Kuhmo Oy – Finland



Lying slap bang on the line that divides southern Finland from its northern counterpart, Kuhmo Oy has had to develop clever strategies to counter increasing conservation restraints from both sides of the border.

Marketing Director Juha Virta explained, ”We are stuck in the middle of two administrative poles, so we suffer from two bites of conservation rather than one.  Both areas are reducing the amount of mature forest available for sawmilling by at least 30%.  We  needed to overcome supply problems.  For instance, as forest is being taken away, customer demand is growing.”

Independently-owned Kuhmo Oy, one of Finland’s largest sawmills, which has a brown bear–Ursus–as its trademark, realized that what was available in abundance were small logs starting from 40-year-old thinnings, but it did not have the technology to fully use them.

The company turned to Canada for help, recognizing that it had the experience and machinery to handle extreme variations of log size and length.  The result was a small-log line, the first of its kind in the world and the first delivery to Europe by a Canadian company called Comact.  The new line complements Kuhmo Oy’s main line, which was installed in 1992.  The new line, which had to be adapted in many ways to meet European quality requirements, is part of a three-year, £11M investment program which has also included a FinScan full-color grading system and further kilning at Kuhmo Oy.

Production with the new line is set to reverse a trend, which last year saw the company take in 250,000 more logs, but achieve 6,000 m3 less in production over the previous year simply because the logs were getting smaller.  Mr. Virta said, ”The Finnish average volume for a log is 0.20 m3 to 0.21 m3.  Ours was 0.15 m3 and is now coming down to 0.13 m3 with the new line.  There is plenty of raw material of this diameter within a 120-km radius of Kuhmo Oy.  It is close grain and good quality.  Our total procurement is about 600,000 m3 a year overall and this will probably rise to 650,000 m3 this year because of the smaller logs.”  Previously around 25% of Kuhmo Oy’s products came from log sizes below normal, but that is now set to rise to 40%.

Mr. Virta said, ”We came up with a package for the Canadians, specifying what quality finish and accuracy of measure were required, the capacity needed, the layout of the site, what space we had available, and where the new line had to join in with the rest of the machinery.  Together with quality, speed was one of the most crucial factors.  In Scandinavia, we are used to handling logs of the same size, one size at a time.  In Canada, they are used to sawing different sizes–short, long, thick, or thin.  There is nothing like this new saw line in Europe.  There are similar structures in Canada, but they wouldn’t try to maximize the yield in the way we do.”

Source: Timber Trades Journal