Story by David Abbott,
Senior Associate Editor
As I write this in mid-October, one of our editors, Jessica Johnson, is representing the company’s logging magazines at a press event in Finland. Jessica’s venture marks the third time this year members of the Hatton-Brown team have traveled across the Atlantic—editor-in-chief Rich Donnell was at the Ligna show in Hannover, Germany in May, while I attended Elmia in Jonkoping, Sweden a month later.
This is far from our first foray into the European market—I had stories from Sweden and Finland in 2008, and from Austria and Germany in 2010. Already from my trip this summer we have featured the Schweighofer mill in Sebes, Romania in the September issue. This month, we bring you a look at Holmen Braviken, in Norrkoping, Sweden.
I visited Holmen’s spruce mill (the company also has a pine lumber mill some distance away, and a pulp mill nearby) on the Monday following the end of the Elmia show. I was able to stay at the same hotel, as the mill was located only about an hour’s drive from the show area. I managed to arrange a ride with Dieter Reinisch, a representative with John Deere in Sweden. Reinisch had hosted a press tour I made with Deere in both Sweden and Finland in 2008, and he was at the Elmia show this year. He agreed to drive me to the mill, and then to a nearby John Deere customer, a harvesting contractor who is also one of Holmen Braviken’s preferred suppliers.
The visit was arranged by Claes Otterbeck, a sales rep for Linck, the sawmill machinery manufacturer so dominant in much of Europe. Otterbeck told me that he chose the Holmen Braviken mill because it is representative of a typical newer mill in Sweden, and of the Scandinavian style of sawmilling.
I had seen the method on my previous trips. The principal difference, to my mind, between it and the methods common in the United States is in the log sorting. There is a much bigger focus on this. The log sorting station takes up more space than the whole rest of the mill complex. Each log is graded and measured, then separated into groups based on length, diameter and grade, or quality as they say, and is then conveyed to one of dozens of different storage boxes.
From that point, the operation seems to me more direct and simplified compared to what I’ve seen at home. Rather than adjusting the headrig to optimize each log, then going through gang saws and edgers and so on, this system kind of does it all on one straight shot, on a single machine. Since it only processes one batch at a time, the logs are, all uniform as they enter the profiling line, so each one is processed more or less with the same solution. When they finish with one batch, or group, they bring in the next, and adjust the saw spacing accordingly for the new sizes.
Other than that, and the differences necessitated by having everything measured in the metric system, what always strikes me when I visit other countries is how fundamentally similar the industry is, wherever you are. Bottom line, they still are turning logs into lumber, drying it, planing it. Like mills here, they own timberland or buy logs from private landowners. They face many of the same challenges—getting log supply, finding markets. They, too, have suffered from economic recession. They, like many mills here, find that the export market has become more important to their business. At the end of the day, we are all very much in the same boat.