Wood-based panel manufacturer Sonae Arauco has invested R220-million in upgrading its White River, Mpumalanga facility to include an integrated press system.
The upgrade will allow the company to introduce exclusive and innovative new materials to the local market from its latest Innovus collection. The upgraded facility will also give Sonae Arauco the flexibility to be able to press niche products on demand, in accordance with specific customer requirements. This will reduce stockholding, which poses the potential of product being damaged or ageing if stored too long.
Pressing on demand translates into reduced lead times for customers. Sonae Arauco chief sales and marketing officer Robin Kuriakose comments that local customers will now have access to additional decorative melamine-faced finishes only available in the European market to date.
“We want to introduce more of these finishes locally, and hence the major investment in the White River facility, which can now be benchmarked against the best on the continent, as well as globally,” Kuriakose highlights.
The White River plant processes raw product into particle board and medium-density fibre board (MDFB) that is then covered to produce what is known as melamine-faced board. “The new line increases our capacity significantly to convert raw board into high-quality, value-added product,” Sonae Arauco chief industrial and technology officer Dionne Harber stresses.
Key customers and select media were hosted at an official function at the White River plant on Friday 29 November, which included a walk-through of the upgraded line, and an introduction of the Innovus range.
Notable guests at the event included Mpumalanga MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Pat Ngomane, and representative members of Sonae Arauco’s executive committee. These were CEO Rui Correia, Chief Industrial and Technology Officer Jan Bergmann, and Chief Marketing and Sales Officer João Berger.
The upgraded facility will ensure a seamless experience for Sonae Arauco’s customers in terms of branding, independently of the region in which they are located. The latest decorative finishes to be introduced locally are Chobe, a classic chocolate brown woodgrain; Foundry, a moody, steel-inspired fantasy décor; Grigio, an undeniably sophisticated marbled fantasy décor; Pacific, an ocean-inspired woodgrain; and Shadow Blue, a new unicolour decor.
Sonae Arauco’s main target markets are the KBB (kitchen, bedroom, bathroom) segment for homeowners and construction, shopfitters and outfitters, and furniture manufacturers. While the downturn in the construction industry continues to add pressure to an already difficult business environment, the decorative wood panel segment remains buoyant, with a lot of potential.
“It is the ideal time for us to have invested significantly in our White River plant, which now boasts some of the best technology available in this industry globally. We now have the technological flexibility and an innovative portfolio that will allow us to grow sustainably in this market, while diversifying our customer’s base even further,” Kuriakose concludes.