Friday Offcuts 19 February 2021
From a NZ timber manufacturing business, MLC we profile two workers, both completing their apprenticeships (albeit over 10 years apart) and the paths that they’ve taken as they’ve worked up to more senior positions within the company. And from the same NZ region, the top of the South Island, what exactly does the job of an Environmental Planner involve? What are some of the projects, environment and community, that a forester is involved in? It’s these personal narratives that we can all relate to. Any more insights or contributions, by all means, send them through to us and we’ll look to share them with our readers.
In technology news this week we cover a partnership that’s been set up to develop a national bush-fire modelling and prediction capability using a simulation tool based on CSIRO’s ‘Spark’ fire prediction platform. We’ve also added a video clip, along with an article, showcasing an interesting design of a new building in Queensland. Column free spaces have been able to be built into the design of the five-storey building using prefabricated Glue Laminated Timber beams and Cross Laminated Timber panels.
In local wood products news, Pan Pac Forest Products have announced that they’re investing NZ$13 million into a substantial upgrade of their log infeed system at their Napier operation and internationally, the largest investment ever made by the Finnish forest industry has just been announced with EUR 1.6 billion being put into a new bioproducts mill by the Metsä Group.
And finally, and linked to the upcoming HarvestTECH 2021 event, we cover a story on one of the leading providers of independent plantation management across Australia, SFM Environmental Solutions. They’ve introduced a new haulage and weighing solution, LOGR (being discussed in more details as part of the upcoming HarvestTECH 2021 event), to their business to simplify the tracking of trucks through a mobile app. It eliminates the use of paper dockets and data entry for drivers transporting logs, from collection in the bush to through to delivery. And on this note, enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Pan Pac invests $13m in new log infeed systemPan Pac Forest Products plans to substantially upgrade the sawmill log infeed system at its Whirinaki (Hawke’s Bay) site in New Zealand.
The investment (at approximately NZ$13 million) to replace the sawmill log infeed system originally installed in the early 1980s highlights the continued commitment of Pan Pac’s shareholder Oji Holdings, said Pan Pac Managing Director Tony Cliifford.
‘Such strategic investments have helped to establish Pan Pac as New Zealand’s largest appearance grade exporter of premium lumber,’ said Mr Clifford. ‘In addition, we remain committed to the growth of the local manufacturing sector.’
Pan Pac has operated the sawmill at Whirinaki since 1974, while its second sawmill in Milburn, Otago was established in 2015.
Springer Maschinernfabrik GmbH has been awarded the contract for the project utilising local companies Lakeland Steel Limited and Design Manufacture & Installation from Rotorua. Pan Pac General Manager – Lumber Michael Reaburn said Springer’s expertise, industry leading approach and competitiveness made the decision clear for Pan Pac.
‘Pan Pac has a strong history of adopting international technology to enhance operations and improve lumber quality for our global customers from a New Zealand manufacturing base,’ said Mr Reaburn. The installation date is set for a planned shutdown period in late 2022, to allow for full engineering supply from Europe and the safe installation adjacent to the existing log infeed to minimise downtime.
Source: Pan Pac
From log to LOGR, tracking logs in real-timeThe evolution of forestry practices has greatly evolved over the last decade. One of the leaders in innovation is SFM Environmental Solutions, a leading provider of independent plantation management across Australia. SFM has implemented a new software platform that has elevated their chain of custody tracking giving their customers peace of mind- in real time.
LOGR is a haulage and weighing solution that simplifies tracking of trucks through its mobile app, eliminating the use of paper dockets and data entry allowing data to be shared with forestry companies, its contractors and customers, instantly. LOGR consists of a cloud-based administration dashboard and companion mobile app for drivers transporting timber, and a solution suite that assists in the management of transporting forestry products from collection to delivery.
SFM’s Finance Manager and Production Coordinator Tammy Price was the lead on implementing the new technology and says the new software solution has transformed the way they look at their supply chain.
