Hectorspruit-based JRM Pallets is investing in continued growth to unlock timber opportunities in South Africa and the region.
In only a decade, the April 2022 commissioning of JRM's new Wood-Mizer WB2000 line underscores its evolution from a farm start-up to a highly productive, sawn timber producer and manufacturer.
Its location in Hectorspruit near South Africa's border with Mozambique places the sawmill in Southern Africa's fastest-growing economic hubs. JRM benefits from these opportunities.
Hectorspruit is also based in the Nkomazi district of Mpumalanga. It is South Africa's second-largest citrus production hub, and burgeoning agribusinesses here are some of JRM's biggest customers.
Excellence from the start
JRM’s early start on a farm in Louw’s Creek in 2008 came on the back of an opportunity it’s CEO, Jason Mohle had while in IT to build pallets for farms in the area.
One Wood-Mizer that later duplicated into a full fleet allowed the part-time operation to expand a decade later into the success story it is today.
"But it was tough at first. We started the sawmill during the 2008 recession. With no bank financing, I had to cash in everything. I even borrowed from my Dad,” Jason says.
In 2022, JRM's vertically integrated timber business is a juggernaut operation of note.
Its main focus is sawmilling with the output from its sawn pine and gum divisions providing the feedstock for its manufacturing and sales divisions.
"Our competitive advantage lies in our ability to supply exceptional quality consistently," Jason says.
"Value addition, precision, and recovery are important parts of this. So too tight control of energy and logistics costs and safer, and better-paying employment opportunities through automation."
The proof is in the cutting.
JRM's sawmilling operation is split into a gum and pine division.
The gum line takes in 80m³ with the output going to JRM's pallet factory and for resale.
The smaller diameters are broken into two-sided cants on a Wood-Mizer twin vertical saw, with resawing and recovery done on three Wood-Mizer resaws after ripping.
On diameters above 300 mm, a Wood-Mizer LT70 Remote and LX450 breaks the logs into sawn timber, with the remainder flowing back to recovery.
"On the pine side, JRM's always been a structural timber producer."
"The larger margins that we get on structural timber and the recovered material from there going to pallets made structural timber a natural fit for us from the start.
"But we knew we could do it better," Jason says, smiling wryly.
Efficiency, precision, productivity
And then, JRM did it better by commissioning its new Wood-Mizer pine line in April 2022.
"The new line stripped all the redundancies out of our previous set-up and left us with a clean and simple process geared for future growth," says Jason Moley. Mohle
A Wood-Mizer WB2000 PRO breaks B, C and D class logs (180mm to 340mm plus) into slabs and cants. These are then split into multiple flitches on the HR2000-2 Wide Resaw. With a width capacity of 600mm, most logs can simply be sawn through and through.
This approach allows for the least possible amount of work to be done on the primary saw, the WB2000, which mean less cuts and turns to be made per log, and more logs being sawn in any given day, compared with other conventional approaches.
The flitches produced are then edged on a Wood-Mizer EG800. A Wood-Mizer LX450 that forms part of the line also breaks D-Class logs (+340 mm) down into boards that feed into the EG800 to supplement the total production throughput.
A second Wood-Mizer EG800 and resaws take care of recover smaller dimensions as needed.
The line takes in 100m³/day and cuts out 50-60 m³/day with recovery bringing it to roughly 60%.
"We had a few objectives when we installed the line," Jason says.
"JRM is now geared for steady growth into the future depending on available log volumes.
"The line design was also intentional, and we aimed for a clean and highly productive process.
"The processing units and material transfers gel together seamlessly for an automated system geared for productivity."
The resaw infeed system illustrates the level of automation achieved.
The system synchronises the movement of the slab exiting the WB2000 with that of the slab entering the HR2000. Completely automated, it ensures the uninterrupted flow of material from breakdown to resawing, and all the way to the board edger
"The total automation achieved by Wood-Mizer's Systems team has boosted our productivity, and our line operators now have safer and better-paying jobs," Jason says.
Slashing the mill's electricity bill was another objective.
The energy savings from the new line is now driving two recently installed kilns - the first dry pallets to the required phytosanitary levels to boost JRM's export pallet sales.
Kiln two drives JRM's margins further, with kiln-dried structural timber adding to profits. A new timber treatment plant on the cards will open further agribusiness opportunities.
The new line also meant that we had to have guaranteed service support for the duration of the line's lifespan," Jason says.
Wood-Mizer's support during the design and commissioning phases and maintaining the mill has been excellent," Jason ends.
A final take.
It remains a pleasure to walk into a sawmill where the entire process is carefully bisected and then tweaked for maximum returns.
JRM’s focus on automation with the new line unlocks efficiency and productivity levels that weren’t previously available.
Higher recovery rates, reduced energy costs and a workplace where manual labour has been replaced with safer and better paying jobs, have left it with an uninterrupted future growth path.
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