Irish mills make a stand

26 September 2014

Irish processors’ commitment to the UK market will be demonstrated at Timber Expo. Sally Spencer reports.

The Irish stand has become a regular fixture at Timber Expo and this year is no exception, with major sawmillers Glennon Brothers, GP Wood and Murray Timber Group taking part.

They will be part of a stand hosted by Coillte, the Irish forestry and forest products company, and Enterprise Ireland (EI), the government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish businesses in global markets.

The relationship between Irish processors and their UK customers is an enduring one and Timber Expo is seen as an opportunity to strengthen those relationships.

"The Irish timber processing sector continues to go from strength to strength," said Niall Coulston, senior development adviser, construction markets at EI.

"This growth is founded upon the continued reinvestment by Irish sawmills and board mills in innovation-led technology to produce a high quality timber product, and the development of a customer-focused service to their UK customer base."

Investment has been the watchword of Glennon Brothers, which has ploughed nearly €60m into the Irish sawmilling sector since 1997. The latest tranche of investment, a purpose-built stress grading and planing facility featuring a state-of-the-art USNR lineal high grader and Ledinek planer came with a price tag of around €13m. It represents the single biggest investment in Irish sawmilling in the last five or six years, said the company.

The stress grader, which is now "95% commissioned", is the first of its kind in Europe and will further enhance the company's ability to supply the UK market, said joint managing director Mike Glennon.

The company has also invested £750,000 in an Epicor ERP computer system. This has just become fully operational and integrates systems across the group (which, along with two mills in Ireland, includes Windymains Timber and Adam Wilson in Scotland, plus timber engineering divisions).

"Sharing the one platform improves customer service and stock visibility and is a huge step forward for us in delivering a one-stop shop solution for sawn softwood in the British Isles," said Mr Glennon.

Meanwhile, GP Wood, the company resulting from the merger of Grainger Sawmills of Enniskeane and Palfab of Lissarda in April 2013, hasn't let the grass grow when it comes to investing. Primary breakdown has been improved at the Lissarda site, to the tune of €2m, plus the facility there has benefited from a second drop sorter, a second edger and new scanning technology.

The Enniskeane mill has seen a €1m spend on a Goldeneye grading line and €500,000 on a multi-head cross-cut for adding value to the pallet and packaging line.

"We're now processing more efficiently and are able to offer an even better service," said managing director Niall Grainger.

"The foundations are now there for future growth and we will continue with our capital investment programme to ensure we become even more efficient and produce even better quality products."

Murray Timber Group's commitment to the UK market was the reason for its investment some years ago in two high-speed planers and Goldeneye grading technology.

This enabled the company to supply the UK market with what it wanted - eased edge carcassing - and Murrays began exporting this to the UK in 2009, selling via Taylor Maxwell Timber.

Its SNR (Sustainable Natural Resource) brand is now "a household name in the UK market, from the Isle of Wight to the Shetlands", said sales director Patrick Murray.

An eye on the UK market also encouraged the company to start producing feather-edge board, a decision that has paid dividends, particularly after the storms of the early part of this year which created huge demand for the product.

Timber Expo is the ideal venue to showcase their products and services.

"The UK is an incredibly important destination for GP Wood products and being at Timber Expo demonstrates our level of commitment to that market," said Mr Grainger. "It also allows us to see a large number of our customers in one place, which is very valuable."

"It's part of the calendar for us now," said Mr Murray, adding that his company was exhibiting in the UK for the sixth year, first at Interbuild and now at Timber Expo.

"It's a great focus point to meet all our customers and to reinforce our relationships with them," said Mr Murray.

Glennon Brothers' new planing and stress grading facility
Irish processors have exhibited at Timber Expo since its inception