Dongwha’s new MDF line in Vietnam is now running smoothly, thanks to a range of high-speed, high-performance equipment and the man behind the scenes, Mr Kim Yang Il.
The name Dongwha is synonymous with quality, so much so that the industry often takes reference from the Korean-owned and managed panel empire.
The company’s new MDF factory in Binh Phuoc province, an investment worth US$70 Mn, is its second in Vietnam, five years after MDF 1 was constructed. (The first line started in 2012—the result of a joint venture established between Vietnam Rubber Group and Dongwha in 2008.)
VRG Dongwha MDF Line 2 features state-of-the-art equipment from Europe. Almost the entire line is built by Siempelkamp, with a 25.5m Generation 8 Contiroll continuous press forming the backbone of the entire MDF production line.
VRG Dongwha MDF 2 sits on 70,000m2 of land, just next to its sister factory. It has a planned annual capacity of 180,000m3, mostly thin boards of thickness ranging from two to 30mm. To meet this target, the line must be fed with 360,000 tonnes of rubber wood; it must also be high-speed and automatic.
At the heart of the line is a 25.5m Generation 8 Conti roll from Siempelkamp. In fact, almost the entire line is engineered by the Krefeld-based company. The energy plant by Buettner, a Siempelkamp subsidiary, is Buettner’s first project in Vietnam. The complete package also includes the forming line, pre-press, continuous press, all through to the star cooler, stacking and automatic storage system.
Siempelkamp: the preferred choice
Dongwha MDF 2 is run by Kim Yang Il, deputy general director, a seasoned man who has worked on the company’s panel board lines in Korea since 1993. He spent 2006 to 2008 in Malaysia and then moved to Vietnam in 2009 to work on Dongwha’s newest project then—MDF Line 1. When construction for MDF Line 2 started in 2016, Mr Kim moved over to oversee operations.
“There were many factors to consider when deciding which supplier to work with again. We were concerned about safety, efficacy and efficiency,” Mr Kim said. “When we evaluated all the options with our own engineers, Siempelkamp came up tops again.”
Around Asia, Dongwha has 10 wood-based panel factories in Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Vietnam. Most of these lines are supported by Siempelkamp.
With the combined experience of Siempelkamp and Dongwha engineers, the first MDF board was born on March 30, 2017, about a year after construction broke ground. On May 1, 2017, the company introduced its products to customers. By the end of this year, that is, just eight months after the first board, the line would have produced 120,000m3 of boards.
KEYS TO WINNING
Line 1 and 2 are now running smoothly, thanks to Mr Kim’s decades of experience. He was part of the pioneering team that helped establish Dongwha in Vietnam.
Back then, he evaluated raw material availability, conducted feasibility studies and access to markets… everything down to the details of motorcycle parking, appropriate salaries, staff canteen and power generation. He also visited similar factories and met machine manufacturers.
Mr Kim Yang Il, Deputy General Director, VRG Dongwha MDF
There was one problem that stood out amongst others. “I was worried about insufficient manpower even with our Korean engineers supporting the new project. The locals do not have experience in running a line,” Mr Kim recalls.
A three-month training curriculum quickly came into being, which included sending new recruits to Dongwha Malaysia to familiarise themselves with operations. Mr Kim was also one of the instructors and authors of the course textbook.
The solution, which presented itself as simple, was also at the risk of unpredictable staff turnover, a common occurrence in Vietnam’s manufacturing industries. Today, the Vietnamese staff have been around for six years. Mr Kim says their loyalty has been a huge part of Dongwha’s success.
“I suppose we look after our staff ’s welfare and help them be comfortable at work,” he suggests. The factory environment, which can be unpleasant in most places, is clean and almost dust-free at Dongwha. There are deliberate green spaces and pavilions set aside for people to relax. In the long run, it improves productivity and performance.
Part of the staff orientation process also includes involving employees in other parts of the business so they understand and feel at one with the company. Every September, they also fly into Incheon for a staff appreciation event.
Furthermore, there is clearly a highly-enforced culture of safety, responsibility and accountability. Distribution of work is well-organised. Each person is responsible for their own station and there are regular team updates.
REGARDING THE FUTURE
The panels and furniture industry is hardly exciting but it continues to grow anyway, Mr Kim says. The market for panels frequently fluctuates, but Southeast Asia is doing extremely well now. So much so that the challenges are catching up as quickly as the opportunities. As entrepreneurs begin to build new panel lines as well, the other question is that of raw material availability. Would there be enough for everyone?
“I don’t worry about it that much as we are already thinking of alternative supplies,” Mr Kim admits.
For the moment, USA is still a good market for made-in-Vietnam goods, something that has not gone unnoticed by Mr Kim.
“As manufacturers, it is not only important to know how to produce. More importantly, what are our products used for? And what is the market like now? We have visited customers and tried to understand what they do with our products. Are they more concerned with surface quality or other applications?”
In his vision of a future Dongwha, the business will progress to provide not just raw MDF, but possibly laminated press, melamine-faced boards and flooring. ℗
Some key equipment featured in Dongwha MDF Line 2
Forming line, pre-press, continuous press, star cooler, stacking, automatic storage system
Finishing line (cut-to-size saws, handling equipment)
*This article first appeared in November/December 2017 issue of Panels & Furniture Asia.