When a major fire destroyed the main sawline at Woodfab Timber in 2010 the knee-jerk reaction could have been to replace it like-for-like and to get back to primary processing without delay.

However, the Aughrim, Co Wicklow-based company was still able to serve its customers by virtue of the fact that the added value lines were untouched by fire and still fully functional, so it decided to take its time to check out the options.

"We wanted to focus on achieving a higher yield," said Sean Brady, plant director, citing high log prices as a key motivation. "We’d had very little optimisation on the previous line and we wanted to improve on that.

‘We were open minded from the outset but had decided that we would go with a chipper canter and a four arbour circular saw, rather than bandsaws.

"We invested a lot of time in research, contacting all the main sawline manufacturers – Linck (supplier of the previous line), EWD, Brodbaek, USNR and HewSaw and travelled throughout the UK, Germany, Latvia and France visiting various mills."

Twelve months later Woodfab had made its choice and a Brodbaek merry-go-round sawline was selected – in fact with the exception of Microtec scanners, a Valon Kone (VK) debarker and a Haas Recycling Systems residue handling system, primary processing in its entirety is carried out on Brodbaek technology.

"We were looking for a company that would be able to provide the whole package almost as a turnkey so we wouldn’t be dealing with two or three manufacturers," said Mr Brady.

"We were also looking for flexibility – a line that could change cutting patterns and sizes quickly, adapting to customers’ needs.

We also wanted a saw line that would put the emphasis on scanning and yield – one that would scan twice and cut once.

"We built up a good relationship with Brodbaek," he added. "Their managing director, Leif Dam, was very hands-on and he and the UK sales representative Steve Chalmers came on all the mill visits with us and put in a lot of time and effort."

Primary processing begins with a Brodbaek log ladder and log deck and progresses through a VK 450 debarker and Microtec Maxicut, which scans overbark. The logs are then scanned underbark with a Microtec Iris and any logs unsuitable for the pattern being cut are ejected for further grading.

A Brodbaek BCO 450 chipper canter is next, followed immediately by a Brodbaek BCO four arbour circular saw. At this point the sideboards are transferred to a Brodbaek edging line while the main production passes through a Brodbaek speed feeder and is scanned with a Microtec Wanescan.

Packaging and cross-cutting is completed using a 36 sinking pocket push bar sorting line and a Brodbaek multi-head cross-cutting system.

The mill took 12 months to commission and, subject to some final fine-tuning, output will be back to 100,000m3 per year. The core product mix will comprise fencing, pallet wood and carcassing material.

The new edging line is allowing Woodfab to produce fencing battens more efficiently than on the previous line and is also allowing the company to upgrade a lot of its sideboards into components for acoustic barriers.

"The merry-go-round is also allowing us to cut waney edge slats, which we haven’t been able to do before," said Mr Brady.

The sawline is part of a £10m investment in processing and work is continuing on the installation of a Stenner seven-head horizontal resaw line, incorporating twin resaws – the infeed and outfeed handling is on Brodbaek machinery. This new line will complement existing multi-head horizontals. Other handling equipment has been upgraded – in the yard there is a new Sennebogen 730 material handler and a Volvo L120G loading shovel.

Business is picking up and Mr Brady said Woodfab is grateful to its customers, who stayed loyal while the sawline was out of action.

The company remains committed to serving the UK market, he said, as demonstrated by the appointment of a new UK-based sales manager Dave Lyon, who, along with export manager John Colclough, handles UK sales.