A sawmill-based roofing operation in central Poland, very near Wood-Mizer's European headquarters and manufacturing facility is prospering by converting local timber to building supports.
The key lies in a pair of band sawmills which brought flexibility, accuracy, quality and significantly reduced waste to the operation. Indeed, the mills provided sufficient added value to help save the firm from going under.
The sawmill of Mr Vasile Romulus Rus is located in a small corner of a residential district in the Polish city of Kolo, halfway between Warsaw and Poznan. Mr Rus is Romanian, his wife Polish.
As a student, Mrs Ewa Rus-Rutkowska visited Romania to study forestry at the university in Brasove to read woodworking technology. Here she met Romulus Rus, also studying there. When later they married they decided to stay in Romania. However, this was during the capricious, brutal regime of Nicolae Ceausescu so things were to say the least, unfruitful for the new couple. Consequently, in 1987 the couple removed to Ewa's home town, Kolo.
Within two years they had established their own timber business, successfully retailing wood at 20% margins. However, '…the competitors weren't asleep' and soon the Rus enterprise found itself forced to cut prices. At a definitive moment, despite a big turnover they were not generating sufficient added value to cover their own living costs. This galvanized Romulus Rus to look for a new direction for his business and he explains:
"Analysing our situation, I glimpsed light at the end of the tunnel and it took the form of our own lumber production.
Coincidentally and happily, Wood-Mizer is located in our home town, Kolo.
"Consequently, it didn't take long for us ponder how to equip ourselves and we bought two Wood-Mizer narrow blade band sawmills three years ago
"The first, an LT40 mill arrived on our site in February 2007. I paid 50 000 zloty (PLN, about €12 500) from our reserves and took out a long term loan for 70 000 zloty (€17,500)", adds Mr Rus.
Thanks to the narrow band blade technology, the company of Romulus Rus embarked on its new sphere of activity: the production of trusses, laths and mouldings for pediments over cottage porticos. Rus had hit upon a niche! The operation quickly expanded into everything for roof constructions — drain systems, gutters, chutes, roofing materials. A team of roof riggers was formed and today Mr Rus provides a roof construction service, from all the various timbers to the finished roof.
"Our second Wood-Mizer, an LT20 was delivered in July 2007. We bought it for cash from capital generated by the initial LT40," continues Romulus Rus.
"Business grew. Currently the added value from the lumber we produce is between 120-150% over the price of logs. After operational costs, wages and taxes we still make a profit of about 80%.
Today the enterprise has stabilised. In the summer it cuts about 140m3 of timber per month, working in single shifts five
days a week. Five days' cutting is enough to load a lorry with a finished lumber. If the winter is sufficiently mild this rate of cutting is maintained.
"Last winter was extremely cold in Poland. Our sawing decreased in 50% when compared with the summer", recalls Romulus Rus.
He buys logs from local forestry, paying a deposit at the beginning of the season when the forestry office plans log delivery schedules. Additionally, he keeps an eagle eye scanned on the Internet for timber bargains.
The first operator of the first Wood-Mizer sawmill was Romulus Rus himself but now he trains his staff when necessary. Anyhow, the sawmill is easy to operate. According Mr Rus there are only a couple of key points to be careful about. All the rest functions automatically.
He is very much aware of a key feature of Wood-Mizer band blade equipment — the minimalisation of wood waste while cutting thanks to its narrow 'kerf'.
"Wood-Mizer sawmills are a boon for sawyers," quips Romulus Rus.
"Their design comprises all that is best in this type of machinery. First, there is a reliable and stable bed. Second there are computerized controls. For example, should I want to cut a board to 32 mm thickness, I set the parameter in the 'Setworks' and sawmill dutifully makes this cut with great accuracy. If I try to perform an operation by scale relying on my own eyes, I could make a 1 mm mistake, depending on the angle that I see on the scale. Such a mistake will further impinge the final product quality. Hence 'Setworks' helps make the perfect cut.
"In my opinion, it is important to have a debarker on the mill. The debarker is a circular saw that removes bark and dirt precisely where the bandblade pierces the log," explains Mr Rus.
"With a debarker my band blades last longer and stay sharp longer, too", he adds.
Mr Rus uses Wood-Mizer's own bandblades. He has had opportunities to compare them with the blades of other manufacturers and made his choice. Although Wood-Mizer's facility with its ReSharp centre is a couple of kilometers away, Mr Rus bought a professional sharpener and setter to maintain blades himself.
"Now I'm thinking of buying a Wood-Mizer edger. I want to decrease time it takes to edge boards and increase our overall productivity.
Evidently, the decision to begin the lumber production has paid off with thin kerf sawmilling creating additional flexibility and growth opportunities thanks to identifying new niche markets. By quickly switching to new board dimensions and consistently producing high grade timber, the band sawmills working in single shifts helped the Rus family to calmly ride the crisis and confidently look to the future.
"Our business belongs to our family and I’m delighted that my son works with me. He deals with roof construction contracts," Romulus Rus ends. "And frankly, I enjoy the sawmilling!"