Not long after the re-launch, the new SmartLam North America publicly stated its long-term goal: “to leverage its proprietary design, engineering, project management, project delivery model with its fully automated, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities to offer to produce the full range of mass timber solutions needed for a comprehensive and integrated customer experience.” For Senior Product Manager David Catta, meeting that goal depended on finding and buying an extraordinarily productive and reliable CNC machining center for CLT processing. “When I began doing research, I found that Biesse/Uniteam offered so many advantages over the competition,” Catta said. “The more I learned about them, the more I saw how they have stayed on top of innovation, never willing to rest on their success.”
Catta considered speed their No. 1 priority, especially in the set-up. “Our Uniteam E-mix is one of the few machines where you can just settle the panel without having to screw it down to the working table. The machine provides a down-force with press-down rollers to support the panel. I saw no one else offering this advantage. Not having to screw down the panel quickened the set-up process by more than 50 percent, saving 30 minutes each time. The machine’s price was comparable to other companies, but they actually give you more for your money than the competition.”
Catta said having a great customer relationship with the company that makes their CNC is 50 percent of the success equation. The vendor’s ability to make a really good machine is the other 50 percent. “Biesse’s sales and technical teams have always been available for questions and their support and communications are great. We had one problem since we got the machine almost two years ago, and it was caused by operator error, “Catta said. “They sent people out to help us without us even asking for it. After Uniteam became integrated with Biesse America, their support became quicker, and they have even better local knowledge now.”
His belief in the performance of their machine is now backed with solid data. “Over the past nine months, we’ve had one facility operating with a Uniteam E-mix and one with a competitor’s machine, giving us the opportunity to compare both machines head-to-head. Right now everyone wants the next purchase to be a Uniteam. We have all the numbers to back up our preference, both on the cost side and the speed side. The Biesse/Uniteam machine is really outperforming the other machine, and we are really happy.”
Right now SmartLam North America has the advantage of being able to serve both sides of the U.S. “We have a good combined capacity that surpasses anyone else right now, and are finishing a new plant in Montana that will more than quadruple the capacity. We’re going from doing one panel every two hours to one every 30 minutes, and we will be able to do three panels in one press.” In addition to producing CLT panels, SmartLam North America is using CLT panels to produce six-to-nine high quality crane mats per hour.
The company is planning for additional CLT manufacturing facilities in major wood baskets, in the Northeast, on the West Coast and in the timber-rich Southeast. The combined operational facilities will allow the company to produce more than 17.2 million cubic feet of annual CLT production.