The origins of the Decorative Panels Group date back to 1907 when the family-owned business was a local cabinetmaker. Today, with a host of machinery and equipment supplied by Biesse, Decorative Panels is Europe’s leader in the supply of decorative-faced sheet materials, panel components and flat pack furniture.

Still privately owned, the group combines three divisions, Decorative Panels Lamination, Decorative Panels Components and Decorative Panels Furniture. These vertically integrated companies supply the most prominent names in the furniture and allied industries sector ranging from manufacturers right through to retailers.

The Decorative Panels Group continually invests in infrastructure, technology and people. With the recent addition of a new £10m components production facility, the group has over 575,000 sq ft of production space.

In relation to the new facility, group operations director Phil Dalton explains: “We had reached the maximum capacity of our two existing Components sites in Huddersfield. We had taken the decision to move all of our production to one central facility in Elland, where the factory could be laid out in the ideal format to maximise efficiencies.

“As part of the move, we took the decision to invest in new equipment to further enhance our capacity, improve quality standards and create a truly competitive facility aimed squarely at the high volume sector.

“The additional benefit of purchasing key new machines was that it allowed us to install them at the new site whilst production was still running at 100% on our existing machines, ensuring absolute continuity of supply for our customers.”

As part of any new installation, DP looks at ways in which it can maximise the efficiency of its labour force. “We utilise feeders and stackers extensively within Decorative Panels and as part of our Components Division installation, we made use of many RBO automatic loading and unloading systems. We see this as vital, not only to ensure volumes but also to reduce the handling within the factory. The resulting benefit has been a 20% increase in efficiency as well as improved health and safety.” says Phil Dalton.

When asked if Decorative Panels experienced a reduction in production cycles, Phil comments: “Although the product we produce is manufactured in relatively high volumes, we still have many SKUs. Each machine will have numerous set-ups per shift and because of this, we pay particular attention to automatic controls to reduce the downtime between panel types and also reduce the potential for human error during the set-up procedure.”

In terms of improvements in material efficiencies, Decorative Panels has always seen this as a critical factor in all of its machining processes and has made good use of optimisation software for many years. Where it has searched for further improvements is through the increased use of servo tape control to eliminate tails on the edgebanding process. Phil says: “We edge millions of panels per year and saving a few mm on tape adds up to a lot of money and we estimate our new machines have saved us tens of thousands of pounds per year just on edging tape, due to the Biesse edge control systems that reduce tail lengths to just +/- 3.0mm.”

Floor space is an expensive commodity these days so did Decorative Panels manage to make any efficiencies in this area? On the subject, group operations director Phil Dalton says: “A major part of our project at Components was to design a floor plan to maximise the space available (175,000 sq ft).

“Potential machine suppliers played a part in this role as many options were offered. Although the site is large, the quantity of machines quickly ate up the space. Biesse provided us with a solution that worked. To actually answer the question, the project was aimed at significantly increasing our capability and so is based on a much larger floor space. However the output per ft² is now significantly more.”

The group operations director also comments on the impact of large investments on the company’s markets and the customers: “Our service has always been excellent and our customers certainly enjoy an improved service as a result of our new facility.

The new machines not only produce higher quality panels but are also laid out in such a way that we no longer have a single point of failure.

“We have designed in dual redundancy so that if one machine has an unexpected downtime period, products can be rerouted through alternative lines, ensuring continuity of supply for our customers.

“Our strategy is for growth and we have significantly improved our market position since our new machines were installed. We see our factory as a key selling tool where visitors cannot help but be impressed.”

“The installation was backed up by significant increase in marketing activity to ensure the industry was fully aware of our new investment. This has of course helped to increase market penetration as we have managed to attract new customers as a result of our new facility.”

Part of Decorative Panels’ objective was also to make significant improvements to safe working practices, which Phil outlines: “As part of our factory layout the objective was to improve Health and Safety. A reduction in materials handling was sought, reduced material movements from machine to machine, better organisation of raw materials, plus the latest CE standards on new equipment.”

The RBO automatic loading and unloading systems helped massively with this and Decorative Panels also experienced a significant increase in both quality and output now it has eliminated the manual feeding and stacking element. Its skilled operators can then spend further time running the machines.

Maintaining the employee satisfaction theme Phil continues, “Our factory is certainly a more pleasant place to work for a number of reasons. We highly value our operators and believe that longevity of service is vital to the competitiveness of the business. New machines, new factory, new extraction system, lighting and heating all add up to a great working environment for all of us.”

The evolution of the project included many consultation meetings to evaluate various factory layouts and mutual ideas and Biesse’s experienced commercial and technical team played a major role in the design and specification. This was primarily through the use of factory layouts, route of product, production figures, and machine capabilities through timings and simulations.

Before the machines were delivered and installed at Decorative Panels the lines were fully assembled and set up in Biesse’s factory in Italy where full operational and performance testing was carried out prior to sign-off by Decorative Panels.

“Testing and sign-off prior to the installation of key high volume production equipment is seen as vital to ensure all equipment is correct on the date of installation,” continues Phil, “in fact some of our key operators went to Italy for training which was of great benefit as they were engaged in the procurement and acceptance process.”

In summary, Phil gives Decorative Panels reasons for choosing Biesse:

“Biesse’s Total Care was of course an influencing factor and we know the machines are going to be serviced and repaired within the scheme.

“We have had many Biesse machines over the years and have been extremely happy with their performance and reliability. The level of technical assistance provided during the specification and design process ensures we are fully satisfied with our decisions prior to purchase.

“We would certainly recommend Biesse. The machines produce excellent quality panels at speeds suited to high volume, 24 hour operations. The breadth of machines available, coupled with the knowledge of Biesse staff, ensures that an ideal solution can be realised for almost any application within our sector.”

Phil Dalton believes that Biesse demonstrates its core values of trust, can do, communication, competence and co-operation:

“The Biesse team work very closely with our staff at all levels. We have an excellent relationship where trust plays a major part.”

Biesse machines at Decorative Panels

2 x Biesse Skipper 100 throughfeed point-to-point borers
1 x Biesse Insider with auto panel return throughfeed point-to-point borer
1 x Bre.Ma GLD throughfeed point to point borer
4 x Biesse Techno throughfeed borer

1 x Biesse Stream SB1 single-sided edgebander
2 x Biesse Stream SB2 first/second pass double-sided edgebander
1 x Biesse Stream SB1 first pass double sided edgebander
1 x Biesse Single 89 shaped edgebanding machines

1 x Selco WNA 600 SynchroLogic angle plant
1 x Selco WNT 750 rip line saw
2 x WNTR automatic cross-cut saws

1 x RBO Winner feeder and stacker for SB1
1 x RBO Winner feeder and stacker for SB2
1 x Advantage feeder for Techno
2 x RBO feeder with auto panel turner for third party double-sided edgebanders
2 x RBO Winner automatic loader for Selco WNTR
1 x RBO Lifter for automatic unloading of WNT750 rip line