Family forests provide steady profits with Wood-Mizer industrial sawmills
A believer in leveraging new products to his advantage, this Romanian sawmill businessman installed the first WM3000 in Romania and then six years later upgraded to the WM3500, again the first in his country.
After 10 years working in the mining industry, Ion Ursu, a businessman from the town of Borca in the Romanian province of Neamt, decided to start his own sawmill company. He owned several large tracts of forest land, and believed that by utilizing the resources at his disposal, he could be successful with his plan.
The idea of launching his own sawmill business had come to him several years earlier, after he had seen the wide range of sawmill equipment on the market.
"I visited LignaMesse in Hannover, Germany, and saw the equipment from German and Czech manufacturers, as well as Wood-Mizer’s. After the expo, I visited a WM3000 sawmill near Lodz, in Poland. The automation appealed to me and the fact that the labor requirements were low. Wood-Mizer’s competition couldn’t offer this," Ion recalls.
In 2006, Ion’s newly formed sawmill business, named "Fram Forest", installed their own brand new WM3000 industrial sawmill line, which not only includes the sawmill, but also support equipment for moving logs and boards and for edging. Ursu’s operator controls all sawing functions from a comfortable chair in an enclosed cab with climate controls. By manipulating joysticks and utilizing the control panel, the operator is able to quickly move logs from the log deck onto the sawmill bed, and then finely position them for cutting by rotating the log with the chain turners. The log is then clamped firmly for sawing. A laser shows the operator where the cut will be made on the log. The operator then engages the narrow band cutting blade and uses the joysticks to move the sawmill head through the log, towards the operator. As the sawmill head returns to make the next cut, metal fingers drop down and push the freshly cut board to a conveyor belt.Sawdust is blown off the board surface, helping the operator see the internal wood and make grading decisions.
Boards move from the sawmill via conveyor to an unique pneumatic three-way transfer table that uses no motors or chains, but relies on compressed air for reconfiguring to move finished lumber, flitches, and slabs in three different directions. Here another worker puts boards through the Wood-Mizer industrial edger.
The WM3000 features several automation-enhancing technologies, including its "cruise control" sawing mode, where the maximum possible sawing speed is automatically determined, while still maintaining perfectly straight cuts.
Ion Ursu annually produced 5,500-6,000 cubic meters of lumber with the WM3000 sawmill system, sawing mostly spruce and silver fir into structural lumber materials. A full 80% of his lumber is exported to the Middle East for construction. Wood waste and sawdust are sold to a local wood panel producer.
As successful as the WM3000 system was for his business, Ion decided to sell the sawmill in early 2012 and upgrade to Wood-Mizer’s newer, larger, and more productive WM3500 sawmill.
"I had three reasons to upgrade. First, most of the logs I saw are from my own forests. 200 hectacres out of the total area of 500 hectares are older, larger diameter trees. So I needed a larger machine to process those logs. Second, the amortization period for the WM3000 was over. Third, I had just found a buyer for the old sawmill. So we can say that all the stars aligned in order to make the purchase of the WM3500," Mr. Ursu elaborates. Another obvious advantage was the new warranty provided on the new machine.
Nistor Vasile, who has been working for Fram Forest for many years, is the principal sawmill operator and recalls his experience in learning to saw with both machines. "On the WM3000, I started with no sawmill experience, and it took about a month before I felt fully trained. However, with the new WM3500 an hour was enough for me."
The WM3000 and WM3500 differ in several significant ways. The WM3500 saws larger logs (u p to one full metre), includes an additional powered roller for precise log positioning, two hydraulic speeds, and all the wiring is held high above the sawmill in a pantograph.
Mr. Ursu uses Wood-Mizer DoubleHard band blades that are 1.14mm thick and 38mm wide. Special care is taken to allow blades to rest after an hour of sawing for a space of 24 hours before they are sharpened, set, and returned to the sawmill. While one operator is sawing, the second operator is sharpening and setting blades on Wood-Mizer blade maintenance equipment. Fram Forest buys one box of 10 new blades monthly. Simple math shows that since Fram Forest produces approximately 500 cubic metres of lumber a month, each blade is able to produce 50 cubic metres of lumber.
One of Ion Ursu’s plans for continual development of the company is the addition of a kiln to expedite lumber drying, essential for entry into higher profit lumber markets. His desire to keep the company at the edge of modern technology was summed up in one statement: "I want my company to operate with the most modern equipment possible."
Besides the sawmill business, Mr. Ursu runs several other companies, but the sawmill is the most demanding and profitable one for him. "Because I have my own forests, I always have logs I can cut. I need to process at least 3,000 cubic metres annually, and while other sawmillers can get in difficult situations relying on their log suppliers, I always have ready lumber to sell to several large factories in our region."
"When others were investing in real estate, I began to buy forest land. My desire is that my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will have the opportunity to work in the family business." Mr. Ursu’s sons are taking an active role in the company. The eldest is 21, and is currently employed at Fram Forest, and the younger son is 17 and is studying woodworking.
Although the future holds many possibilities, Ion Ursu is hopeful that his descendants will find that Fram Forest is able to provide them with many years of profits that will sustain their families.
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