It has to say the least been a hectic start to 2018 for Lindbäcks Bygg. In December last year, the company opened its new factory at Haraholmen in Piteå. Now they can look back on an intense few weeks of setting up, with plenty of testing and calibration of the new machines. “We’re properly up and running now, although it will take time to get everything fully operational,” says Purchasing Manager Lars Eriksson, who takes us on a tour of the impressive factory along with his colleague Linda Öman.
From village sawmill to industrial group in 90 years Wooden building manufacturer Lindbäcks began life as a small village sawmill in tiny Kallfors, just outside Piteå in the far north of Sweden, 94 years ago. Since then, the family company, whose main business is industrial wood construction, has grown into a group with almost 500 employees, production and headquarters in Öjebyn, Piteå, and offices in both Stockholm and Gothenburg. The new factory sits right by the harbour at Haraholmen just outside Piteå, near the rail line and the main road that joins up with the E4 highway. This offers the potential to explore new transport options.
“Most of the shipments to and from the factory go by road, but we’re looking into the possibility of using other modes of transport,” explains Lars Eriksson.
Operations in the factory are planned in meticulous detail and are both logical and easy to understand. Production is one single flow here, instead of having stations spread all over the factory floor. Although this is more demanding when it comes to spotting and rectifying deviations, it has been a conscious strategy from the outset. “Our production system operates on the Lean model and we want to deal with deviations and improvements early on in order to ensure good quality,” says Linda Öman. The building’s load-bearing posts are 14 metres apart so that the large apartment modules have space to grow stepby-step. By the time the box units reach the construction site, all the services are in place, as well as fully fitted wardrobes, kitchens and bathrooms.
Solar panels make the factory self-sufficient in electricity
The enormous factory is 360 metres deep and almost 100 metres wide, with a production area of 25,000 square metres. That is almost the size of seven football pitches. Sustainability is a common thread that runs through the business. For example, the factory’s roof is covered with 9,500 square metres of solar panels, which will supply the business with all the electricity it needs over the year. In addition, the factory uses surplus heat from the nearby Sunpines plant, which manufactures renewable diesel from tall oil and waste products from the local paper mills. We pass a number of wall units to which nail guns are attaching cladding at incredible speed. They think they are soon going to need employees whose main job is to keep the machines topped up with nails at all time.
Lean philosophy unites Setra and Lindbäcks
Setra has a stake in the game, with the unit in Långshyttan supplying all the glulam used by Lindbäcks. Thomas Kling, glulam product specialist at Setra, sees great potential in the collaboration and looks forward to the companies developing and improving together. “It has been interesting for us to see Lindbäcks also applying the Lean philosophy to its production. Just like at Setra Långshyttan, they work on continuous improvements to drive up production efficiency. This provides an opening to exchange experiences and learn from each other,” says Thomas Kling. Setra Långshyttan is now working on deliveries to Lindbäcks in kit form. This means that instead of delivering lengths and dimensions in several packages, the packages are now tailored to Lindbäck’s wishes and transported directly to the relevant workplace. This cuts the time spent on handling materials and makes construction more efficient. Setra is also constantly working to improve and refine its product. A good example is the balcony beam that has been developed specifically for Lindbäck.
Lars Eriksson is confident that wood construction is going to increase, not least because of the housing shortage in Sweden and the fact that a modular fivestorey apartment block in wood can be assembled in just 10 weeks, once the slab has been cast.
“Industrial construction also means we can improve health and safety for our employees, reduce material waste, speed up the pace of production and ensure quality for our residents, while at the same time providing a more financially sustainable offer for our customers. In addition, we reduce the risk of exposing the structure to moisture and bad weather. I am convinced that industrial construction in wood is the future when it comes to getting more housing built,” concludes Lars Eriksson.