“LOGR replaces the old paper docket system so all interested parties can keep track of what’s being harvested and transported. A driver creates a docket at the start of their route and real-time figures and data are made available along their route, all the way to their final destination. We can see how many trucks we have on the road at any given time, where they are and what they’re carrying,” explains Price.
Having the software built into their existing database by a local design company, Price says it’s been a smooth and speedy transition. “We’ve been using LOGR for six months, and the access to real-time data has been a huge benefit to us and our customers. We’ve eliminated all paper so the issue of not being able to read handwriting, losing dockets or confusion around payments has been eliminated. Before, it could have taken almost a half a month for processing and now it can be completed within a day,” says Price.
Being able to track each truck has also help improve their chain of custody. “Our chain of custody is much more rigorous now. We can tie down any information that we’re after with the click of a button. If someone wants to know where a truck is or what roads they took to get to their final destination, we can track that.”
While SFM is new to using this technology, Price says the industry only continues to adapt and change as new technologies become available. “I think that there are a number of forestry businesses that are going to start to go down this kind of path, using systems that allow for data to be collected in real-time. It really is the way forward.”
LOGR is one of a number of innovative automated measurement, log scaling and tracking systems that have been developed and implemented by leading Australasian forestry companies and some of the larger international forestry operations which will be detailed as part of the upcoming HarvestTECH 2021 on 13-14 April. Full details can be found on the event website. Please also note, that live virtual or on-line live options for the event are being offered for the first time to forestry, harvesting and log haulage companies from outside New Zealand.
Source: Tasmanian Timber
Australia’s female forest scientists profiledIn addition to the three uplifting stories from last week’s issue highlighting the role and contribution being made by women in our workforce, the organisation representing some 1,000 professional and scientific forest land managers in Australia in a release last week was also urging women and girls to embrace the opportunities available in the sector.
As part of International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Thursday February 11) the Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers (IFA/AFG is celebrating the work of its female scientists. IFA/AFG Vice President Dr Michelle Freeman said the forest sector provided women with a wonderful opportunity for a science career in the natural environment.
“Forestry is such an exciting sector to work in because it requires creative thinking to bridge science with community values, innovation with communication and technology with nature,” Dr Freeman said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this scientific community that is genuinely passionate about the art and science of ensuring the sustainability of our forests.”
Dr Freeman said by using their scientific expertise in our forests, women were providing innovative and creative solutions. International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. The day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
Research has found that educating girls is the 6th most effective way to combat climate change. “We want to encourage the next generation of women to engage in STEM subjects and embrace the opportunities that science has for them,” Dr Freeman said. “Female scientists are at the forefront of helping to solve problems around climate change, renewables and carbon capture.”
Tegan Brown (pictured) is a PhD Candidate with Forest Hydrology Research Group at the University of Melbourne. She said working in forest science was both challenging and rewarding. “Women make great scientists, land managers and leaders, bringing diverse skills and lived experiences to their work,” Ms Brown said. “Sustainably managing forests for all people and values in a changing world is a huge task and is such a rewarding sector to work in when you can make a difference.”
Zoe Ryan, Executive Manager – Business Development, Climate Friendly said the challenges of the sector brought together advanced technologies and traditional approaches. “Implementation of landscape-scale carbon farming requires application of remote sensing technologies, coupled with more traditional technologies such as field measurements, and discussions at the kitchen table over cups of tea,” Ms Ryan said.
OneFortyOne Plantations research manager Dr Danielle Wiseman has embraced the changing nature of the sector. “Working in forestry research is great because you often see the real-world application of your research into practice and you get to work in beautiful places,” Dr Wiseman said. “Working with my colleagues, problems are identified and we try to solve them.”
Australia is the sixth most forested country in the world and female scientists are playing a critical role in the management of our forests.
False claims linking fires and forestryThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has again rejected a recycled report falsely claiming a link between native forestry operations and increased bushfire intensity. Check out the story appearing in the SMH on Thursday last week and the story carried in this week's issue of Friday Offcuts.
This latest claim comes from a so-called expert review of 51 previously published scientific papers by academics from ANU and Queensland’s Griffith University. The report includes no new research, and in several instances the authors merely cite their previous work.
