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Why is Latvia the top European LT300 sawmill location?

Why is Latvia the top European LT300 sawmill location?
Latvian woodworkers seem notably receptive to innovations in wood cutting technologies. Indeed, the first industrial LT300 sawmill set-up was in Latvia and in the five years since it has become the country with the greatest number of such mills per capita of population. Latvians seem to have a profound regard for Wood-Mizer.

Asked to explain this, Vilmars Jansons, owner of the Oberts company which represents Wood-Mizer in the Baltic explains how narrow band industrial sawmills won over his market…

“The first time I saw the LT300 at Wood-Mizer Products’ Indianapolis facility it was being tested as a prototype in 2002. Immediately I realized it was ideal for industrial scale wood processing. It was a perfect candidate to replace old mills in Latvia, where labour costs had shot up. When asked by my American colleagues if it was worth showing the machine in Europe I answered ‘Yes — I need this mill’. I ordered the first LT300 there and then and it crossed ‘the pond’ to be demonstrated at Ligna. Thus, in 2003 the first LT300 to operated commercially was in Latvia. Clearly, our decisions are justified.

What in particular attracted you to the LT300 technology?

“Several things: remote control, cruise control, no need for concrete fixings, excellent productivity and a reasonable price. In effect, the LT300 is not simply a sawmill but the pivot of a timber processing plant. Furthermore, we could see that our service team would back the LT300 despite it being an advanced sawmill development.

How to you equate these favourable assessments with your additional marketing of wide band sawmills?

“We do indeed supply more than one band blade sawmill, making it important to understand both narrow and wide band technologies and their roles. Both provide an appropriate response to differing sawing requirements and both are profitable. They are simply for different scales of business. There’s no doubt that wide blade sawmills are more productive but they cost many times more and need things like secure fixings in-situ. If a wide band mill needs replacing, serious transport is called for. Wide band maintenance is a major affair, requiring seriously trained staff and the sharpener costs as much as the LT300 line itself. There are super wide band mills starting at ?350.000 but their entire line rises to ?10m. Some wide band mill manufacturers have withdrawn from the market and this intrigues us. Small 20.000m3 enterprises survive, finding raw material and customers and reacting flexibly to market changes. Similarly, big enterprises producing more than 100.000m3 annually are surviving. Usually they are big plants incorporated into groups which include raw material suppliers. Such businesses rarely suffer in any conditions. It is the medium scale operations which are suffering pain currently and when launching its LT300, Wood-Mizer homed in on their requirements. No great investments (say, ?80.000), no expensive blades, no additional installation costs. Additionally, its productivity surpasses simpler wide band mills. For unavoidable reasons — e.g. scarcity of timber or maintenance — any mill falls silent for five days a month. The LT300 productivity compensates for this so why opt for the greater expense of a wide band set-up?

Do you perceive a similar situation behind the Wood-Mizer small log processing system launched recently?

Similar wide band SLP arrangements have been available for years but they cost between ?500.000 and ?700.000. Comparable narrow band set-ups did not exist. A niche went unnoticed until Wood-Mizer identified it. It entered the market by taking up the existing SLP techniques and adapting them to the technology in which it is recognized as the world leader — the narrow band blade concept. Richard Vivers, president of European operations proposed, initiated and led the project.

Could this be explained by the fact that Richard once was a Wood-Mizer owner, managing his wood cutting enterprise for 13 years and understanding sawyers’ demands from the sharp end?

Yes, I agree. Richard’s experience helps a lot. Regarding single vertical saws, there are hundreds in Latvia already. Even so, Wood-Mizer’s multi-heads are well known and we have sold them since 1993. But the TVS – twin vertical saw – reflects a really new, progressive idea. There is nothing comparable in Latvia despite being crucial for woodworkers.
In Latvia the small log processing system will be used for pallet wood production. Pallet production is of necessity fast: once you have an order for pallets – you need to saw quickly. Such manufacturers cannot wait for new equipment to be made and delivered. The Wood-Mizer SLP kit costs about ?72.000 and customers can afford to hold it at their facilities as an option. Such availability and flexibility leads me to foresee a great future for SLP in Latvia. Indeed, we’ve got our first SLP set-up and it sits in our permanent exhibition in the Oberts demonstration hall.

This article was published in the 'Wood-Mizer Today' company newsletter.

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