By implementing more efficient sawmilling technology, these Serbian pallet producers are staying ahead of the competition.
Together with his brother and friend, Zoran Jakovlevic has been involved in the wood industry for 25 years. In the early ‘90s, they started their own business cutting and selling wood themselves after years of dealing with unreliable suppliers.
"We did not have a specific goal to start cutting wood ourselves," recalls Zoran. "But as we had so much trouble finding a consistent supplier, we had to do something. Our suppliers would always say, ‘Tomorrow, come back tomorrow.’ But our customers cannot wait; they need to have a product ready today."
They started out by buying some second-hand Italian vertical wideband saws. These saws enabled them to begin cutting their own timber to meet customer requirements through 2002, when it became apparent that some improvements in efficiency were needed.
"I knew Wood-Mizer’s Balkan representative, Dragan Markov, from school," shares Zoran. "But at the time, I never really considered trying the Wood-Mizer machines in our business. I had the idea in my head that they were not sufficient for our needs – that they were too small."
However, there came a special order when Zoran needed to process 150 cubic metres of oak for a flooring company, but the wood he had was so dense, the old vertical saws were unable to cut it very well.
"It was at that moment that my friend Dragan suggested that I try using one of his LT15 sawmills to finish the job," recalls Zoran. When the sawmill arrived, he was sure that it would not be able to handle the oak successfully. For the sake of his friend, he agreed to try. He was very surprised that within only a few days, his workers were expertly operating the sawmilland the entire order had been cut exactly as required.
"This proved to me that the LT15 was what we needed," says Zoran. "So we bought the sawmill. Then we bought another one. And then one more! There are many advantages that we have found. First, the price is quite affordable. Second, maintenance is simple and easy to keep up with. Third, our local Wood-Mizer representative keeps us regularly supplied with quality blades and spare parts. The sawmills come with a two-year guarantee, so we can be confident that if something happens, the company is always available to help with a repair."
"The sawmills may be smaller than what we had before," shares Zoran, "but we are not embarrassed, as our productivity has gone up by three times!"The company’s two locations now run four LT15 sawmills to produce pallet materials. While many other Serbian pallet producers shut down during the years of crisis, Zoran’s business was able to survive that period maintaining a steady production level of 9500m3 per year.
Pallet production sounds simple, but for the owners, it is a complicated game that is always changing. As pallet prices are low, and customers need orders fulfilled quickly, the business requires constant attention. Low profits margins do not leave much room for getting it wrong, and overhead costs must be kept as low as possible. Zoran relies heavily on his sawmills for reliability and consistent productivity.
"The Wood-Mizer sawmills give us another unique advantage over everyone else," confides Zoran. "With the narrow blades that the sawmills use, we get more timber yield from the logs, which results in an additional five pallets from every cubic metre in comparison to our competitors who are still running different sawmills."
Zoran’s company, Palet Pak, exports pallet components to Italy and produces various finished pallet products for the Serbian market – fruit crates, boxes for tile, fertilisers and more. Zoran handles commerce, his brother manages production, and their business partner arranges all the needed logistics.
In addition to the four LT15 sawmills, the company has also now installed two of Wood-Mizer’s industrial cutting units – the TVS Twin Vertical Saw and the HR500 multiheadresaw. Palet Pak was the first Serbian company to install these machines.
"We saw how Wood-Mizer’s SLP log processing line operates, and really liked it," explains Zoran. "These two saws fit our needs exactly."
With so many sawmills, Palet Pak goes through many Wood-Mizer blades. Zoran is pleased with their performance, and has purchased Wood-Mizer’s industrial blade sharpener and tooth setter so that they can maintain blades in-house.
Although facing the same economic conditions that are driving others out of business, Palet Pak is a good example of how companies can use new technology to maintain profits and inspire growth.