UK mills on investment trail

20 September 2016

There have been several different announcements on the UK mill scene these last few weeks.

On the one hand we’ve had the UK’s largest sawmilling group BSW Timber announcing further investment to double production capacity at its Newbridge mill – a real statement of confidence in the Welsh timber market.

But we also have investment of a different kind resulting in the likely loss of 110 jobs at large-scale timber fencing manufacturer Grange Fencing.

In the case of Grange, it is sad to see it has decided to cease UK manufacturing and it comes soon after the closure announcement of its Hull facility. It is one of the big fencing producers in the UK and in Telford it is a big employer, so no doubt job losses will be a big blow.

Grange has been seeing increased demand and its Polish parent company Stelmet has recently invested about €30m in its production facilities. So its strategy for the future will be a move to an import/sales & distribution model, with Grange products being made at Stelmet and aided by a new distribution hub in the southeast of England.

Regional merchant Covers has also been on the investment trail, having completed a two-year period of improvements, including a new mill which is due to be officially opened this month.

Meanwhile, Austria-based sawmiller and engineered wood products producer Binderholz is looking to make inroads into the UK market. Having acquired two sawmills from Vapo of Finland with a combined sawn capacity of about 500,000m3 it has identified the UK as a strategic growth market for sawn and planed timber sales.

It has already joined the Timber Trade Federation and London Softwood Club and formed a registered company here called Binderholz UK.

We’re now entering exhibition season in the UK, with two major trade shows in October – the first being woodworking technology expo W16 (October 2-5). The previous show in 2014 saw good results and organisers are promising further growth in this edition.

Then we have Timber Expo, which has its second outing at Birmingham NEC on October 18-20. Organisers Media Ten have made a number of changes to the show to improve its exposure to key visitor targets, including specifiers, builders and elements of the timber trade.

Before either of these is the TTJ Awards of course, which is being held at The Brewery in the City of London. In this issue we have the TTJ Awards supplement, containing all details on sponsors, the speaker Martin Bayfield and how this year’s trophies were made. Attendance will be very high being the 20th anniversary year, so I would urge anyone without a ticket yet to get in there quick!

As I write this I was due to head off to Sweden for Wolman’s annual timber preservatives conference and mill tour, with many UK mills and treaters due to attend.

Watch out for the write-up next month!