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Feasibility study and massive upgrade project at Hulsmans

Houthandel Hulsmans, based in Heusden-Zolder, sells wood and associated products to professional customers. 2014 was a key year for the company in its process of gradual modernisation. Sirris helped Hulsmans through the process with a thorough production audit and a feasibility study for a new environmentally friendly product.

Hulsmans specialises in planing wood. Until recently, it would sell off the woodchips that are an inevitable byproduct of this process. Until it came up with the idea of compressing the chips into an environmentally friendly 'brick', ideal for use in a wide range of garden structures. Sirris performed the feasibility study and tests on the suitably named 'Recycled Wood Ecoblock'.

“Together with the Woodlab at UGent we mapped out the technical requirements and possible production processes”, explains Tom Jacobs, Senior Engineer Precision Manufacturing. “We performed tests and made prototypes using various coatings, glues and compression techniques. We came to the conclusion that, with the right additives, there is potential to compress woodchips into a stable base product capable of withstanding weather and wind and strong enough to be used in structures. This can now be further developed into a fully-fledged, high-added-value construction block. However, there are still some challenges to overcome in terms of assembly and optimising production.”

From insight to training

In the meantime, the large-scale optimisation exercise continues. Mark Van Pee (Senior Engineer Smart Production Sirris): “By deploying a job registration system Hulsmans obtained on overview of production, workforce efficiency and capacity. We also looked for the most appropriate planning tool. And with a view to shorter turnaround times, we deployed methods for visualisation and distribution on the shop floor based on the quick response manufacturing philosophy. For both the existing location and for the new greenfield production site.”

Sirris also organised intensive training: the project was implemented in close cooperation with four new members of staff. They currently support the modernisation process and are guiding the key company processes towards the desired end.