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A Czech sawmiller shares his perspectives and experiences from successfully diversifying his business
Vaclav Chara is not your normal businessman. With the window of opportunity created by the Prague Spring in 1989, he started his own business, Kabkon - Kabelovy konfekcije, which has become one of the foremost European manufacturer of electric cables.
In order to accomplish this, Mr. Chara had to move quickly to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. When a nearby sawmill closed down and was auctioned off, Mr. Chara decided: why not try my hand in the wood industry?
"The first idea I had was to build my own home and then proceed to produce and sell timber", explains Mr. Chara.
The sawmill auction provided a lot of equipment for his new venture: workshops, 12 x 100 cubic metre capacity kilns, and a 2,3 MJ boiler… Then Mr. Chara saw an advertisement in the newspaper - "Wood-Mizer LT300 sawmill for sale." This was the sign he was waiting for!
The LT300 (now known as the WM3000) is not only a sawmill but also acts as a system that hydraulically loads the logs, saws them, and then utilizes an inclined conveyor to move finished boards off the sawmill. The entire system is controlled by one operator who sits in a comfortable rotating armchair, and uses joysticks to activate the sawmill functions and the onboard computer to set sawing depth.
"I would not say this is a cheap sawmill, but people want quality," Mr. Chara explains why he chose the LT300. "I chose the more expensive, comprehensive machine to reduce future downtime, repairs, and spare part purchasing."
"Besides, labor costs in the Czech Republic are expensive, but the LT300 only requires a single operator who works in a comfortable environment."
So in 2012, the LT300 sawmill was introduced to Mr. Chara’s woodworking enterprise. Installation and training took two days. Since then, Mr. Chara has dedicated his time to this new wood production venture. The skills needed came to him naturally, and he brought to his new company the experience of building his cable business.
"I sell high quality timber from expensive wood species like beech and oak. This application is exactly what our Wood-Mizer sawmill is designed for. In comparison with other sawmill methods, Wood-Mizer gives me one additional board from every log due to the use of narrow blades. And the quality is ideal!"
Now Mr. Chara custom saws for customers, supplies kiln drying services, as well as processing high grade logs for joinery. Customers come daily to his 5,000 square metre warehouse where 1,200 cubic metres of finished timber is in stock. They come expecting quality.
The impressive volume of timber production is achieved with a crew of only six workers including Mr. Chara.
"Our main priority is quality, not cutting speed," shares Mr. Vaclav.
In a single shift of eight hours, the main operator cuts 10-12 cubic metres and also maintains the blades. They use a Wood-Mizer sharpener and an automatic, computerized Wood-Mizer setter (now named the BMT300) which completely sets a blade in six minutes.
Mr. Chara primarily uses the 10/30 DoubleHard blades for beech, but for oak and larch he Wood-Mizer’s newer stellite-tipped RazorTip blades in a 4/32 profile. RazorTip is designed precisely for hardwoods and they cleanly cut through dense logs in spite of hard knots and abrasive resins. The benefit of RazorTip blades is that they remain sharp longer than other blades. RazorTip blades can cut for four hours, then they should be removed from the sawmill and left out to "rest". Then the blade can return to sawing after the teeth have been set and it will remain sharp for four more hours. Mr. Chara understands the benefits of RazorTip blades in spite of their premium price.
"I did some calculations and factored in RazorTip’s high cut quality. Even with its price, RazorTip is most profitable solution for me. Appreciate QUALITY and you will not make a mistake", smiles Mr. Chara.
Now that the sawmill business is running well, the cable business again takes most of his time and energy. Fortunately, he is able to make some time for hobbies and new projects, of which he has several.
"My brother is a farmer, and together we are working on creating electricity from corn. The heat will be used by my kiln driers. Plus we also want to install solar panels," Mr. Chara shares.
This spring, he is busy with beekeeping. His 50 hives produce 2-3 tons of honey annually. He enjoys taking his two grandsons and a granddaughter for walks in Krusne Gory.
It turns out that an appreciation for quality helps to produce the circumstances for business success.
Mr. Vaclav Chara
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