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Wood-Mizer Industries celebrates 20th anniversary


Wood-Mizer Industries celebrates 20th anniversary Wood-Mizer Industries is a strong and financially stable company that is committed to developing sawmill technology and working in partnership with customers to help them develop their businesses.

This was a key message from CEO Richard Vivers at an event held in June to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary. Wood-Mizer dealers and agents from Asia, Africa and Europe joined staff at the company's headquarters in Poland to mark the occasion - and to hear about the new range of machines that are being introduced for primary and secondary processing.

The biggest surprise among the new machines was the WM1000 'Tropical Head', which is the largest to be manufactured by Wood-Mizer to date and allows the company to expand the service it offers to Asian mills cutting large diameter tropical logs. With 1000mm diameter wheels carrying a thin-kerf blade up to 75mm wide, it will be available later this year in two configurations - a moving headrig with static bed or a fixed head with moving log carriage.

Other new developments included the WM3500 thin-kerf headrig for logs up to 1m diameter, which is based on the well-proven and reliable LT300 (WM3000) and is designed for reduced maintenance and energy-savings while also providing high productivity, and a 'spiky' feed system for the industrial AWMV brand twin vertical saw (TVS with Spiky Chain) that offers better forward and reverse feed control.

The smaller LT15 sawmill is now available with power feed, and Remote wireless control has been introduced for the larger LT20, 40 and 70 models. The HR100 is a new entry-level horizontal resaw, and a 'family' of smaller machines for added-value processing includes a standalone single-sided edger and a moulder/planer (MP100 and MP150) head which contours logs for construction and other applications. In addition, there are now three versions of setworks available from the company.

A common theme of the new machines is that they provide affordable, energy-efficient, high productivity technology to
help customers improve their profits through thin-kerf high-yield sawing with minimal waste.

"The global banking crisis and recession presented us, our dealers and our customers with major challenges", said Richard Vivers. "Like other companies we have had to take tough decisions to ensure that we remain a stable partner for sawmillers around the world and have the resources to continue investing in new technology.

"Despite the difficulties, the recession has led us to look at every aspect of our operation and to streamline our manufacturing processes, while also developing machinery that meets the current needs of the markets for reduced costs and maximum productivity and profitability".

Innovation of sawmill technology has been a constant feature of the company since Wood-Mizer Products was founded in Indianapolis, USA, in 1978 by Don Laskowski and his wife Phyllis. Don's first invention was the Dupli-Carver - a three-dimensional carving machine - and in 1981 he created the first Wood-Mizer sawmill prototype with fellow engineer Dan Tekulve (the initials of the two surnames produced the 'LT' name).

The sawmill sold rapidly, mostly in North America but spreading further afield, and new models were introduced. The first
delivery of a sawmill to Europe was in 1987 and three years later the company decided to establish a European headquarters - trading as Wood-Mizer Industries - to provide closer support to the growing markets.

The chosen location was Kolo in Poland, partly because of strong sales in that country and because it was the centre of the 'new Europe'. The fact that the Laskowski family originated in Poland also played a part in this decision.

At first the company operated from a couple of existing buildings on a bare earth site covering a few hundred square metres, but huge investment has been made since then in developing the current 6,000m2 facility, which serves customers in India, south-east Asia, Africa and western and eastern Europe.

Throughout its history, Wood-Mizer has continuously developed new sawmill machinery with expert and innovative design, not only the 'orange' LT range but also the industrial AWMV brand. Although the company's early sawmills were mobile machines, over the years the emphasis on static installations has increased substantially.

More than 20 years ago the company also took the decision to manufacture thin-kerf bandsaw blades because it was unhappy with the quality of existing blades available on the market and believed they were hampering the performance of its sawmills. To support this, a range of equipment for sharpening and setting the blades was introduced for customers who preferred to maintain blades in-house rather than using Wood-Mizer's ReSharp service.

Recently the range of blades has been further refined under three brand names - SilverTip high carbon steel blades,
DoubleHard advanced blades for industrial markets and the new RazorTip Stellite-tipped blade - with a range of profiles available for optimum cutting of different types of wood.

In 2004 new production facilities for sawmills and blades was added in Kolo, and the demand for blades has grown so quickly - for other makes of sawmill as well as for Wood-Mizer machines - that capacity has been increased twice in the last three years, with 17 blade lines currently in operation.

Wood-Mizer today is a large manufacturer recognised around the world. However, it has never lost sight of its founding principles.

Speaking at the 20th anniversary event, Jeff Laskowski, son of the founder and CEO of Wood-Mizer Products in Indianapolis, stressed the importance attached to maintaining the 'family' values of the company.

"We have 500 employees around the world and close relationships with our dealers and agents - many of whom have been with the company since it started. We value their skills and loyalty and also the support of customers, who are also part of the Wood-Mizer family.

"There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth - we understand the importance of listening to our staff, our agents and our customers and learning from what we are told. This has been critical in helping us to grow, through investment in the best possible manufacturing techniques and developing the best possible technology to meet the needs of sawmillers of all sizes and in all parts of the world.

"The worldwide recession has been hard - although we have been helped because of our spread of markets, with India and south-east Asian countries remaining economically strong - but we have taken action to ensure the company is healthy and ready to support customers in the coming years".

Production of sawmills and other woodworking machinery by Wood-Mizer Industries has grown since the first few
machines were manufactured in Poland in 1990, reaching a peak in 2008 before declining last year to 2007 levels. However, in the 20th anniversary year of 2010 the number of machines coming off the production line is expected to increase again.

Broadly speaking, the plant in Poland manufactures the same range of sawmills produced in the United States - but with the important difference that they are made to conform to European machinery safety legislation. All machines made for sale to any European country are required by law to meet these regulations and must carry the 'CE' mark to show compliance.

Today, there are more than 50,000 Wood-Mizer sawmills in operation worldwide. The number of Wood-Mizer service centres and dealers is also increasing, with representation in nearly every country in the world. This includes extensive coverage in the territories for which Wood-Mizer Industries is responsible - where in addition there are wholly-owned subsidiary companies in Germany, the UK, Norway, Romania, Russia (which has its own network of blade distributors in 20 Russian regions), Ghana and Singapore.

For Asian markets, additional support has been provided with the appointment at the end of last year of James Wong as the company's first Regional Manager for Asia. James is well known in the Asian timber industry having spent the previous 14 years working for the regional office of a German multinational company - the last four as regional sales manager - and has considerable experience in processing Asian wood species.

"Wood-Mizer Industries works hard to support all our markets", said Richard Vivers. "Our sales personnel and engineers work closely with local dealers and subsidiaries in order to meet the needs of customers, not only with standalone sawmills but designing machinery and integrated installations to suit particular requirements.

"We are fortunate in having expert people working for us and representing us. They are all committed to providing the best possible service, in good times and in hard times, to help customers succeed in their businesses.

"And as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, that is something to be proud of".




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

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