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The EWPAA Plywood and LVL Certification Scheme

The EWPAA Quality Control and Product Certification program underpins all the elements of the EWPAA's market development program. The requirements for product predictability, reliability and durability, i.e. fitness for purpose, has become increasingly important as the products manufactured by EWPAA members under the program have been used in applications with high probability and cost of failure scenarios.

The decision to product differentiate plywood as the engineered wood panel, and the subsequent development of additional engineered wood products manufactured from veneer, such as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and Wood I Beams, required that the quality control program became increasingly more sophisticated to ensure product performance continued to meet in-service requirements. It cannot be over emphasised that in structural applications the cost of failure of engineered wood products, potentially is a loss of life.

The quality control program commenced in 1963 as an industry wide self-help program. It has been an essential requirement therefore from the early days to give the program credibility through public transparency and independence. To this end the EWPAA laboratory in Brisbane became a registered National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) Laboratory in 1969. In 1994 the EWPAA Quality Control Program was registered by NATA as a Quality Managed System under ISO 9002. The highest level of independence and credibility however was achieved in 1996 when the EWPAA Quality Control Program and Product Certification Scheme was directly accredited by the Joint Accreditation System - Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) as a product certification program.

The EWPAA JAS-ANZ accredited product certification scheme is an industry wide, product certification based upon the requirements of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Type 5 system. This system requires that a production facility maintains a documented process control system, conducts in-mill end product testing and has rigorous internal audit procedures. Additionally, end product quality is independently verified by an external body (EWPAA) by testing and inspection of test samples both supplied by the mill on a daily basis and selected independently of the mill in the open market. This ISO Type 5 system provides the highest confidence in end product quality.

Certification Objectives

The objectives of the product certification scheme are as follows:

a) To assist EWPAA members to produce plywood, LVL and other glued structural veneer products that consistently meet the following Australian/New Zealand Standards:

  • AS/NZS2269 Structural Plywood

  • AS/NZS2270 Interior Plywood and Blockboard

  • AS/NZS2271 Exterior Plywood and Blockboard

  • AS/NZS2272 Marine Plywood

  • AS6669 Formwork Plywood

  • AS/NZS4357.0 Structural Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and

  • combinations of these standards

b) To have 100 percent of all EWPAA members' production manufactured within the program.

c) To ensure all products within the program are correctly identified.

d) To use the Quality Control and Product Certification Scheme as the basis for research and market development. Each product manufactured under the program will have standardised properties.

e) To promote EWPAA Quality branded plywoods as products which comply with National Standards and thereby improve the public image of plywood and other glued structural products.

f) To utilise the EWPAA Quality product certification stamps in gaining acceptance for EWPAA products by specifying authorities, architects, engineers, teaching institutions and government departments and thereby expand the market for EWPAA branded products.

g) To utilise the EWPAA quality control program to increase product reliability.
The full requirements for the EWPAA program are detailed in the EWPAA Quality Control and Specific rules for Product Certification.

Due to its structure, the program provides the desired product reliability and cost efficiencies. Building quality into the product through formalised and audited process control not only ensures product reliability but builds in cost efficiencies by reducing reject rates and repair costs and increasing productivity. The benefit to the end user is the purchase of fit for use products at minimum cost.

Process Quality Control

"In Mill" Process Quality Control
Each process from the forest to the marketplace is formally controlled by educated operators, building quality into the product at each stage of the manufacturing process. End product quality is achieved through building quality in at each individual process in the manufacturing operation. If each process remains in control this is of economic advantage to the manufacturer as it alleviates the necessity to either reprocess or reject already processed material while simultaneously maintaining product reliability and improving productivity.

In general, variations that occur in an industrial process fall into two broad categories: chance variations and those due to assignable causes. The chance variations may be due to a complex of actual minor causes, none of which can account for any significant part of the total variation. Thus, there is little that can be done about them. On the other hand, variations due to assignable causes are relatively large and can be traced. In general assignable causes are:-

1. difference among workers
2. difference among machines
3. difference among materials
4. differences due to the interaction between any two or all three of these factors

For effective quality control a closed loop system is essential i.e, the information obtained by measurement must be fed back to the operator and other responsible persons in the management chain such as foremen and production managers. If the information is not fed back no control exists and we have a system of process quality measurement rather than process quality control.

The EWPAA requires a mill to establish effective process control procedures that ensure this feedback is maintained; hence quality is built into the product at each stage of production. At each manufacturing process the EWPAA Product Certification Scheme ensures that each of the following eight process control requirements are met.

1. Identify the properties that require control e.g. thickness, moisture content
2. Establish process control limits for the property requiring control
3. Specify a method of controlling each property
4. Train the operators
5. Allocate responsibility and authority
6. Establish a quality measurement and recording systems including frequency of measurement
7. Establish corrective action procedures at each process for the event that process limits are exceeded
8. Develop formalised documented quality procedures covering the above requirements.