Sawmiller AJ Charlton and Sons Ltd has completed the installation of a £1m sawmill designed to double production of its softwood products.

The French-made MEM equipment will allow Frome-based Charltons to grow its softwood sawn timber production to 120m3 a day.

The installation completes a transformation for Charltons, which until recently focused on hardwood products, especially pit props for the coal industry.

A demise in the coal mining industry and UK bed frame manufacturing sector persuaded the company to diversify into softwood production, especially fencing.

The sawmilling line, which only requires four people to operate, includes a chipper canter, horizontal cut, multi-rip, automated cross-cut and automated stacking. The equipment is a mix of new and reconditioned machinery.

The company will seek to develop markets in the motorway fencing and agricultural sectors and may also produce cedar cladding.

Sales and marketing director Michael Charlton said: “We’ve had to make this investment to improve production capacity. The new technology also reduces manpower.”

Charltons will soon commission additional machinery which can produce pales with rounded tops, bollards and arris rails.

Earlier machinery installed included a five-head bandsaw for the production of featheredge boards.

Charltons uses existing machinery to manufacture a range of hardwood products, including oak flooring, gates, doors and furniture. The company has a Royal Warrant for the supply of timber and wood products to the Royal Household.