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How automated wood cutting improves efficiency of 2x4 construction in Japan

With the rise in adoption of the new 2x4 construction method, Japan’s housing industry has seen an increase in demand for wood. The method primarily uses wood from North America in fixed lengths, in which the raw wood has to be cut in a short amount of time with maximum yield. The Wood Processing Machinery Department of Business Unit Technology at DKSH Japan proposed to improve the efficiency of wood cutting by automating the process and providing a comprehensive solution that has significantly improved plant management through better cost efficiency and safety performance.

Wood cutting factory in Japan

Challenge
Between 2000 and 2006, new 2x4 constructions increased from 70,000 to 100,000 buildings, forcing 2x4 material supply plants to be more productive so as to meet the increased demand. The conventional “cross-cut process” where a worker manually cuts the wood with a power saw created a bottleneck that prevented speed and efficiency gains. Moreover, it was essential to find a cutting method that would efficiently cut the wood into different lengths with minimal waste.

Approach
To solve the problem, DKSH introduced the Opticut series from Weinig, a leading German woodworking machinery manufacturer. Weinig’s fully automated wood cutting machines can calculate the best cuts for maximum yield, print codes on the material after cutting, and do automatic sorting of the final products. DKSH also proposed a computer program for cutting materials of many different lengths for other construction methods, which substantially reduce leftover wood.

Result
Shortly after the introduction in Japan, the Opticut series gained 50% market share in Japanese 2x4 production plants due to the excellent benefits it delivered. For example, in a mid-sized 2x4 plant, the automated wood cutting process achieved: (1) a 60% reduction of required wood cutting machines (2) a threefold increase in production volume, (3) an approximately 5% increased yield (4) an elimination of worker injuries during the cutting process, and (5) an elimination of human error during data entry and packaging.

Market Expansion Services at work
As a leading provider of Market Expansion Services, DKSH’s entrepreneurial, pragmatic, and results-oriented approach helped identify an issue in the market as well as introduce the solution for it. Combining DKSH’s expertise, strong local presence, and Weinig’s technically superior machinery, DKSH broadened Weinig’s customer base, and also increased sales for the German manufacturer. By introducing Weinig’s Opticut series and the fully automated cutting process to the Japanese market, DKSH has also helped local companies manage the increased demand while enjoying the benefits of reduced costs and improved workers’ personal safety.