Struggling Sawmill finds Key to Success

Source – Wood-Mizer Planet

Struggling Sawmill finds Key to SuccessIn 2005, Ed Robbins, owner of Ohio Valley Veneer was auctioning off a mill and downsizing, until he hit upon what he calls the key to turning a struggling mill into a “profit center”.

“The Piketon mill,” recounts Ed, “I ran from ’99 to ’05, and struggled to make money… I had a 36 inch carriage with a circle saw, top saw, vertical edger, and a band resaw, and I couldn’t get it to make it.”

After 6 years of trying, he was ready to try anything that would help the Piketon facility become profitable. He put the circle mill up for auction and made a decision to install a Wood-Mizer LT300 thin-kerf headrig. Ed’s lead sawyer Walt Vanhoy had this to say, “I thought he was joking… I had always run the big mills, and I didn’t think it would work.”

Ed Robbins had seen several LT300 headrigs (now the WM3000) in operation at Dunaway Timber in Kentucky. Even though the idea of replacing a production-oriented rig with a narrow-bandblade headrig was thought by many to be counterintuitive, Ed took a long, hard look at his numbers, and decided to make the change.

“As soon as I bought the Wood-Mizer, it’s been a profit center ever since. There’s a spot for the Wood-Mizer [head-rig]. And that is sawing that high dollar product, where you’re giving up a little volume, but you’re making it up with your margins.”

With a thin-kerf headrig installed at the Piketon mill, exclusively sawing high-grade walnut logs, margins increased and profitability returned. Ed’s electric bill dropped to less than a third of what he had been paying. Being able to produce more product from fewer logs cut down on trucking costs and increased the profit per log. And the thin-kerf blades were much cheaper to replace and sharpen than his old circular blade.

“I think the [thin-kerf headrig] is definitely going to be a big part of the lumber industry in the future… The oversaw difference is tremendous… It’s not only the kerf; it’s your electric bill, it’s your parts bill, it all comes together at one big savings. [A thin-kerf headrig] should be integrated into any operation… It will make you money, and it has been one best investments I’ve made.”

So what does Walt, Ed’s lead sawyer think about his bosses’ “crazy” decision now? He now says, “This is what’s got us through the recession. …We were making lumber and making money when everyone else was shutting down. For sawing the high dollar lumber, in my opinion, these mills are the only way to go.”

Ed Robbins plans on continuing to invest in thin-kerf sawmills as he expands his business into sawing African mahogany and walnut. His advice to his sons, who want to get started in this business, is, “I tell them I’d put in an WM3000 feeding a band resaw. You’ll be efficient, your overhead’s going to be down… To me, that is a perfect setup, especially in this market.”

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