2021/01/01   |   Auckland   |   New Zealand

Greenmount Espies – a new world

Greenmount Espies offers turn-key interior fit-out solutions to a wide range of sectors - focussing mainly on Retail, Hospitality and Commercial projects.

„Taking on new technologies and being forward thinking dare I say, has been something we Kiwis do a lot – and do it well. We plan to move forward into what many are now seeing as a new world.”

Graham Russell, Managing Director of Greenmount Espies

The world we live in is constantly moving forward and with that comes change. This is no more so than in the world of manufacturing and processing wood and panel based product and componentry. To thrive, speed and accuracy is dovetailed with the need to meet the highest standard of quality possible, to be competitive, in the most economic and efficient way. In the last decade, we have seen great strides made in the development and implementation of robotic technology in the factory environment that allows for the cutting, labelling, moving and storage of panel componentry pending eventual assembly into finished product such as kitchen cabinetry, shop fittings and furniture. More and more it is being seen as apparent that robotics in the factory process should not be viewed as standalone but rather as a fully integrated part of the business.

Bob Nordgren from JOINERS Magazine recently had the opportunity to discuss these very issues with Graham Russell Managing Director of Greenmount Espies, one of the largest contract panel and wood manufacturers in New Zealand, along with his two sons Braden and Liam who also work for the company. Graham has been looking at various forms of factory automation and robotics as part of an ongoing project with German machinery manufacturers HOMAG AG who are world leaders in robotic factory systems, to purchase (during Lockdown Level 4 last year here in New Zealand I might add) a robotic saw and automated horizontal storage system which arrived in June 2020 but because of Covid 19 was not installed and commissioned until November 2020.

The interesting question was why buy such a system?

“Perhaps at the center of all this is consistency of performance.” Graham comments “Reducing mistakes perhaps even poor decisions in some cases. You can achieve better control of the workflow along with panel management. Along with the normal software upgrades and other management improvements it will also leave a clear path open to investment in future planned operations of the business as well. This leads to efficiencies and improved profitability.”

The system installed can be operated in a fully automated, semi-automated or indeed manual mode which makes for a responsive, reactive and flexible factory operation. It leads to full space utilization for both the cutting and storage of panel product. It is ideal for Batch 1 production where through a process of aligning, clamping and redirecting combined with auto labelling of component parts this seemingly ‘chaotic” production can cut and compile literally hundreds of components ready for further processing in an organized way. It suits nested manufacturing be it big or not so big. In robot mode, it leads to low unit costs per part, a partially unmanned operation and very low error rates while in an operator mode it offers real freedom in the cutting process and far greater flexibility without the need for special robotics or programming knowledge.

So since it was commissioned back in November 2020 how has it been working?

“We are still in Stage 1 really” offers Liam “We can see it leading to better organization and better production over the next twelve months.” Braden adds “The install went really well. It was a real challenge what with Covid 19 in getting the Aussie based technicians here but it all worked seamlessly. We also have our own in house engineers who can deal with most day-to-day issues. HOMAG set up the software and provide the diagnostics we need for any enquiry. The package of saw and destacker offers a lot of options so there is a lot to think about in how you want your system set up. The beam saw in the system is fully robotic and is working well with the destacking system. We have a way to go in fully integrating the new system but it has progressed well. Integration means the business as a whole will gain in a variety of ways not just efficiency and profitability. The key benefit of the destacking system for example, has been control of stock, where it is and where it goes be it panel or waste. As to training in the system’s use, it has been straight forward with HOMAG supplying all we needed to get up and running.”

With all these efficiencies what has having this system meant for the human element?

Graham points out “You still need smart people to run this sort of system. It has been really useful in fact in taking away the handling stress of moving heavy board around for those staff involved who in turn can be better employed in other areas of the total operation.

This new cutting and handling system offers new efficiencies, and hence better profitability. Most importantly though, it will enable us to continue to meet customer’s expectations to provide a quality product for a good price. So far HOMAG have delivered what we expected.”

Greenmount Espies have been around for some time now. Future aspirations?

“We have been planning to build a new factory but Covid 19 has delayed things somewhat.” Graham comments. A real positive has been the family feel to the business with both Graham’s sons Braden and now Liam being involved in the business. Graham, who has always had an eye for new ways to do things, sees a bright future ahead. “Taking on new technologies and being forward thinking dare I say, has been something we Kiwis do a lot – and do it well. We plan to move forward into what many are now seeing as a new world.”

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Greenmount Espies

Over the years Greenmount grown from a small business, to NZ’s largest interior joinery solutions company with 90+ staff on the team. The company strives for the best – whether that means developing new skills, boosting the team’s know-how, or expanding our premises.

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