AFPA Chief Executive Ross Hampton said the scientific consensus is that there is no causal link between timber harvesting in Australia and overall increased bushfire severity. “The authors’ claims that reducing the fuel load in the forest through Mechanical Fuel Reduction increases bushfire severity, is at odds with the internationally-accepted best-practice bushfire management, and scientific studies from some of Australia’s most esteemed bushfire experts,” Mr Hampton said.
Mr Hampton said with native forestry using the equivalent of 6 trees out of every 10,000 annually, the proposition that timber harvesting is to blame for catastrophic bushfires is patently absurd and no more than anti-forestry activism masquerading as science. “Just a few months ago, another study making similar claims was exposed as being authored by an anti-forestry campaigner employed by the Bob Brown Foundation, condemned by the Australian Senate, and withdrawn from publication because its methodology was flawed.
Mr Hampton said the Black Summer bushfire season in which millions of hectares of National Park and reserves burnt showed that we need to better manage Australia’s 132 million hectares of native forest, and that Mechanical Fuel Reduction should play a greater role in Australia.
“ Research has found that in the eucalypt forests of south-eastern Australia, an annual reduction program of 5 per cent of the landscape could reduce the extent of bushfires by as much as 50 per cent,” Mr Hampton said.
“Mechanical Fuel Reduction has been used effectively in many bushfire prone countries. In the United States, the Federal Government recently extended and doubled investment in an initial $400 million, 10-year bushfire mitigation program after a mid-term evaluation found: ‘Re-establishing desired vegetation conditions through mechanical thinning or prescribed burning makes landscapes more resilient to fire and reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire’,” Mr Hampton concluded.
Modifying timber to reduce fire riskIn the wake of the last, disastrous fire season in Australia, materials are under close scrutiny. Clever options like FLAMEfixx use advanced technology to make timber safer in BAL zones and beyond. The Bushfire Royal Commission recently handed down its 1,000-page final report.
Alongside important recommendations regarding government action, better firefighting capacity and mitigation strategies, an entire chapter (19) is dedicated to land-use planning and building regulation. In this chapter, the report specifically recommends that “The Australian Building Codes Board, working with other bodies as appropriate, should... conduct an evaluation as to whether the National Construction Code should be amended to specifically include, as an objective of the code, making buildings more resilient to natural hazards.”
Basically, that means we need buildings that are less likely to burn. For the timber industry, that’s a key challenge when it comes to the Australian market. Many people wrongly assume timber is always a fire risk. Rather than argue the evidence of timber’s safety – because, as we’ve seen in much of 2020, evidence often fails when it goes up against beliefs – FLAMEfixx has turned the problem around and used clever research to deliver a treated pine range that is proven to be significantly more fire-resistant.
Finding the solution
FLAMEfixx was developed by Auckland-based Wood Modification Technologies. Managing Director Ron Moon had long envisioned an effective process that would lower fire risk in timber, helping builders in BAL-rated zones to get the best of both fire safety and the speed and cost savings of timber construction.
“Bushfires play a big role in the Australian market,” he says, “so we knew there was a huge market opportunity. The holy grail for us was a total solution that combined outdoor protection to H3 and meeting AS 3959 (Construction of Buildings in Bushfire-prone Areas) at BAL-29 rating.”
As it turned out, the solution was an actual solution. The full product name, FLAMEfixx dFx®, spells it out, with the ‘d’ standing for durable wood preservative and ‘Fx’ for proprietary inorganic metal fire-retardant. Both are combined in a patented formula that is impregnated into sustainable, plantation-grown radiata pine using vacuum pressure.
“The market had been looking for something like this for about 50 years,” says Moon, “and around the world, no one had cracked it. It was complicated: the product formulation needed to be stable and able to be impregnated into timber, then achieve a process to fix the chemical into the timber and finally to meet the burn tests (combustion) Standard (AS 3837) for both peak and average heat release. We started our R&D period in 2014.”
