You reap what you sow, as the old saying goes, and for the sawmill industry that means processing an increasing percentage of smaller diameter logs as a result of restrictions on felling in old growth forests, reduced availability of large logs and the growing volume of younger growth trees from plantations.
When sawing expensive hardwoods it is important to achieve maximum yield of the valuable timber, and this is even more essential when cutting smaller diameter logs. Wood-Mizer's sawmill technology is ideally matched to this need, with robust construction to handle heavy tropical logs and thin-kerf sawblades that cut less sawdust and more boards.
Long-established family company Sri Murali Krishna & Co is reaping the benefits of this technology with a Wood-Mizer LT70 sawmill, which has been installed at its mill in Chennai. Running four to five hours a day on a single shift, the LT70 provides efficient and accurate cutting of logs up to 950mm diameter.
"It has made a huge difference to us", said director Pankaj Patel. "We're cutting about 450m3 a month on the LT70 at the moment, which is about one third of our total production. We still import some very large logs, especially from Africa, and these are sawn on our existing machines.
"However, for smaller logs the LT70 is faster, more productive, more economical and has improved the yield of sawn board from each log".
The LT70 is the largest in Wood-Mizer's 'orange' range of LT sawmills and meets the needs of modern log processing operations in Asia. The head carries 600mm diameter belted wheels and travels along the static bed on a single column mast, which ensures easy alignment and accurate, flat cutting. The bed is available in various lengths to handle logs from 4.8m to 8.4m and extensions can be added if needed.
Sri Murali Krishna ordered the sawmill with the optional 'Super Hydraulic' package for loading logs onto the bed and adjusting, turning and clamping them for optimum cutting. Combined with the standard computerised setworks - for accurate adjustment of the sawmill for cutting specific board thicknesses - and the LubeMizer automatic lubrication system that keeps blades free from sap, this ensures maximum productivity during each shift.
Pankaj first heard about the LT70 three years ago after receiving mailings and a brochure from Wood-Mizer's agent in India, HBR Consultants of Bangalore.
"I also saw videos of the sawmill working on the Internet, and this was enough to convince me that it was the right machine for us", said Pankaj. "I wanted it straight away, but it was another year and a half before we were able to install it.
"In addition to the requirement for a more productive solution for cutting smaller logs and the need to increase yield, we were also concerned about the growing difficulty of finding skilled labour. The LT70 is easy to operate and cuts quickly and accurately, so it met all our needs".
Sri Murali Krishna was set up in 1979, but the history of the company goes back to the 1950s when Pankaj's father Khimji Patel and uncle Ratanshi Patel founded a sawmill after moving to southern India from Gujarat. At first the business was contract sawing, but in 1962 the company started sawing and trading its own timber.
Until 1979 the main business was sawn teak, but then investment was made in planing and moulding machinery so the company could add value and supply new markets. During the 1970s and 1980s the logs were local species, but the company then started to import logs, especially from Burma and Africa.
"We bought from Ghana and Nigeria, and we worked with our supplier to help them set up a sawmill that met our needs for accuracy and quality", said Pankaj. "This sawmill only supplies us - mainly teak with up to 80 containers a month of four-side rough sawn timber which we further process in Chennai.
"When the Indian government banned felling in 1992, imports became more important. By the late 90s we were importing a wider range of species from Africa as well as logs from other regions, including decorative European hardwoods and a few softwoods. We tested many suppliers before concentrating on a few who could consistently provide us with the quality that we needed".
The company started out supplying local customers but gradually built up sales throughout India. Over the years, it has also expanded its service to include veneers, laminates, plywood and mdf as well as sawn hardwood in many species.
When sawing timber, the performance of the sawmill depends on the performance of the sawblade itself. More than 20 years ago, Wood-Mizer became concerned about the quality of narrow bandsaw blades available on the market and used its knowledge of sawmilling to begin producing its own sawblades.
Demand for these blades - SilverTip high carbon steel blades, DoubleHard advanced blades for industrial markets and the new RazorTip Stellite-tipped blade - has grown rapidly and they are used on other makes of sawmill as well as Wood-Mizer machines.
It is, of course, necessary to maintain the sawblades correctly, and Wood-Mizer has developed equipment for this purpose.
"Together with the LT70 we installed a grinding machine for sharpening the blades, and a setting machine to maintain the thin kerf provided by the spring-set teeth", said Pankaj. "Again, these machines are easy to set up and to operate, and they ensure that all our blades are maintained in perfect condition - which is essential for fast, accurate sawing with a quality surface finish and high-yield productivity".
Today, Sri Murali Krishna has six family members and 56 employees at three sites in Chennai. As well as the sawmill, there is a separate log yard and the head office and retail showroom where consumers, architects and designers can see and buy products from the wide range offered by the company.
"A major benefit we offer customers is that we can supply bespoke products to meet their exact specifications, even in small quantities - such as various profiles of mouldings as well as specific dimensions of sawn timber", said Pankaj.
"In order to provide this level of service, we need machinery that is fast, easy to operate, quick to adjust for different sizes, and produces accurate, quality material. Our investment in Wood-Mizer sawmill and sawblade technology is helping us to achieve just that".Top photo: James Wong, Wood-Mizer Regional Manager - Asia, with Pankaj Patel of Sri Murali Krishna & Co Middle photo: Khimji Patel, co-founder of the company and father of Pankaj
Bottom photo: Wood-Mizer professional sawblade sharpening and setting equipment