Machines are humming, wood is flying and panels are being produced at the new production facility in Keene that will serve both Unity and Bensonwood.
We knew when we embarked on the project to create a world-class production facility that it would not be easy. We were also confident that our crew could pull it off smoothly. There have of course been bumps in the road, but overall the project is on schedule and under budget, and we are very excited to have much of the equipment now up and running.
Setting up the equipment, commissioning it and training operators has required a tremendous effort by a large team that included a technician from Germany who was sent by the equipment manufacturer to assist. We were pleased to hear that, in his opinion, our crew picked up the machine operations unusually quickly. It certainly helps that we’ve been working with CNC (computer numeric control) equipment for the past twenty years.
Learning to operate the production line has been a fun challenge for our Building Systems team. The enthusiastic comments and sparkling eyes of our team members reflect the realization that they are at the controls of a production line like none other in the US.
Building Systems Team Leader Jay Lepple has played a crucial role in transitioning our panel production from Walpole to Keene. Says Lepple, “It’s great to finally see all our efforts come to fruition. We still have a few hurdles to overcome—like how to communicate efficiently across a facility that is so large—but we are starting to crank out panels, and it feels like we are over the hump.”
Even though the entire line is not yet complete (we are waiting on delivery from Europe of several additional pieces of equipment), the speed and quality of this new setup are still very impressive. By automating many of the functions that we had previously done manually, the production line allows us to frame, insulate and sheath a typical wall panel in about twenty minutes. We expect that time to decrease further when the additional pieces of equipment—insulating machines, a CNC component saw and a robotic material handling system—are installed.
The new facility is currently in a “soft start-up” phase, but we are now using it to build actual panels for real projects. We look forward to having a grand opening celebration this winter, after all the equipment has been installed and commissioned.