New lease of life

22 November 2018


German timber door blank producer Moralt sees an exciting future for timber doors with high performance fire, acoustic and thermal insulation properties. Stephen Powney reports from its base in Bavaria

About 250 customers of German door blank producer Moralt descended on its new factory in Bavaria at the end of September.

The event, with an Oktoberfest theme, was an official opening of its factory, as well as a chance for customers to be updated on developments at the company.

Moralt had moved from its site in Bad Tolz in 2016 but had chosen to settle into the new Hausham factory before making any fanfare.

It no longer carries out primary processing of laminboard or blockboard, but concentrates on secondary processing – producing door blanks from pine, engineered wood panels and selected hardwoods, while using acoustic, thermal and fire-rated insulating material in the core of several products for increased performance.

The change in focus was necessary, due to intense global competition for blockboard and the high cost of primary production. An uncertain few years has given way to a bright new chapter and the company was keen to communicate its optimism at an Oktoberfeststyled event in its factory halls.

With brass band playing and beer jugs in full flow, a small contingent from the UK including TTJ, James Latham and Shadbolt International were in attendance.

Customers and suppliers were treated to presentations on Moralt developments and trends, a tour of the factory and live security test RC2 on a Moralt FERRO front door.

New chapter for Moralt

Managing director Klaus Feile was in a good mood when TTJ caught up with him at the event. He is delighted that Moralt has sailed its way through some choppy waters and is entering a new, exciting chapter in its history.

“The blockboard business has disappeared in the last 10 years so we now focus on door sales,” said Mr Feile.

“In the last years we did not conceal that we had problems but now we have optimised production and have good co-operation partners in purchasing. We are well prepared, we have a new agent for China and we try to increase our business internationally.

“This is a good time for development of the business in the next few years,” said Mr Feile. “It’s a positive business [for door products] and the market demand is growing worldwide. Health and well-being is a really important big trend worldwide.

“If the hotel groups build new hotels whether in Munich, London or Shanghai, they need to provide the same security and comfort standards to their guests.

“We realised about five years ago that fire resistance was becoming more important.”

Moralt supplies numerous FireSmoke, FireSound and FireSafe products to markets to the BS 476 Part 22 FD30 and FD60 standard. “Now it’s more often FD90 and in the future it will be FD120,” said Mr Feile.

FireSound Extreme has passed an FD120 test with and without glazing and will be introduced in the coming weeks. This will be aimed at the UK and Middle East markets.

“Fire resistance in combination with acoustics is becoming more important,” added Mr Feile.

“Around the world we see this combination is growing in demand.”

He said people were not as familiar with acoustic performance and that there needs to be a better understanding of the logarithms of decibels. “People think 44dB is 10% better than 40dB, but it’s not. 44dB is double the acoustic insulation of 40dB.”

Acoustic foam core material in the Moralt acoustic products is normally used in the car industry under the dashboard to block noise from the engine bay.

Notable client projects for Moralt include FireSound used for doors at the Bulgari Hotel in Dubai, as well as the Park Hyatt in Doha.

“The hotel groups have realised that guests need a quiet room and it’s more and more important, particularly in city areas to have good windows, walls and doors. It’s been a trend in the UK for the past six years.”

Another important trend is acoustic door requirements for interconnecting rooms in hotels, with Moralt able to achieve a 44dB performance on a 59mm FireSound product, while using the product for double interconnecting doors with a gap in between to break the sound wave can achieve 68dB.

Mr Feile said a performance of 50-55dB was more normal for interconnecting doors.

FireSound 59mm thick (44dB) is in stock at UK distributor James Latham, which is Moralt’s single largest customer, purchasing around €3m-worth of products annually.

Internal Moralt door blanks stocked by Lathams at its 10 depots are FireSmoke (44mm and 54mm), FireSound (44mm and 54mm) and the 59mm thick FireSound.

