CASE STUDY: Hardwood Manufacturer - Product Tracking & Monitoring


A major hardwood manufacturer approached Z-Tec about tracking boards from the green line through the kilns to the planer. The driving force behind the idea was to determine the recovery and thus the profitability out of small batches of hardwood purchased from private suppliers. Since each batch was individually purchased at different price and yielded different volumes and grades, the system would enable the manufacture to determine best value results and allow for real time quality and profitability measurement of each batch of hardwood. Since it can take up to five weeks to dry certain species in the kilns, the system needed to track each individual piece from the sawmill to the planer with potentially up to a five week time lag.

Z-Tec's Solution

Z-Tec implemented an HP based inkjet system at the green line, which coded a load number and piece ID number on the end of each piece after the trimmer. As the piece was printed, the information was fed to the manufacturer's server, where it was stored in a database record along with input length and output length.

Product Tracking

The pieces were subsequently dried in the kilns and several or even months later would be processed in the planer to generate custom size and species orders.

In the planer, Z-Tec implemented a Cognex based vision system with OCR (optical character recognition) software to read the load and ID number back from the processed piece. The load and ID number were then sent to the server along with final length and grade of the piece.

At the end of this process, the manufacturer had all the required information to make an informed decision on quality recovery and profitability of each individual batch of hardwood lumber processed.

This system has now been installed for almost 3 years and is functioning as designed and providing valuable information to the manufacturer maximizing profitability in the plant.

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