A philosophy of gradual growth has helped this Croatian wood processing company grow into a major manufacturer of pallets and briquettes.
A lathe operator by profession, Zelimir Koscal founded his own company in 1993.
"He began working out of the garage, then hired one worker, then the second, third, and then built a small shop," recalls his son Marco.
"First we bought a small Wood-Mizer LT25 sawmill. At the time they were produced in America. A few years later we replaced it with a more advanced LT40 with hydraulics. Then we bought a new LT40 with the full hydraulic system for log operation: loading arms, hydraulic leveling rollers, clamp, side supports and log turner."
Near the village of Popovaca where Zelimir Koscal lives, there is a large industrial company with a high demand for pallets.
"We started to make pallets for this company. A month later we had two customers, then three and so on. Today, I think we have 30 clients for our pallets," continues Marko Koscal. So through gradual development, the family company managed by father and son has grown to an impressive size.
"In 2004 we purchased a plot of land in the village of Gornja Jelenska, at the site of an old clay mine". Again, using a strategy of gradual development, they built up their new facility in small steps.
"We started with only one factory building. And now there are four, plus one in the plans. Our total shop area is 3,000m2. We now employ 65 people working in two shifts," says Marko.
Two years ago another major investment was made, when the company established a briquetting line that cost 1,200,000 euros. A third of the investment was made from their own funds, the rest from a bank loan. The drying equipment was installed by a Croatian company, and the briquette press is made by a German manufacturer. 90% of the briquettes are being exported to Germany.Small log processing for pallet wood production
Another profitable direction of the business is their production of pallets. The Koscal company has been involved in the pallet business since its beginning.
"We have years of experience with Wood-Mizer sawmills, and when the Wood-Mizer representative in Zagreb, Mr. Kresimir Pregernik, told us that Wood-Mizer had designed a new SLP line specially for pallet production, we came to the Wood-Mizer factory in Poland and decided to buy this line. The only problem was that the time of delivery for the new product was about six months away. So we started with a four-head horizontal resaw and waited."
In May of 2008 at the Xylexpo fair in Milano, the Koscals got a chance to see the entire SLP line in action. "We just stood and watched as it worked, and said to each other – ‘This is what we need, we must have this line in our production!’ " recalls Marko. They went to the representative of Wood-Mizer in Italy with a direct question - can you sell us this line right now?
This was Friday, the last day of the exhibition. On Monday, the Koscals paid the bill and by Wednesday the equipment arrived at their facility in Croatia.
"Teaching our people how to run the equipment was not difficult, because we already had experience operating with Wood-Mizer sawmills," says Marko. "But what great results we got! Previously, we did pallets on a single head machine, and now it was replaced with 4 head resaw. Productivity has increased by 2.5 times, and even by three times if the diameter of the logs is about 30-40 cm."
The Koscal company processes about 18.000m3 of logs annually, and about 40% of this volume is converted into pallet wood on the SLP line. Pallet materials are exported to Italy, but 80% of production is destined for the Croatian market. Two company trucks, one for logs and the second for pallets, are constantly on the road.Automatic setter for blade maintenance
"I would say the SLP is great equipment. However, in my opinion, the best Wood-Mizer machine which we use is the automatic tooth setter for band blades. Before we had this setter, we used to have one person
who spent his entire day setting blades. And now it is done automatically with high quality - absolutely accurate and consistent," shares Marko Koscal.
With such a large inventory of sawmills that the Koscals have, up to 80 narrow band blades need to be sharpened each day, plus additional wide blades. The technician in charge of sharpening operates four different grinding devices, all of which are made in Poland, including the Wood-Mizer sharpeners. Koscal also buys 30 new blades each month.
"In the future we are planning to buy the Wood-Mizer’s industrial grinding machine and the EG300 multirip edger," says Marko Koscal.
The Koscal’s philosophy of gradual development, if it is planned and implemented, is paying off for this family-owned business. Twenty years after it was established, their company is operating soundly and remains profitable even in difficult economic times.