Externally, there are FERRO KlassikPlus (68-98mm), FERRO FireSafe (68-98mm), FERRO Akustik (68-98mm), FERRO Passiv (98mm) and FERRO Passiv FireSafe (98mm).

And Moralt says unique to it is laminated solid timber layers in all products, which consists of peeled veneers with upright standing annual rings.

To make product identification easier and quicker for Lathams, Moralt marks each product with a pseudonym corresponding with London underground stations – FireSound 59mm is nicknamed Neasden.

“In James Latham we have a very good customer with good people and which is competent and well organised,” added Mr Feile.

With Brexit just around the corner and the uncertainty accompanying it, Mr Feile was unfazed about the change.

“Logistically, Brexit will not be a problem for us but the exchange rate is of major importance. As soon as Brexit is agreed, the exchange rate will be more stable.”

Passive house market

Mr Feile and Lathams pinpointed the Passive House market as increasing and during the event, Moralt was awarded a PassivHaus certification for the second time.

“There are hundreds of Passive House projects in the UK,” said Mr Feile.

“Even in China they understand the Passive House concept.”

Moralt is in talks about a possible deal for 10,000 PassivHaus door blanks to China.

Lathams has supplied Moralt FERRO Passiv FireSafe 98mm thick products (0.76W/Km2) for a PassivHaus project in Scotland and the architect involved is now talking to all local authorities in Scotland to push PassivHaus homes.

Lathams will make a case study out of the project at The Lighthouse, Glasgow.

The company also now has a small working model of a Moralt Passiv door which it can take out to show customers.

One of the presentations during the Moralt conference was on Passive Homes by Dr Benjamin Krick of the Passivhaus Institute.

“The Passive House is becoming more important in Germany but also in Britain,” he said.

The combination of demand for Passive House standards with fire protection was increasing, he added.

An example shared compared a German Moralt KlimaSoft-based front door achieving a performance of 0.68W/Km2 compared to 1.15W/Km2 for a standard door. The increased cost of the Moralt product was mitigated by the energy savings achieved – recording more than twice the savings compared to the standard door.

Factory improvements

The Moralt factory is seeing considerable streamlining and investment to improve production processes and logistics.

Professor Rolf Staiger of the University of Applied Sciences, Rosenheim was contracted by Moralt to streamline production processes at the company, and bring in a lean production philosophy and value stream management.

He said before the changes customers were only getting 50% of the performance of the factory. Materials were sitting in the factory and not being used, so a Kaizen lean production philosophy was implemented to avoid wastage.

This resulted in shorter lead times and better delivery times, while staff were freed from bottlenecks in the production process.

Improvements made included a new adhesive applying unit to speed up the gluing process on FireSound products.

Also, a new 4-layer press will give a higher capacity due to its optimising pressure table, with changeable foils for better surface quality. A production planning system sees the printing of product labels online at all production steps.

The need for a new double end tenoner was also identified, featuring automatic setup, meaning much quicker repositioning and much higher output, especially as about 50% of doors are in special sizes.

A new Kundig sanding line will calibrate both sides at once, leading to much higher capacity and better production flexibility, while for PU foam, a KANBAN system will mean better product availability and much better process security.

A Dimter OptiCut S 50 is part of the new investment in cross-cutting.

Moralt is investing about €500,000 in these improvements as it seeks an Industry 4.0 standard production. The company already invested about €1m in new machinery when it moved into the factory in 2016.

Moralt now has a turnover of €9m and 37 employees, producing 40,000 door blanks a year. The trend is towards producing fewer external door blanks and more internal fire and acoustic products.

Door blanks mostly have a pine fingerjointed structure, but oak and meranti are also used.

In the future, Moralt has the capacity to build another 25x50m building on the site for expansion.

Moralt’s factory is now in Hausham
MD Klaus Feile with Moralt door blanks
Part of the factory was transformed into an Oktoberfest beer hall for the event
Door blanks
James Latham is Moralt’s biggest customer. Lathams’ group door manager Steven Dennard and MD Chris Sutton