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Norwegian family timber operation’s 200% margin prompts move into wood building components
A Norwegian timber worker’s dream in the 1960s of owning his own family-supporting timber processing operation has come to fruition at a village called Bryne near Stavanger. It is about to expand into the rewarding timber frame building components sector in the South-West of Norway, where prosperity from the country’s North Sea explorations is particularly evident.
The man who had the dream, Erling Foss, with his son Egil, runs the company called Mossig Sag based on a Wood-Mizer LT70L band sawmill.
The father and son enterprise turns out 1.000m3 of finished wooden products per year which they admit isn’t a huge output but which achieves an enviable margin of 200%. This comfortably supports Erling, 67 and his wife, Magnhild, as well as Egil, 40, his wife Turid and their daughters Mona and Elen.
They produce timber cladding, fencing and picnic tables with seats attached for Bryne’s local council, farmers, cottage and house owners/builders as well as contractors in the region. Most of their product consists of between 20m2 and 50m2 of wilderness panels per day which they convert from each 1m3 of timber they buy in. Son Egil explains this healthy conversion with the narrow kerf technology incorporated into the sawmill, adding:
"This 2mm kerf accounts for much of the profitability and overall economics of our operation''.
"Pine logs are delivered here at 600 kr. per 1m3 and we process it and sell the resulting 20m3 for 2 000 kr''.
"Deduct our operating costs and we achieve our 200% margin", he adds.
They started the company in 1993 with a model LT40 ‘workhorse’ portable band saw mill and the concern gradually took off. In 1998 they sold this first mill and bought a new, stationary LT40 which with its electric motor was quieter, better suited to stationary sawmilling and brought further fuel economies.
But even this simply demonstrated further opportunities offered by such a relatively small sawmill. In 2003 they sold the LT40 and acquired a third band sawmill, the bigger Wood-Mizer model LT70L, to gain benefit from its increased cutting speed and capacity. After deducting income from the sale of the LT40 it cost kr.200 000 net.
Importantly, it is even faster than its predecessor. Egil Fosse comments: "it’s so fast my father and I barely have time to debark or handle finished wood so in February, March and April – our high season – we hire part time helpers''.
"The cost of this extra labour is factored into our profit margin and well worth it because during this peak period we process 100m2 per day, sawn and stacked in an open air kiln", he says. Currently, father and son are studying Wood-Mizer’s kiln options to improve such finishing. Equally important, the LT70L permits longer lengths of boards, needed for most cladding as it allows the customer to dispense with wall joints. He has operated his LT70L for 2 000 hours and production has been between one and two cubic metres per hour.
From the band sawmill boards are moved to a bench where bark is removed by hand, one of the selling benefits offered by the family. The picnic tables are also assembled by hand.
Egil Fosse’s long term aim is to further build up a local sawmill operation within the 40-km radius around Bryne to continue providing income for the two families, perhaps supplying 1.500m3 of finished timber and enjoying the same profit margins that supports the extended family. They don’t ask much more.
Move into timber frame construction components
However, the decision to exploit the band sawmill’s capabilities further by moving into the vigorous market for timber frame housing and buildings in the region might well increase both revenues and profit margins. The semi-industrial band sawmill is particularly suited to producing finished timber for this market. It is designed for fast, accurate cutting, minimal waste of the timber resource and sawing the long lengths that are often required.
With this in mind, the family have ordered a Wood-Mizer single-head resaw, a simplified version of the multi-head. The cutting head is set firm and cants pass the blades at up to 30 metres a minute. The head can tilt from zero to nine degrees for lap fencing.
"One or more cutting heads may be combined to create a multihead unit" explains Egil, who has just installed a board return device for the LT70L, specially constructed to his wishes by Wood-Mizer’s European manufacturing centre in Poland.
Erling also invented a platform with a seat for the LT70L which allows whichever of them is operating the mill to move effortlessly with the boards.
Egil concludes: "Our band sawmill based firm created a welcome life change for my mother and father, has since given our two families a good life and security and I feel more fulfilled with my work than ever before.
"I know my father does too", he concludes.
Brian Hind, UK
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