It was not a perfectly straightforward process – “We spent the first three years working on a chemistry that in the end simply couldn’t deliver the outcomes,” says Moon. “But we really believed in what we were doing and those failures ultimately set us on the pathway to FLAMEfixx.
“There was definitely a spot of frustration and even despair in there, but we knew the idea itself was important, and every passing fire season emphasised the need,” he adds ruefully, listing some of the many technical, engineering and chemical challenges that had to be solved before the team could successfully deliver a commercial product.
For the full article and for further information, click here
Source: Wood Modification Technologies, Timber Trader News
New timber building tops out in BrisbaneThe latest five storey mass engineered timber building to be constructed in Queensland, topped out last week as the final, prefabricated Glue Laminated Timber Beams and Cross Laminated Timber panels are craned into position.
The NIOA facility extension in the Brisbane Airport precinct is the first mass timber structure of its kind for builder, Besix Watpac and Site Manager, Ben Rowlands has nothing but praise. “We forecast the structure to take 36 days for completion, but we are on track to be complete in just 26 days in total.
“Part of the construction brief from the client was to ensure we do not hinder the day-to-day operations of the busy NIOA facility so the quicker we can construct and cleaner we can keep the site, the better. Using all prefabricated engineered timber for the structure means we have minimal waste on site, less trades on site, faster, quieter construction and a far cleaner site than what we see with a traditional construction project”.
“We spent more time reviewing the shop drawings and preparation for construction but in doing so, we can deliver on our commitment to minimise disruption to our client during construction.” Mr Rowlands said. The progress tour of the mass timber structure was led by the project Architects, Richard Kirk and Dr Andrew Magub of Kirk Studio who are very familiar with designing and specifying mass engineered timber, priding themselves on delivering projects which showcase sustainability.
Dr Andrew Magub said the building is a new typology, column free space to enhance the experience for those working within it once completed, “We're anticipating from the research we've seen that this timber building will produce a better work environment than a traditional office environment,” Dr Magub said.
While the load bearing ground-floor is made of traditional concrete, the four storey walls, floors, roof, stairwell and lift shaft are all Cross Laminated Timber supplied by XLam, while the columns and bracing are all Glue Laminated Timber supplied by Hyne Timber. The timber is all Australian grown and certified plantation pine.
Rob Mansell, Technical Sales Representative and Business Development – GLT AUS said this is the second mass engineered timber building both Hyne Timber and XLam have supplied to for NIOA with the new Rheinmetal NIOA factory in Maryborough nearing completion at present. “This building and the factory in Maryborough have been specifically procured and built entirely from Australian grown and manufactured, engineered timber products, supporting local jobs.
“It has been great to supply this local project and work with the professional team to see this showcase come to fruition. It is also great for our employees who manufacture the engineered timber see their work coming together for an exceptional office space for the future.” Mr Mansell said. The new offices are expected to be completed in April 2021.
Source: Hyne Timber
What’s it like to be an Environmental PlannerWhen Kristie Paki Paki completed her Bachelor of Forestry Science 16 years ago, she felt confident that there would be a stable and interesting job at the other end of it. Her first role as a Harvest Planner with Nelson Forests fulfilled those expectations and gave her a good grounding for her current role as OneFortyOne’s Environmental Planner in Marlborough, New Zealand.
Kristie is called in when any kind of compliance is required to operate in the Marlborough environment, ensuring that OneFortyOne operations have minimal impact on the surrounding area and landscape.
Resource consents, building consents, discussions with historic site authorities, harvest plan reviews, stream crossing designs, environmental auditing, access permits for beekeeping, neighbour agreements, threatened species management and community liaison are all a part of Kristie’s day-to-day activities. “I also chair the Environmental Improvement Committee at Kaituna Sawmill, and oversee the internal environmental auditing program,” says Kristie.
Kristie also contributes to the iNaturalist website and app on behalf of OneFortyOne. iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. The app and website have more than one million registered users and is used by citizens and scientists to monitor species presence and distribution.
