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Slovakian LT300* timber processing prospers
From vegetable marketing to industrial scale wood conversion!

Slovakian LT300* timber processing prospers <o:smarttagtype namespaceuri="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" name="PersonName"></o:smarttagtype><o:smarttagtype namespaceuri="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" name="metricconverter"></o:smarttagtype> A determined Slovakian has ridden on the thin kerf revolution to graduate from a family vegetable business to an industrial scale timber processing operation.

His speciality is 1680m3-per-month of wood elements for timber framed houses in his own country and in Hungary.

Over the many years in which the family business of Zsolt Bagin, 32, in Zemlianska Olca exported vegetables to the Czech Republic he had harboured a desire to work in wood.

He had neither the experience nor associates, nor indeed potential partners with whom he might invest in wood processing machinery. Nevertheless, his 'pipe-dream' became reality in 2004 when he piled his funds into a Wirex band sawmill in an old vegetable warehouse. He started cutting thin logs for pallet manufacturers and called his firm Bagin Gatter (Bagins' Sawmill in English).

Pallet wood is a good medium for beginners. Quality demands are not too high. Experience is quickly acquired by trial and error. He certainly learned fast and in the spring of 2005 he acquired a LT15 and a cooperation with Wood-Mizer's European operation in neighbouring Poland began.

After three months using the LT15 he saw an opportunity to increase output with a more powerful band sawmill. This led him to exchange his mill for the more powerful, middle range Wood-Mizer LT40 band sawmill with its hydraulic log loading and manipulation.

Zsolt Bagin's advertisements in local newspapers, cable TV and radio revealed another opportunity amongst Slovakian and Hungarian timber frame house builders seeking struts, beams, joists and other roof elements. He realised that popular 11mm lengths are actually best sawn on an LT15 and bought it back. He added a bed extension to it and kept the LT40.

Four years on, his new business stabilised into a profitable wood processing operation. Then, in 2008 he came to another strategic decision:

"I had of course prepared capital, equipment, extra land and buildings f or the next stage.

"One 'beautiful day' an LT300 industrial scale band sawmill arrived, just as the old Wirex went out of the door." Acquisition of an LT300 almost immediately permitted a sea change in output. In sporting parlance, Bagin Gatters moved into the big league.

Although enjoying the same narrow band technology as the LT15 and LT40, the LT300 is much faster. Now, logs are collected outside in the yard, onto a long log deck which transfers them to a workshop where hydraulic arms load them onto the mill. Unlike the LT15 or LT40, the LT300 is manipulated by remote control from an enclosed 'cockpit' with a fine view of the process.

The LT300 laser sights show the line of the next cut in a log. Moving towards the operator, the head makes a cut before turning back and placing a sawn board on a powered, inbuilt conveyor. Next, the board passes over the roller tables to Wood-Mizer's industrial edger to complete the required dimensions of roof elements. Wood-Mizer installed t he set-up in two-and-half days.

One of Szolt Bagin's principal aims was a decrease in manhours. Indeed, prior to the LT300, three shifts involving 30 people were needed. Now, 15 workers operate in just two shifts.

"We are still getting acquainted with the new arrangement and are processing 70% of our 1680m3-per-month target but we are already ahead", he explains. Naturally, the industrial facility required more qualified staff and in month-two his top operators were 'up to speed'.

"One or two 'cosmetic' problems were quickly remedied by Wood-Mizer's Slovakian representative and we also experienced teething difficulties with the edger which Wood-Mizer solved in three days at its Polish headquarters. "Disruption was avoided."

Currently, Szolt Bagin creates roof elements from local firs, exporting 80% to Hungary and selling the rest to the home market. This is supported by an arrangement with a team of builders which visits some customers and installs the roof frames. They all speak both Slovakian and Hungarian and he explains:

"My mother is Hungarian, I was brought up in Slovakia and my daughters are taught at an Hungarian school.
"My daughters are my treasure", he says, proudly showing photographs of his two girls aged seven and twelve.

Although upgraded production is in the initial stages and the offices are a bit of a shambles, the workshop is monitored by eleven cameras.

"When I installed CCTV productivity was enhanced by 20%!

"I can run my company from home when necessary and I don't wanted to be chained to the office." Indeed, he has more than one string to his bow, continuing vegetables export to the Czech Republic.

"Furthermore', he concludes, "working with wood stimulates interesting departures like utilising wood waste which we now sell on for chipboard production.

"By the end of 2009 we will have acquired a briquette production line but 80-90% of my time is devoted to the sawmilling."

Even that doesn't interfere with riding his fast Honda motorcycle for fun!

* LT300 is now renamed WM3000

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