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Articles & Stories

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Post-soviet Latvian sawmill modernises with new technology



In spite of Latvia’s relatively small population of two million, per capita, Wood-Mizer has more industrial sawmill installations in Latvia then in any other country worldwide.

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Kuldiga, Latvia is a small town of around 18,000, best known for its famous waterfall – the widest in Europe at 249 metres (817 feet). Nearby is SIA Planka, a sawmill company that began when Latvia was still under Soviet control. The company employees 30 people and exports timber to customers all throughout Europe. In additional to selling raw pallet timber components, the company sells pallets to German metalworking companies, fencing to England, and varying orders for customers in Ireland, Scotland, and France.

Dzintars Knupke, the owner, purchased an LT300 thin-kerf industrial sawmill from Wood-Mizer in 2007 in order to upgrade from his old soviet-era equipment.

“Because of the machinery we had available,” Dzintars recalls, “Latvian sawmills usually required young and strong workers, because log handling and off bearing had to be done manually.” He saw the new thin-kerf sawmill technology at a trade show in Riga, Latvia’s capitol, and soon implemented it into his own company.

The timber recovery and low manual labour requirements were novelties among the other sawmills nearby, and Dzintars still processes all his big logs on the LT300 (since renamed the WM3500).

“We cut Latvian pine and spruce that we buy from the local logging companies. Our logs are usually very straight and with few defects, which means that we can focus on getting the most value out of every log. The LT300 has been in continuous operation for seven years, and we have had only one major repair in that time, when the power feed motor needed replacing.”

“After 25 years in the timber industry, I am seeing how things are changing,” Dzintars comments. “It used to be that we simply cut what we needed to sell and just burned any waste products. However, every year the logs get thinner and more expensive. Currently, only 10-15% of our logs are really big like they used to be.”

In 2014, Dzintars decided to make better use of his headrig’s capacity and introduced a new line to handle his smaller logs, allowing the LT300 to focus on larger logs only. He installed an SLP (Smart Log Processing) line from Wood-Mizer.

“In 2013, I saw Wood-Mizer’s semi-automated SLP line at LIGNA in Hanover, Germany. I opted for the version that allows up to 3.6 meter (12 feet) log lengths to be processed. At the end of the line, I installed a board trimming saw. So my timber is cut, trimmed to three standard sizes, and packed for transport in one straightforward process.”

Dzintars buys his logs unsorted, saving him on his initial log purchase costs. Once the logs arrive in his log yard, he then sorts them depending on the line they are intended for.

Logs from 10-40cm (4-16 inches) are processed on the SLP line, which also uses thin-kerf blades to maximise the timber recovery from each log. The log passes first through a TVS (Twin Vertical Saw) which removes two sides, and then the log is turned 90 degrees, cut on its third side by a SHS (Single Horizontal Saw), and then turned again and put through a Wood-Mizer resaw with six cutting heads. The finished six boards then move onto the trim saw and stacking area. Eight employees manage the whole line, including the final stacking for transport.

Dzintars’ investment is paying off. He reports that their productivity has increased 40%. 15 cubic metres of timber ready for transport is produced during each shift.

“A thin-kerf sawmill such as our older LT300 or new WM4000 is meant to be matched with a line such as the SLP1 or our more automated SLP2*,” shares Vilmars Jansons, Wood-Mizer’s Latvian representative. “One for cutting larger logs, and the other for the smaller ones. But they both use the same exact blades, and so results and maintenance are consistent. Dzintars has been quite smart in his business operations – he can order logs of any size now and know he will make a profit.”

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Jacob Mooney

Jacob Mooney - PR Coordinator
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