Kristie maintains a threatened species field guide booklet to help colleagues and contractors identify indigenous flora and fauna that are endangered. Part of this work involves conducting training with operational colleagues about threatened species and encouraging other colleagues and contractors to contribute to the iNaturalist database with their field observations.
The iNaturalist work is part of the company’s voluntary contributions to the Biodiversity in Plantations project. “It is a fabulous tool for recording and learning about the presence of threatened species,” says Kristie. “Within the app/website OneFortyOne employees and contractors can record sightings of threatened species and we are able to view who has entered sightings as each user has a unique identifier. The use of smart technology has made the recording process seamless and instant. GPS locations are added automatically, photos can be uploaded, and you can request help with species identification from the global scientists and biologists who monitor the program.”
The technology is useful for tracking and monitoring kārearea, New Zealand’s only falcon, and other indigenous species, and, where possible, forestry operations can be planned based on this data. “If we know about the presence of a threatened species before we undertake operations, we can plan for it,” says Kristie.
“For example, if we have recorded sighting of kārearea being present in previous years displaying protective behaviours we can plan to avoid known nesting areas during the nesting and fledging periods.”
At the moment Kristie is working collaboratively with the Marlborough Falcon Trust. “So far we’ve used the Trust to upskill our contractors in species identification and understanding the habitat of the kārearea and the interface of our operations and how it affects them,” says Kristie. “We can help protect these birds by ensuring everyone who works in our forests understands how to keep them safe.”
Once a year, Kristie does a carbon audit that measures the carbon footprint of OneFortyOne’s operations in Marlborough, including Kaituna Sawmill. The carbon calculations Kristie produces provide OneFortyOne with an ongoing measure of the amount of carbon each forest estate absorbs and stores each year, along with a valuable insight into opportunities for the business to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
A recent community project that is dear to Kristie’s heart has been securing OneFortyOne sponsorship for the Pine Valley Educational Camp, a non-profit organisation that runs a camp for primary school aged children. The camp is located adjacent to OneFortyOne’s forest estate. The funding is being put towards upgrading their facilities.
“The camp focuses on environmental education taught through on-site activities and content. We feel a strong connection with it as we are one of the camp’s neighbours,” says Kristie. “The camp is an iconic institution that most Marlborough and many Nelson Tasman children get to go to at least once. The kids go on forest walks, play ‘search and find’ educational games in the indigenous forest of the neighbouring Department of Conservation land, learn about tree and insect species identification, and do stream and waterways health studies.
It’s clear that Kristie loves her work and the opportunity it gives her to put her environmental and community values at the heart of what she does.
Bushfire prediction tech to help emergency responseAustralia will develop a nationally consistent bushfire modelling and prediction capability under an agreement announced between CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and AFAC, the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services. The partnership involves the development of Spark Operational, a cutting-edge bushfire simulation tool based on CSIRO’s ‘Spark’ fire prediction platform.
Fire and emergency services agencies across Australia will be able to use Spark Operational, opening bushfire prediction opportunities across borders and over different landscapes. CSIRO’s Spark platform combines current fire behaviour knowledge with state-of-the-art simulation science to produce predictions, statistics and visualisations of bushfire spread, as well as simulating hours of fire spread across a landscape in a matter of seconds.
AFAC’s Fire Prediction Services Group will work with CSIRO to improve existing technology and build a national system that allows for consistent bushfire predictions to support emergency service and response teams across borders. Phase one of the technology’s implementation commenced in January 2021, with further developments ensuring it will become fully operational over the next three years.
With each phase of its implementation, Spark Operational will be grown and adapted into a tool that all agencies nationwide can tailor to specific landscapes and bushfire behaviour, enabling them to better predict – and thereby protect – local environments. CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the innovation built on decades of expertise.
“Our solutions from science have protected Australians from the threat of bushfires for over 70 years, from roadside fire danger signs to advanced burnover protection materials,” Dr Marshall said. "But 2020 changed the game forever. So, we have changed our game too, by unleashing new science and technology to protect our firefighters and Australian communities”.
