Wood-Mizer is the sawmill brand of choice for sawmillers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Wood-Mizer’s association with the DRC goes back to 1987 when the first Wood-Mizer sawmill was introduced to the country. Brought to the DRC by Wood-Mizer’s then representative for Africa, the sawmill changed the way in which sawn timber was produced in the DRC until then.
Before Wood-Mizer sawmills were introduced, sawmillers there preferred the expensive to run and maintain wide bandsaw and circular blade sawmills. These mills were costly and difficult to run and made it tough for sawmillers that wanted to start a sawmill to generate enough cash to afford and run the mills. The wide bandsaw and circular blades that these mills used required specialist blade sharpening equipment and skills to maintain.
Without the know-how and cash to sharpen and set the blades, sawmills often struggled and eventually had to shut down. More money was spent to service the high electricity and maintenance costs of these mills. The wide kerf of the circular blades shrunk profits even further because each cut wasted timber that could be sold. With limited local service support from original equipment manufacturers, sawmillers waited for months for spares and blades to repair breakdowns. Sawmills that didn’t work made no money and closed down.
A small sawmilling sector in the DRC that sent most of the sawn product to export markets, made it difficult for local manufacturers to produce timber products. To fill the gap, entrepreneurs focused on low value log exports that at least put money in their pockets. But the income from this was far less than what they could have earned had they exported sawn timber. Although the DRC has some of the world’s largest forest reserves, the combined effect of these factors saw the DRC losing its forests and income to the rest of the world with the people and the country’s economy suffering as a result.
The Wood-Mizer Difference.
Wood-Mizer’s entry into the DRC in 1987 gave sawmillers in that country a new start. Entrepreneurs were now able to buy affordably priced entry-level mills that cost far less to run than the previous generation sawmills. Wood-Mizer’s thin kerf narrow bandsaw blade technology that wasted less and produced more sawn timber for more profits blew further life into the DRC’s economy.
Manufacturing got a kickstart with sawn timber from new sawmilling business flooding the market. Locally produced sawn timber was used to build homes that improved lives and boosted the economy. A revitalised sawmilling sector that could add value to logs locally meant that fewer logs were exported. Because logs supported local industry, the DRC now had reason to protect its forests.
Importantly also was Wood-Mizer’s focus on after-sales service support. Spares, blades and consumables that were stocked close to where sawmillers worked meant that breakdowns could be repaired immediately. Zero downtime made it possible to build strong timber businesses that worked instead of failing.
Service is the name of the game
Wood-Mizer’s focus on after sales service backup in the DRC has been the foundation of the company’s success in the DRC and across Africa. The drive towards improved service support for sawmillers in Africa gained speed in 2011 when Wood-Mizer opened its first subsidiary in South Africa to service the continent with technical and sales support to unlock the timber potential that Africa holds.
In the DRC, this resulted in the opening of two Wood-Mizer representative offices in Lubumbashi, and Kinshasa with sawmillers there and in nearby Kolwezi getting immediate access to direct technical and sales support. 2019 saw the opening of only the second Wood-Mizer branch for Africa in the DRC. This not only emphasized the corporation’s believe in Africa but also underscored its confidence in and commitment to sawmillers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With the opening of Wood-Mizer DRC SARLU’s doors in 2019, the Country Manager for the DRC, Fred Kapenda, a company veteran of many years, took direct charge of Wood-Mizer’s operations in the DRC.
Some of the early challenges that Wood-Mizer encountered in 2011 included finance options to fund equipment, finding skilled persons to join the team, the costs of doing business in Africa, and finding good local business partners in Africa that would hold true to the values that Wood-Mizer has set for itself as a global corporation.
“Fortunately we found answers to most of these questions in the team that now heads up our operation in the DRC, says JJ Oelofse, Wood-Mizer LLC’s President for Emerging Markets.
“A lack of respect for the market has been a consistent failure of suppliers doing business in Africa.
“Equipment, once purchased by customers in Africa, is often not supported by the original equipment manufacturers. This results in the equipment not producing the expected results or when breakdowns happen businesses fail due to the lack of technical support, spare parts or consumables,” says Wood-Mizer’s Regional Director for Sales, Bruce Husi.
“Wood-Mizer sees Africa differently,” says Fred Kapenda.
“We believe the market in Africa and the DRC specifically deserves the best service support possible.”
“We’ve therefor focussed on creating regional service hubs close to where sawmillers work to give the service they deserve.
“Kolwezi and Lubumbashi in the south have rapidly developing mining economies. Sawn timber produced by Wood-Mizer sawmills is used for underground mining applications, crating and pallets for minerals exports, construction, and manufacturing.”
“Our service centre there makes it easy for sawmillers to get new machines, blades, spare parts, and consumables without delay.
“Well stocked inventories and partnerships with logistics solutions providers results in zero delay between order placement and fulfilment, because Africa deserves respect,” Fred Kapenda shares.
A final word
Wood-Mizer’s global focus remains to design and build innovative timber processing solutions that far outstrip comparable technology. The corporation then adds further value by linking its customers worldwide to a network of Wood-Mizer after-sales service support centres to assist sawmillers in installing, commissioning, running and maintaining their Wood-Mizer for the duration of its lifespan.
“In Africa, Wood-Mizer’s 31 dealerships and service support locations on the continent redefines the service levels that sawmillers can now enjoy, says Bruce Husi, Wood-Mizer’s Sales Director for Africa.
“When you partner with Wood-Mizer, you get the best technology that money can buy, plus the assurance of service for life.
“That’s the Wood-Mizer guarantee that our customers worldwide and the DRC can rely on,” Bruce Husi.