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UK journalist visits Wood-Mizer’s manufacturing centre in Poland

Thursday, April 7, 2016

UK journalist visits Wood-Mizer’s manufacturing centre in Poland

Ben Pike - benpikecommunications.co.uk

In ten years of writing about agriculture, rural industries and the countryside, it’s quite surprising that I’ve never come across a sawmill.

In many instances, a timber-cutting diversification would fit neatly alongside a primary farming business, especially during a period of pressure on farmers to create new income streams to prop up depressed food prices.

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Sawmills on farms do exist in the UK, but there is huge scope for those who have the space, the resources and an end market to supply to seriously look at whether cutting timber could be part of their future. 

I wanted to see first-hand how the machines worked, and not just on a practical level. 

After a fascinating tour of post-communist Warsaw, I met with Martina Valentini, an Italian public relations consultant who was, like me, about to get under the skin of Wood-Mizer at its European headquarters in the small town of Kolo – two hours west of the Polish capital. 


Wood-Mizer’s product range doesn’t have thousands of lines. Instead, it tries to cater for a wide variety of markets by producing machines that can cope with the needs of the industrial-scale customer right down to the hobbyist. 



At the top end of the range, the WM1000 is a hugely-impressive, eye-catching machine which allows a single operator to cut logs which are more than 65” in diameter. With handling attachments, a single line would only be an investment for the serious sawmiller, but not all the machines are about size. 



I got my hands on Wood-Mizer’s new LX100 which, for a novice, was plenty big enough. The controls were simple and, with a bit of guidance from some rather nervous-looking Wood-Mizer staff who watched me get far too close to the blade, I successfully cut my first piece of timber in just a few seconds. 

The machines are constructed to order in an impressive production warehouse. It blends highly organised manual labour with top-of-the-range robotic work. Every part has its place and is clearly labeled in what is one of the cleanest and calmest manufacturing units I’ve ever been in. 





Razor-sharp blades were being manufactured and packaged ready for shipping at a frightening pace, while in other areas of the site bespoke sawmill lines were being constructed to a customer’s specifications. Outside, we saw a WM1000 which was about to be shipped to a site in Scotland. I plan to visit when it is fully operational later this year. 



Away from Wood-Mizer’s office there was a chance to not only see a sawmilling operation in full flow, but the chance to connect what the staff in Kolo had been telling us about the socio-economic impact that sawmilling can have. 

Building wooden pallets is, perhaps understandably, something that I had never thought too much about. After all, it’s just a bit of wood nailed to another bit of wood, right? Wrong. 



We met the owner, Mirek Bakowski, whose Tartak Mariola Bakowska sawmilling business is just a short car journey from where the machines are made. 

Huge logs were brought into the warehouse with a grab and, in a fast-paced environment, sawn through section by section by five different sawmills before the wood reached its required size. In one corner of the warehouse, teams of pallet builders worked at a frantic pace, using pneumatic nail guns to build each one in fewer than 90 seconds. 



On a gantry above all the action, it was a full-time job for one employee to manage the automated sharpeners which keep the sawmills running efficiently and accurately with reliable blades. 

In all, about 20 staff were employed at the site, most working flat-out to keep up with each other. That’s 20 jobs secured by one sawmilling business.

It’s easy to overlook the role that machinery plays in job creation, and perhaps something that many companies gloss over when they talk about how their business can impact on the wider community. 

But from meeting the teams responsible for marketing and selling Wood-Mizer’s products across the world, it’s clear that this particular company has an engrained social responsibility story to tell. 

Just one of many examples I could draw upon was the case study of a sawmilling operation in Kitwe, Zambia, which uses small-scale Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmills to provide local lumber. Sawn timber in the country is more profitable than log exports and a huge number of jobs have been created by the fact that a sawmill has been brought in. 





Away from sawmilling, we saw that Poland is a deeply religious country, emphasised by large numbers of churches dotted around the towns and villages we drove through during the visit. One church in particular is a shining beacon of Polish faith. The Catholic Basilica of Our Lady in the small town of Lichen is the country’s largest church and one of the biggest in the world. In a humble country, it is a statement of opulence – an issue that divided opinion during the ten years it took to build during the early 2000s.  







Its nave is 120m long and the structure stretches 77m in length with a central dome 98m high. On top of that, a tower reaches 141.5m into the sky. It houses Poland’s largest organ and was constructed with painstaking attention to detail. Whether a church which drips with gold is appropriate in a country that lacks some of the basic infrastructure afforded to other European nations is debatable, but its beauty and sheer presence is undeniable. 





It was a trip of many firsts; the first time I had been to Poland, the first time I had cut wood on a sawmill and the first time I had been served a drink of hot beetroot juice. 

Two out of the three were pleasurable experiences, but I won’t be stocking up on beetroot at home anytime soon. 

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