“We believe this advanced system will help firefighters outthink fire, to anticipate its actions, and to get ahead of it, so they can beat it. Spark is a great example of combining environmental, digital and materials science and listening to Australia’s front-line responders to deliver a real-world solution that works for them. Spark is a cutting-edge platform, based on today’s breakthrough technology but built on a strong foundation of research into understanding and predicting the behaviour and spread of bushfires.”
AFAC CEO Stuart Ellis said the new technology will support fire agencies to keep communities safe. “It was identified as the best solution to use to help achieve a nationally consistent system that will take the nation to the next generation of firefighting intelligence, and ensure we are protecting as many lives and assets as possible across multiple scenarios, mitigating the dangers of bushfire.”
Through a partnership with AFAC, Minderoo Foundation is supporting the development of Spark Operational as part of its Fire Shield Mission, which aims to detect and extinguish dangerous fires within an hour by 2025.
CEO of Minderoo’s Flood and Fire Resilience Initiative, Adrian Turner, said the development came at a critical time. “The Black Summer Bushfires burned with devastating impact, in extremely dry fuels and at a scale that is rarely seen, driving extreme fire behaviour, which meant that the modelling was not able to accurately predict spread,” Mr Turner said.
“The experience last summer has highlighted the need for better decision support tools to help firefighters protect people and the environment. Fire services will be able to test this tool during this next fire season, and this pilot project is a critical step towards better supporting firefighter decisions across a full range of fuel types to inform the earlier detection of fires in the future.”
Largest investment ever made in Finnish forest industryMetsä Fibre, part of Metsä Group, has made the investment decision to build a new bioproduct mill in Kemi, Finland. The value of the investment is EUR 1.6 billion and it is the largest investment ever made by the Finnish forest industry in Finland. The construction phase will take approximately two and a half years, and the mill will be completed during the third quarter of 2023.
In addition to the Kemi bioproduct mill, Metsä Group is currently building the world’s most modern sawmill in Rauma, Finland. The Kemi bioproduct mill will increase the annual value of Finland’s exports by approximately EUR 0.5 billion, and the positive annual income effect in Finland from wood sales and domestic purchases will also be approximately EUR 0.5 billion. The new bioproduct mill will secure the 250 jobs in the existing pulp mill in Kemi for decades to come. All in all, around 500 persons work in the Metsä Group’s Kemi mill site.
A significant part of the pulp produced at the Kemi bioproduct mill is processed into high-quality linerboard at the mill site at Metsä Board's mill. In this connection, Metsä Board has decided to increase the capacity of the linerboard mill. The Kemi bioproduct mill will create around 1,500 new jobs across its entire direct value chain in Finland, most of them in wood sourcing. All in all, approximately 2,500 people will work in the direct value chain of the Kemi bioproduct mill in Finland.
The Finnish companies have been competitive, and the Kemi bioproduct mill project’s degree of Finnish origin is estimated to be very high, approximately 70%. During the construction phase, the employment impact will be nearly 10,000 person-years and more than half of it will be located in Kemi. The number of individual persons working in the mill area during the construction phase is estimated to be around 15,000.
The Kemi bioproduct mill will use approximately 7.6 million cubic metres of pulpwood a year, which is 4.5 million cubic metres more than the current pulp mill in Kemi. Wood is planned to be procured mainly from Finland. The availability of high-quality wood raw material is supported by the strong owner base of Metsäliitto Cooperative. The wood procurement to Kemi mill will expand to Sweden in the future, from where it is estimated that approximately one million cubic meters of wood will be procured annually. The main partners for the construction project are Valmet, ABB, AFRY and Fimpec.
Source: Metsa Fibre
Native logging increases bushfire risk?The logging of native trees has been shown to increase the risk of bushfires rather than reducing it, according to new scientific evidence. The findings, released on Friday by the Bushfire Recovery Project, contradict the forest industry’s long-held claims that selective logging helps reduce bushfire fuel loads.
As part of their research, scientists from Queensland’s Griffith University and Canberra’s Australian National University analysed 51 peer-reviewed studies by at least 100 scientists focusing on native Eucalypt forest in southeast Australia.
