"This building needs to be removed, I want to demolish it and rebuild the shop to store the logs here." Normunds' hands fly about, like a conductor, as he describes the next stage of his business expansion, envisioned clearly in his mind. All worthwhile projects begin this way – with an idea that is then put into action. He clearly sees what he wants for the future of his company, Priedaine N, and as he walks around the facility today, proudly showing off his large five hectare production, he mentally places new equipment and creates new structures to fashion the perfect wood processing company of his dreams.
Normunds is a man with tremendous dreams, but also has years of building experience that helps him turn them into reality... Twenty years ago, Normunds Stoferts, a young builder, abruptly changed the destiny of his professional career – he picked up a Husqvarna chainsaw and went into the forest for harvesting. He started just with basic woodworking services, and as time has progressed, has built his company into one of the largest enterprises in his local area, employing 50 people.
"We began with 20 employees and grew from there. Now we process 25,000 cubic meters of wood a year," shares Normunds Stoferts. His business represents the full cycle of wood processing: turning rough logs into fine, finished products, such as furniture, windows, and doors. He employees a log sorting line, because the production principally uses small-diameter logs and two chippers turn waste into chipped wood products. Four kiln dryers , each with 20 cubic metres capacity, are used to cure green lumber into furniture grade material. For producing lumber, Normunds has serious sawing capacities: a total of 17 sawmill heads, which operate in two shifts of seven hours each. To maintain this level of cutting they maintain up to 100 blades per shift.
"Our main resource is our people. There’s an old motto that goes, ‘People make the difference.’ I’ve made sure that it is also true in my company," shares Normunds. People invest in their employable skills, time and it is they who ultimately create the wealth of the firm.
"I have three very skilled joiners on whose shoulders the success of the company rests." Normunds shows off examples off their skilled handiwork in the lockers for a local school, furniture sets, doors, and other finely crafted products.
"In 2006, due to the construction boom, salaries soared," says Normunds. "It was impossible to compete with the construction industry for good workers. This was around the time I purchased machinery, and the challenge for me was that I had so few people involved in the production."
However, his principal sawmill was designed for just this environment of few workers - the LT300 industrial band sawmill from Wood-Mizer (now known as the WM3000). The LT300 sawmill is well regarded in Latvia, having been widely adopted shortly after its release to the market in 2003. According to Wood-Mizer’s own statistics in 2007, Latvia ranked first in the world in the number of LT300 installations in the country.
"We Latvians simply understand how to work with wood," laughs Normunds.
The most distinct advantage of the LT300 is that the entire sawmill is built on the base of a narrow band blade – with only 2 mm of kerf, it produces finished lumber and less sawdust from every log. This is considered important to woodworkers utilizing expensive wood species, but is also crucial to profitably cutting small diameter logs. It's harder to make high value products from small logs, and is nearly impossible without the thin-kerf advantage.
Narrow band sawmills operate on a 22 kW electric motor, requiring less energy consumption than other equipment that provide the same products. Narrow band blades also are less expensive to purchase and maintain than wide band blades and circle blades.
Another advantage of the LT300 is the high degree of mechanization incorporated into the system design. Logs are staged on a hydraulic deck from which they are advanced onto the sawmill bed one by one. After each cut is made, the fresh board is transferred to the inclined conveyor behind the sawmill and then goes on to a pneumatic transfer table.
Remembering that a small workforce characterizes Normunds Stofert’s business, it is clear why the LT300 sawmill was the best solution for him. One operator controls all functions of the sawmill. He sits in a warm cabin with an excellent view of sawn logs, and uses joysticks to control all stages of the process.
Also important to Normund’s reputation of quality is the accuracy of the lumber produced. The narrow band blade provides square beams and and clean, smooth cuts. 95% of their products are thin wood blanks exported to Great Britain.
"I am happy that I bought the LT300," says Normunds, "We saw eight cubic meters of finished products each shift. Everything that the [Latvian Wood-Mizer representatives] promised were all done accurately and on time. They brought the new equipment, installed it, and trained us. I'm often in touch with the sales manager Oberts Andris Orols, and always feel the support of the manufacturer - the spare parts, blades, and service."
"I was born in Kandava, and I want to show that we’re capable of producing high quality woodworking products from Latvia. Similar products are produced in Portugal, Spain, Poland, but there the weather is warmer, and the wood is not as dense. Latvian wood is very high quality, and it can compete successfully in world markets."
Normunds has everything he needs for continued success - ideas, energy, resources, and people. With a little time, his next plans for expanding his business will surely be realized.