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Case study

MOBOTIX cameras monitor production process at modern German sawmill
Each day, approximately 300 cubic metres of cut lumber leave the some 45,000 m2 factory premises of Dickel-Holz in Schmalenberg-Bad Fredeburg in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Extensive products and services

Solid structural timber, boards, planks, wedge boards, floorboards, plywood, dimensional lumber and rough boards.  Each day, approximately 300 cubic metres of cut lumber leave the some 45,000 m2 factory premises of Dickel-Holz in Schmalenberg-Bad Fredeburg in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.  The sawmill is able to respond quickly to even the smallest orders and special customer requests.  Finishing processes like heat treatment, drying, impregnation and planing as well as cutting entire construction lumber lists are just some of the services the company also offers.

Modern and fully automatic

Dickel-Holz is one of the most modern sawmills in Europe.  All the production processes are fully automated and computer controlled.  The control software is able, for example, to convert customer orders into production instructions for the log storage site.  Based on the construction lumber lists stored there, the wood is cut to order completely automatically in the saw line according to the delivery deadlines and order volume or even according to individual customer specifications.

After the wood has been cut to size, the computer identifies the wood and assigns it to the correct customer orders.  Sorting, packaging and labeling the cut lumber are also computer assisted, up to the order filling in the lumberyard.  No wonder that the sawmill is well-known for its reliability, precise delivery times, strict observance of delivery dates and high quality.

Production control in real time

In a sawmill, you really have to keep a close eye on everything or install a camera monitoring system that does the job for you.  At Dickel-Holz, eight MOBOTIX cameras have been installed to monitor the production process in real time.

State-of-the-art equipment

Dickel-Holz was first formed as a carpentry company in 1948.  The sawmill was built eleven years later and was expanded again and again over the years.  But even buying more property and building new halls in 1987 was not enough to cope with the rapid expansion in the long term.  Consequently, a completely redesigned sawmill was built on the outskirts of town with state-of-the-art equipment and started operating in 1996.

From analogue...

State-of-the-art technical equipment: For many years, this term was also used to describe an analogue camera monitoring system that delivered images in real time.  "Only three employees work in the large production plant.  And there are areas that they are not able to look directly into.  The sawmill is well-known for its reliability, precise delivery times, strict observance of delivery dates and high qualityThat's why we needed a system that keeps a close eye on what is happening at any given time," commented Christian Dickel, Managing Director at Dickel-Holz GmbH & Co KG. 

For many years, there was no alternative to analogue video technology, so it was necessary to put up with the disadvantages involved.  For example, the camera images are not available everywhere, they can only be viewed on special monitors in the control centres.  By today's standards, the image quality is not acceptable, the viewing angle is limited and the entire system is rigid and inflexible.  "We shopped around for alternatives on the market, but were unable to find a solution to satisfy our requirements," said Christian Dickel. 

"Most of the time, we found cameras that offered only a few features for a lot of money, so we didn't think we were getting our money's worth."  The Managing Director talked about his problem to Theodor Schmidt, the owner of Elektro Schmidt OHG in Schmallenberg.  His business had taken care of all the electrical installations when the sawmill was built.  Theodor Schmidt then consulted one of his former employees, Stefan Junker, about the problem, and he had the answer.  The master electrician now works for ADS Networks GmbH, a MOBOTIX partner company specialising in data networks, telecommunications and security with head offices in Bad Homburg.

...To digital

Stefan Junker knew that MOBOTIX was planning to launch the M22M, a new network camera model at CeBIT 2006.  This camera is able to transmit up to 30 live images per second, with a resolution of up to 640 x 480 pixels.  In comparison, a movie at the cinema shows just 24 images per second.

Thus, the M22M combines the advantage of a higher frame rate, which only analogue systems were able to achieve so far, with the wide range of features of a digital network camera, and provides real-time images in high resolution for reliable production monitoring.

Everything important at a glance

"The concept had me convinced," said Christian Dickel, summing up the situation.  "Now we can access the cameras almost anywhere.  To be more concrete, this means that I don't have to be in the control centre in the production plant.  I can keep an eye on production from my workplace in the office, via a VPN connection on my laptop at home or using an MDA when I'm on the road, in real time of course.  Because several cameras can be switched on screen at the same time, the employees can see everything that's important at a glance and do not have to constantly monitor five or six screens simultaneously."

Remote maintenance included

Christian Dickel sees another significant advantage in the new system: the Austrian manufacturer of the saw line is allowed access to the network for maintenance work.  Eight Mobotix cameras are currently in operation to monitor the entire plant"While the manufacturer was able to track the program flow of his machine from Austria via the Internet, he was unable to get a really concrete impression of the situation directly on location.  We always had to explain what was actually happening at any given time over the phone.  Now he can see for himself exactly what is going on."  This was important because the processes in the sawmill are optimised and the machines reprogrammed approximately once or twice a year.  "A couple of days later, the system often needs some fine-tuning and then the technician is already back in Austria.  The new camera system simplifies that fine-tuning process significantly." 

Eight Mobotix cameras are currently in operation to monitor the entire plant.  They include two dome cameras with day/night function and the super wide angle lens to monitor the outside area.  Six M22Ms cameras keep a close eye on all the production stages, from debarking the logs, over the conveyor, the circular head saw, the edger and the out-feed belts.  All the cameras are connected with one another on their own network via Fast Ethernet.  Because it is necessary to cover large distances on the spacious factory premises, the network includes fibre optics in the backbone.

Great benefits

"I think that using this new camera system is of great benefit to our company," continued Christian Dickel emphatically.  "It not only significantly improves working conditions for the employees, but it is also extremely important for us to be able to access the images from outside the control centre and to look at them in real time."

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