Following a partnership spanning 25 years, Essex-based Alexander Cleghorn recently invested in a £1m plus machine deal with HOMAG UK. The investment, for a bespoke staggered tandem line edge bander featuring two HOMAG EDGETEQ S-810 powerLine machines, has helped the company drive processing speeds and facilitate bespoke production of narrow double-sided panels. 

Specialising in tailor-made MDF, plywood, melamine sheets and other laminated/veneered panel products, Alexander Cleghorn prides itself on being a family-led business. Delivering high quality service with a personal touch for more than 60 years, the company has consistently upheld its commitment to offering custom, client specific solutions. 

With over 100,000 square feet of covered buildings across a 16-acre site, the 90-strong team at Cleghorn delivers a £14m turnover within the bespoke furniture sector. A strategic move towards a single supply chain over the last few years has encouraged the company to grow its partnership with HOMAG. 

“With a lot of equipment now driven by software, it’s very beneficial that programmes are interchangeable across the site,” explains MD Gary Cleghorn. “Partnering with a company and a brand that you trust to deliver the right quality products at the right price is very important.” 

The longstanding relationship between HOMAG UK and Alexander Cleghorn was a key reason why the company chose to pursue business with HOMAG for this unique ‘staggered tandem’ edge banding line. 

Providing a unique, state-of-the-art edge bander 

Prior to investment, the team at Alexander Cleghorn had been forced to be innovative with solutions in the production process of narrow panels. “A traditional edge bander has limitations regarding the width of the panels it can process,” explains Gary Cleghorn, “so to produce narrow plinth type panels, the team had to be more creative with production, putting multiple panels in at a time and then manually removing them to repeat the process on the opposite edge. 

“It was an awkward process which slowed down production, increased manufacturing time and ultimately made us inefficient and less able to hit price points.” 

After initial enquiries into double-edge banding solutions, it was evident that no existing machinery was available within the marketplace to resolve the manufacturing issues that Alexander Cleghorn faced regarding processing narrow panels. 

To solve the problem, the HOMAG engineers came up with a unique solution – a ‘staggered tandem line’ edge banding cell. Specifically designed to process double-edged panels from 70mm to 1200mm wide (frequently used in kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and office furniture plinths and carcass components), the 50m long machine installed by HOMAG has drastically improved production times and efficiency. 

Comprised of two EDGETEQ S-810 powerLine edge banders in a staggered line, it overcomes the width restrictions (usually 200mm) of a normal double-sided machine. With automatic feeding and stacking via a vacuum robotic arm system, the machine also avoids the need for manual loading and stacking of panels. 

This feature – when combined with the high-capacity glue processing system operating at 35kgs per hour (normally 12kgs/hr), the servo-controlled edge feeding system which drives the edge tape into the machine to match the track speed, and the 12-coil magazines for edge tapes – enables the cell to run at a rapid 60m/min feed speed. 

With a panel thickness range from 8mm to 45mm, and a width range from 1200mm down to 70mm, the machine offers previously unattainable speed and flexibility benefits. It is capable of producing up to 10,000 panels in a nine hour shift, whilst maintaining ‘zero joint’ quality on every panel processed. 

“Our work can be bespoke batch-size one up to many thousands of a particular panel, so it is vital that the machine is able to accommodate this,” says Gary. “The solution HOMAG created ticks every box, offering speed, flexibility and precision.” 

Expanding the partnership with HOMAG 

From inception to installation, HOMAG was clearly Alexander Cleghorn’s favoured partner for the project. “It is a combination of several factors that attract us to HOMAG,” explains Cleghorn. “The reliability and quality of the machines are excellent, and this, backed by the superb service, has given us a trust in the brand and the people at HOMAG, both in the UK and Germany. 

“We’ve got long standing relationships with our key account managers within the HOMAG Group. We know the people, we know the product and we trust them to deliver the solutions that we need for our business. We are a quality focused company, so although we can buy cheaper, we always search out the complete package. 

“As part of our due diligence, we conducted multiple site visits to see various HOMAG machines in action before committing to the purchase of this edge banding cell. For example, we visited a site to see the automated handling in action and how it processes, picks up panels and delivers them into the machine. 

“This was backed up by a separate visit to see a similar edge banding machine to evaluate the quality of the finished edging on the panels. These visits enabled us to build up a picture of the machine’s capabilities and how it would perform with specific products.” 

Efficiency in installation, training and output 

“As with any project of this scale, you have to expect the installation to cause a degree of disruption,” continues Gary. “We left the installation planning to HOMAG to manage from start to finish (which took around eight weeks) and we were more than happy with how it went. 

“Similarly, HOMAG provided training for our operators by their qualified engineers both in Germany as well as on site here in Essex. Being a unique and complex cell, they also provided ‘assisted production’ training during the first couple of weeks as we ramped up production. This gave us real peace of mind after the initial handover, as we knew there were HOMAG technicians onsite, guiding our operators as we increased the throughput before fully signing-off the machine.” 

Long-term competitive value 

Choosing to purchase the machine with finance, due to the long-term competitive advantage it would bring to Alexander Cleghorn, the company estimates that the staggered tandem line double-edge banding system will achieve a return on investment within five years. 

It is evident that the added value of HOMAG’s unique solution is vital for the long-term development of revenues at Alexander Cleghorn. With its ability to produce high quality finished narrow panels at unmatched throughput speeds, the cell has helped raise Cleghorn’s reputation in the marketplace as an innovative and premium quality supplier. 

“HOMAG’s technology and forward-thinking engineering team have given us the ability to produce both narrow and wider panels in an efficient manner,” concludes Gary Cleghorn. 

“We’ve gone from needing to run extended hours to produce these narrow strips to having them in excess capacity, future-proofing our business. We now have the facilities to sell a much larger volume into the market.” 

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