Wednesday, March 3, 2021
The Mpumalanga Highveld in South Africa and its high
elevation at 1741 metres above sea level ensures bitingly cold and frosty
winters. The frost-bleached grasslands with large tracts of commercial forests,
mountains and rivers hint at the Scottish Highlands, Nu Scotland Sawmill named
after this resemblance.
Bennie Bruwer, the managing partner of a series of
vertically integrated business ventures that include Nu-Scotland and Churchill
Sawmills, is a veteran sawmiller from South Africa.
The ongoing race to diversify and improve production
capacity lives close to Bennie’s heart.
In 2009, during a round of upgrades then, Bennie
remarked, “it’s vital to diversify constantly with more income streams and the
best technology to unlock maximum value ensuring the success of your business.”
The upgrade in 2009 saw thin-kerf narrow bandsaw lines
from Brazil being commissioned at both sites to deliver the sawn timber
requirement to supply structural timber retailers and pallet and crate
producers in South Africa and beyond.
Kilning facilities at Nu-Scotland for dried-straight and
flat structural timber gave greater returns that customers willingly paid.
Dried sawdust from both mills went into compressed log export orders to heat
homes in winter. Chipped offcuts went to board producers.
With Nu-Scotland and Churchill then and now part of the
integrated group, they also had access to their own commercial forest assets.
Its own truck fleet that extracted logs from in forest to mill and from there
to retail kept overheads low.
With its own trees, sawmills, logistics, diverse income
streams, appropriate technology, and operationally savvy structures in place to
ensure maximum value, Bennie’s dream was taking shape.
Wood-Mizer into 2021 and beyond
The stark beauty of the Mpumalanga Highveld as it exited
the winter of 2020 was underscored even more by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
Despite the tough trading conditions brought on by the
crisis, Nu-Scotland and Churchill Sawmills continue to flourish. This
underlines the importance of Bennie’s old dictum to adapt and flourish or die
Compared with 2009, the business in 2021 remains focussed
on maximum integration with structural timber and pallet component production
at both sites remaining at its core. The Churchill site now also has kilning
capacity to add to the group’s total drying volume. The increased drying
capacity is an important move to supply the group’s new bed component plant
with dried timber from which bed components are made and shipped to bed
manufacturers in SA and beyond.
“The bed component, finger-joint and soon-to-go-live door
plant replaced low earners like the heat log plant and we’re now able to build
larger margins across our current basket of products,” Bennie says.
“A big priority for us was also to improve our log
breakdown capacity,” Bennie says. It lies at the heart of the success of our
On-going changes at Nu-Scotland has seen parts of the Brazilian-made
line making way for Wood-Mizer equipment, a twin vertical log break-down, HR500
double-head resaw and Wood-Mizer EG300 edger on the mill’s recovery line
announcing an important departure from the group’s previous equipment line-up
At the Churchill site, the old Brazilian line is now 90%
comprised of units from Wood-Mizer’s Smart Log processing (SLP) range. A Wood-Mizer Twin vertical log breakdown unit
process logs into two-sided cants with a Wood-Mizer Single vertical saw
removing the third side before resawing into final sizes. A Wood-Mizer Twin-head
HR500 resaw drives Churchill’s recovery line with edged sideboards from the
primary breakdown process passing through it to produce boards for the pallet
“Wood-Mizer has been an integral part of our ability to
grow the business as we have. We need accurate log breakdown capacity, and
increasingly so as more divisions come on stream into the future.
Ready-for-market finger-jointed structural timber that adds to the structural clears and makes for less waste from both mills.
A new Wood-Mizer SLP line that will go live when our
upgraded solar power plant is finished, will increase our company-wide ability
to supply sawn material for resale and manufacturing,” Bennie continues.
A new Wood-Mizer line at Churchill will go live once the upgraded solar power plant there is finished.
“We decided to use Wood-Mizer’s SLP range as a
stepping-stone in our group’s expansion because of the benefits that we’ve achieved
to date from the range.
The bed component, finger-joint and soon-to-go-live door plant adds additional income streams and build larger margins.
“Those would include a real ability to maximize output,
reduce operating costs, increase our ability to flexibly process log sizes
between 100-400 mm, get industrial scale sawmilling capacity at an affordable
price, the ability to flexibly alter the line layout given the modular design
of the range and finally a reduced energy bill.”
“Our total thin-kerf narrowband sawblade requirement for
both mills also come from Wood-Mizer and so too our blade resharpening and
setting capacity, which reduces our reliance on outside suppliers considerably.
“They’ve also been instrumental in keeping both sites
running with spares and maintenance services and also by assisting us with the future layout of both mills,” Bennie concludes.
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