of a larger pack. “Mini-bundles has been something the company has been asked for over the years, so it’s something we wanted to build into the line. “This helps for the DIY chain business. Bundling 8-10 featheredge boards together in mini-bundles keeps the quality of the product better, so if takes a while to finish the pack off, you don’t get that horrible banana-shaped featheredge board that you get when it sits in the sun. “The DIY market isn’t a huge market for us, it’s something we dip into and out of, but it’s always nice to be able to do it.

Increased productivity

A&J Scott ran the new line on a double shift in April and again in July. “Because the new line requires so few people to staff, we now have the ability to easily increase the shifts without taking on lots of people,” said Mr Scott. “Essentially we can double the throughput for a short period of time very easily. So operationally it’s far easier to turn up and turn down so it has allowed us to capitalise on the market and help internal pressure with customer demand and backlogs. “That’s given us something we didn’t have before because previously to double shift a department required an extra 25-30 people which isn’t easy. “It is far more efficient and we are getting a lot more cubic metres per head per hour per day than we were previously. We are processing about 600m3 of value-added products a week now and we could easily double that if we wanted to.”

Mr Link said the UK fencing market was very big and very specific in terms of its requirements. “This installation gives A&J Scott the ability to produce everything automatically and that is the unique feature of this installation,” he said. Mr Scott agreed, adding that there are fencing lines in the UK that destack and stack automatically but none that have as many features. “They may only be for featheredge or for battens or grading but there’s nothing that does everything.”

Kallfass is working with other UK and Ireland sawmillers and it is currently installing a line at Murray Timber. Other installations include at Glennon Brothers, James Jones & Sons and Ransfords. “At the moment the market is really good and we have a long delivery time,” said Mr Link. For A&J Scott, further operational tweaks will be made to the new line in the coming months. While business has been very good in 2020, Mr Scott is mindful that Q4 and early next year may be more challenging. “As a company and as an industry we need to be aware of what’s coming around the corner. When you look at the job loss numbers in the UK it can’t be good in the medium term.”

However, having invested in a flexible, automated value-added line, A&J Scott seems ready to deal with future challenges and market opportunities.

The Kallfass line was installed in May last year

The line focuses on secondary production

Post Pointing is now 10-12 posts per minute

The line enables A&J Scott to double the throughput for a short period of time very easily