They found that chopping down and culling native trees ahead of bushfire season could have the unintended effect of making the land more flammable. That’s partly because when loggers chop down trees, they typically leave behind parts of dead branches and debris they don’t want, said Professor Brendan Mackey, the director of Griffith University’s Climate Action Beacon research program.
“You end up with a lot more dead branches, which become fuel,” Professor Mackey said. “And then when you open up the canopy and expose the forest to more sunlight and wind, it dries out the fuel that’s there and makes it more flammable.” The scientists found that not only does native logging increase bushfire risk, but that this danger can last for several decades.
Wooden you know it - wooden satellitesThe space age was built on clever materials. The business ends of rocket engines are composed of Inconel, a family of heat-and-corrosion-resistant nickel-chromium alloys developed in the 1940s.
The “gold foil” adorning many satellites is, in fact, a form of insulation made from layers of Kapton and metallised Mylar, a pair of artificial polymers from the 1950s and 1960s. SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft use a heat shield made of phenolic-impregnated carbon to protect astronauts during atmospheric re-entry.
But it is not just humans in lab coats who can come up with whizzy substances. Sumitomo Forestry, a Japanese firm, and Kyoto University are pondering the idea of building satellites out of an advanced, high-performance composite made from cellulose and lignin, a pair of complex polymers which are strong in tension and compression respectively.
This material is both cheap and abundant. It is self-assembling and requires only simple chemical inputs. Manufacture can be entirely automated, requiring no human oversight. Translated from chemist-speak, they want to make satellites out of wood.
For further coverage on this story click here and here.
Timber Machining apprentices thrivingMLC, a New Zealand manufacturing company currently has two staff members who started an apprenticeship programme in timber machining. In this article, we take a look at the career path of the two employees and how they have got to where they are within the company.
Simon Williams-Fry, one of the company’s first trained machinists who completed his apprenticeship over a decade ago, who has now become production manager at MLC Group.
Simon started with MLC in 2005 working on a cross-cut saw docking timber to length. Back then, it was a labour-intensive manual process, a far cry from the automation he has since helped put in place at MLC. He progressed to the finger-jointing plant, then to the planer starting with feeding timber in, to eventually running the machine. His diligence earned him an apprenticeship in timber machining.
While he was training as a machinist, he realised that there was some magic in taking a piece of sawn low-value timber and turning it into something that not only looks amazing but increases the value of the timber.
After nine years machining, Simon left MLC for an overseas adventure, getting a job in the gold mines in Mongolia. “It was an eye-opener”. Simon worked 8 months with no days off. Gold mining made him realise what we take for granted in New Zealand, particularly the way employees are treated.
While Simon was away, he stayed in touch with the factory manager at MLC Group, who offered him a job as a head machinist if he was to come home. Simon saw this as an opportunity to learn more about leadership, to use his experience with machinery to train people, but also to use what he’d learned in Mongolia about how not to treat people.
Simon initially managed a team of 15. His role now involves helping other people run the factory, assisting 30 plus staff and helping train other leaders to run the factory and manage staff.
The second MLC apprentice is Benje Tonzier (pictured). Benji’s positive disposition is part of the reason he has worked his way up at MLC from factory labourer to team leader. He is one of our timber machinists who will complete his 4-year apprenticeship by early 2021.
When Benji was 17 his mother and her kiwi husband emigrated to New Zealand. They lived in Granity on the West Coast before relocating to Motueka. Benji started a job at MLC as a labourer, gaining experience in several roles in the factory yet the turning point for Benji was when he started working on the planer. He liked seeing timber come out of the machines in what are often complex moulding profiles.
He became involved in setting up of the planer, helping with the scheduling of the different profiles and took an interest in the tool room where the knives used in the machines are prepared. His enthusiasm and quickness to adapt to the role got the attention of the factory management team and he was approached see if he would consider in an apprenticeship in machining. It was a natural progression for Benji, and he has embraced the opportunity, not only as a machinist but he is starting to lead a team, training staff and passing on the skills he has acquired.
Source: MLC Group
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