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Waiariki Sawmill to Demonstrate Industry Standards

Waiariki Sawmill to Demonstrate Industry Standards, Not Compete

The Waiariki Institute of Technology's sawmill at Waipa, Rotorua, is to become a demonstration sawmill that will become an international showcase of cutting-edge technology and operational processes.

To be known as the Waiariki Sawmill, it's expected that daily production will exceed 50cu metres daily of timber to achieve breakeven, without competing with other mills. This was announced today following a recent think tank of leading saw millers and engineers.

The think tank advised a fresh operational strategy for the sawmill. It followed the recent decision to divide the institute's School of Forestry and Technology into three new entities - each with fresh leadership and development strategies. These entities are the Waiariki Sawmill, the School of Forestry and Wood Processing and the School of Engineering and Rural Studies.

The institute's CEO, Dr Reynold Macpherson, says the sawmill will be closed for as short a time as possible for upgrading at the end of June.

"The present operational strategy is not sustainable and it seems likely the difficult market conditions will continue," says Dr Macpherson.

"A new operational strategy is needed to limit our exposure to market risks, achieve breakeven, update key technologies and position the sawmill for upturn. Its primary role will be to demonstrate best practice in sawmill management and processes, not compete."

At present, the sawmill produces about 23cu metres daily of timber daily - well short of the 70cu metres it's believed to be capable of following upgrades. A new management structure and production culture is also considered essential to lift production. An immediate revaluation of assets is also expected to reduce depreciation and help the sawmill achieve breakeven at about 50cu metres daily. Technological limits in the present setup have also been identified. Two immediate upgrades are planned for the sorting tables and the set works. Tenders will be called for in the days ahead.

Mill operations will be limited to toll cutting and will exclude the purchase of logs and sale of lumber. The toll-cutting charge will be lowered to attract more clients and the supply of logs, and to help raise annual production to 11,000cu metres sawn.

Dr Macpherson says the Waiariki Sawmill will serve as a demonstration sawmill for New Zealand.

"A topflight sawmill manager will be appointed as soon as possible to implement the operational strategy and to co-ordinate all operations including the dryers and the treatment plant. The appointee will report to the Director of Finance and Facilities and will manage the sawmill's finances and assets."

The sawmill manager's immediate priorities will include managing the technology upgrades, obtaining and managing toll cutting and debarking contracts, co-ordinating the movement of all logs and lumber, and establishing and maintaining quality and production measures.

A production supervisor will also be appointed to assist with upgrading and planning of sawmill processes to match the upgraded technology. The appointee, who will report to the sawmill manager, will provide working supervision of all operators, and measure grade out-turn and review optimal cutting patterns.

Between them, the two will put together an elite production team. This team will also demonstrate best industry practices and procedures in production, health and safety, environmentalism, maintenance and customer service.

Dr Macpherson says these changes will enable the sawmill to provide free, open and safe observational access to sawmill operations for the new School of Forestry and Wood Processing, industry and donors.

"The sawmill will also provide access for practical training on a planned, scheduled and costed basis. It will be reorganised to integrate toll cutting and training priorities on a strictly business-case basis.

"We are very grateful for the strong support we are now getting from industry specialists. The collective advice given to us by the think tank was customised for our technology in the current context. We are now looking forward to selecting the best sawmill manager and production supervisor we can find to drive the turn round."

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