LOG ON - The Newsletter of Lancashire ForWood
and the Lancashire Woodlands Project
Taken from: Issue 7 June 2004
Lisnavagh Timber Project
The Lisnavagh Timber Project (LTP) is an
example of a woodland owner taking the added value concept., learnt
in Lancashire, and applying to his business. William Bunbury owns
100 Ha of woodland in Co Carlow, Ireland. Having seen the concept
in practice in the Bowland Added Value Project he researched the
opportunities for home-grown timber in Ireland and decided to develop
an added value business.
Development of the project.
The project has taken timber from the estate
and, using contract sawing and drying services, turned it into a
stock of saleable timber. So far the main investment in the business
has been a dry room, constructed to store the dried
timber at the correct humidity level. This consists of a sealed
and insulated building-within-.a building, with two domestic dehumidifiers
to maintain a low atmospheric moisture content. William's experience
suggests that these units are unable to maintain the required relative
humidity; consequently the moisture content of the timber is increasing.
Proposals to install more suitable equipment are being considered.
An added advantage of the dry room is it provides a presentable
point of sale for customers. giving them confidence in the quality
of the product.
All the boards are graded according to quality
of the timber taking into account colour, knots, grain and any defects
such as splits. The grading system is Lisnavaghs own; the
highest quality being Maximum through Premium
and Quality to Natures Cut, the lowest grade.
Whilst this system does not relate to any existing standards, it
does enable buyers to have a good idea of the quality of the timber.
This is helped by photographs of examples of the grades that can
be sent to prospective buyers.
A unique feature of the LTP is the traceability
of every plank of timber. Each tree is given a unique reference
number before it is felled and details recorded about it location,
species, dimensions and reasons for its removal. Digital photographs
are also taken to record the tree and its surroundings. This information
is then fed into a computer database. When the log is sawn, each
plank is numbered and details of it size, quality and storage location
are recorded. This allows every plank to be traced back to the stump
it came from and allows detailed stock control records to be built
up. This feature is a unique selling point, allowing the ultimate
proof of sustainable production.
From the information held on the database,
boards are automatically priced up and price lists can be produced
for any enquiry received. If a sale is made, the programme will
produce the invoice and update the stock records.
The database has been developed over the
past 3 years by William and is now a powerful tool at the heart
of the business.
At present, all of the timber used in the
project comes from trees which have been windblown or have had to
be removed for safety reasons. In the future the woodlands Will
be managed to supply timber to the project through careful selective
felling, on a Continuous Cover Forestry system. Sourcing timber
from outside the estate is something that is being investigated.
The most likely reason for bringing timber in at the moment is to
supply species that are not available on the estate but which are
in demand by customers.
Most of the sales of timber to date have
been through word of mouth or the comprehensive web site. There
are around 300 hardwood timber users on the business database, which
can be targeted in a mail shot. A previous mail shot achieved a
response rate of about 10%, which is quite good. The business is
still in its infancy but is growing steadily. An important aspect,
in these early stages of the business, is the ability to deal with
enquiries and sales outside normal office hours. Many potential
buyers want to do business in the evening and at weekends.
The Lisnavagh Timber Project has taken the
added value concept and developed it to a point where a business
is emerging. A considerable investment of time and money has been
made and marketing is a key to making it a success. For more information