Fresh from a procurement process involving all the UK’s major forklift suppliers, timber specialists Metsä Wood, welcomed a select number of guests to their Boston site to celebrate the implementation of a new partnership with Windsor Materials Handing.

In choosing Windsor, the former Finnforest business cited the company’s independent approach and commitment to delivering additional safety, efficiency and fleet management capabilities as crucial elements of their winning proposal.

“Our key strength is industrial efficiency,” explained host Mike Lomas, Metsä Wood’s UK’s VP of Operations.  “We continuously demand more from both ourselves and our partners, as we look for true commitment to partnerships, quality in production and reliability in operations.”

Mike is clearly delighted with the outcome of the procurement process. As well as delivering a new nationwide service partner, it also features newly-developed equipment from both Doosan and Baumann, a high level of fleet management and utilisation data provided by GPS trackers from Fork Truck Controls, and custom-designed improvements and upgrades by Invicta Attachments.

“We respect expertise and the ability to bring together the right components to deliver a personalised service,” says Mike. “Our business is based around delivering the best product for our customers, and the materials handling operation is an incredibly important part of that process.”

Metsä Wood is part of Metsä Group, a unique Finnish co-operative comprising some 123,000 forest owners with 5.2 million hectares of forest land under its control (about 46% of all private forests in Finland) and 13,000 employees globally across 20 countries.

The UK operation covers four manufacturing and distribution sites focused on softwood planing lines at Boston and Widnes; MDF processing at Boston and the manufacture of Finnjoist i-beams and a timber treatment facility at King’s Lynn.

Gary Isherwood, operations purchasing manager at Metsä Wood UK, said: “Our commitment to improving our operational capabilities is a key part of our ethos, as is delivering industrial efficiencies across the business. In this instance, we really wanted to focus on allowing the operator to drive the truck, whilst the service provider takes care of the rest.”

Efficiencies throughout the supply chain, and changing demands within the construction, industrial and distribution sectors, have resulted in changes to the way Metsä Wood handles its Nordic premium timber, plywood and other core products.

“We surveyed the way the equipment was being utilised across all the sites,” said Windsor director, Jason Reynolds, “and felt there were several ways in which we could bring efficiencies, whilst adding flexibility and an upgraded operator experience.”

“We upgraded the seats, added lights for reading notes, a bespoke holder for the radio data transfer gun means it is accessible but stays put. We fulfilled the expectations of what our operators wanted to do, and after 184 inductions, not one has raised an objection or a potential problem,” adds Gary.

“We continuously demand more from both ourselves and our partners, as we look for true commitment to partnerships, quality in production and reliability in operations.”

In Boston, the visitors were able to see some of the 1,250 consignments of timber packs that arrive with each boat chartered from Finland to the nearby Boston port. Most are handled with the counterbalance trucks, in this case the first fleet of Doosan Pro-7 in the UK, complete with the new low emission G2 engine. Packs longer than 2.4m are handled with Baumann GX sideloaders, a range that previously only began as a 5 tonnes capacity model. For Metsä Wood, Windsor helped Baumann develop a 4 tonnes version, shorter in length and with much-improved fuel efficiency. “Damage prevention was built in,” says Jason Reynolds. Pointing out the protection bars and design tweaks that Baumann implemented.

The importance of the onboard fire suppression system can also be seen with the extensive amounts of timber on view. Acting like an individual sprinkler system, the pressurised extinguisher detects excessive heat, releasing a chosen agent via pipes running throughout the engine bay. The system has the added benefit of reducing insurance premiums as well as risk, in potentially hazardous environments.

“Safety is at the forefront of our mind,” says Gary Isherwood, “and fire is something we have to be very vigilant about. In this area, the big concern is flooding. Our long-term future plans involve planting trees around the fringes of the site, so hopefully this will help alleviate some of that risk.”

Perhaps the longer-term view is easier to take for a business which requires 80 years for the  trees that make up its raw material, to reach maturity. “You just have to think about the next generation,” offers Mike Lomas.

The Boston site turns over in excess of £1m of stock every week, so up to 100 trailers a day can leave the yard (the record for a single day is 106) destined for builders’ merchant sites up and down the country. Mixed loads, be it decking, plywood, MDF or other DIY staples, can feature packs less than 1m to up to 6m in length, making the assembly of the loads, and therefore the reduction in road miles, a real skill. SAP takes care of identifying the mixed assignments, in fact the picking operation has been ‘de-skilled’ as much as possible, yet it is still left to the operators to work out how best to get these on trailers.

“The operators are concentrating on getting the columns of products loaded in just such a way that double-handling is not required and so different customers, some of which we’ve had for 15 years or more, do not have to handle one and other’s loads to get their deliveries. Making their lives as straightforward as possible is a crucial part of our jobs,” concludes Gary.

Equipment Upgrades

A number of safety technologies were identified at Metsä Wood to improve operator and pedestrian safety. Together with the help of Windsor and a variety of suppliers, these were implemented across all sites. In conjunction with regular account management and the analysis of operator and equipment performance, and even routes of operations and time spent idling, the company is leading the way with a zero tolerance policy towards accidents.

The improvements included:

– LED lights to all vehicles to provide greater & more robust illumination

– Introduction of front and rear blue spot lights, for pedestrian safety awareness. Particularly relevant for sideloaders handling loads up to 6 metres, which can be operated safely in a darkened environment

– 10mph site-wide speed limit & all MHE kit fitted with a road speed controller at this limit

– Wheel nut indicators on counterbalance trucks as a visual daily check that each is correctly tightened

– Onboard daily check monitoring via LCD monitor, real-time tacking & advanced reporting and analytics

– Timber bearer boxes and RDT gun holders were fabricated to allow operators to securely carry dividers for block stacking and data terminals for load scanning