When 1,300 companies from 50 different countries come together to present their innovations and solutions for the wood industry, the opportunities for knowledge transfer and networking are immense. LIGNA is a five-day trade fair held in Hannover, Germany, where the latest technologies are displayed for customers to witness in action.
The Stirling Group’s Managing Director, Craig Honeyman, along with Group Sales Manager, Leon Botes, Sales Manager, Nathan Milner, and Sales Engineer & CNC Specialist, Brad Anderson, recently returned from LIGNA, excited to report that automation continues to be a massive trend.
“Automation is absolutely the way forward”, Craig says. “Prior to Covid, the timber industry tended to move along quite steadily, but since the pandemic, so much has changed. The industrial world has turned upside down, the rules have changed, and we face so many new challenges. The price of timber is up, skilled worker shortages are a big problem, but orders still come in and still have to get out the door. What I love about what we saw at LIGNA is that in one place, there was so much positivity, so many brave people saying, ‘well, let’s take it on and come up with answers’.”
Craig says that process automation was front and centre in every conversation at LIGNA. From fully automated CNC machinery, and material handling to packaging and stacking systems, robotics is revolutionising the industry.
“We’re finding that the timber industry is embracing automation like never before because now, it’s a case of ‘have to’. It’s no longer just a ‘nice-to-have’. If you’re not adapting to automation in your business, you’re going to get left behind. At LIGNA, we met with and introduced our customers to some very smart manufacturers and their solutions, and we’ll be helping to connect our customers with those solutions in the near future.”
As Leon explains, automation is about so much more than increasing production.
“Automation empowers our customers to gain stability and consistency in their everyday production,” he says. “With downward trends continuing in the availability of staff, particularly skilled staff, there’s a huge need to make sure that nothing interrupts that flow of orders out the door. With automated machinery in place, their productivity and profitability are not dependent on a precarious workforce dynamic.”
Stirling Group customers attending LIGNA 2023 came from a variety of different industries, including joinery, sawmilling, moulding, pallet producers, and engineered wood products, from both Australia and New Zealand. The chance to see live machine demonstrations and talk to the experts behind them proved invaluable.
“It was so gratifying to have so many of our customers there,” Leon says. “And in fact, those who attended were greatly invested in the possibilities for their businesses. LIGNA was not just a window-shopping event for them. These customers were serious about making significant, very positive changes, and we look forward to continuing those conversations in the coming months.”
LIGNA 2023 was even more eagerly anticipated because the 2021 event was cancelled due to Covid.