A sleepy mid-mountain region in the heart of northern Spain is home to one of Europe’s largest sawmills. The mill is booming despite the country’s recession, thanks in part to rugged construction equipment from Volvo that keeps on working no matter what.
The idyllic mountainous region of San Vincente de Toranzo, just south of Santander in northern Spain, is perhaps not where you expect to find one of Europe’s largest EUR-certified pallet manufacturers. But the area – known as Green Spain – is densely populated with pine trees, making it the perfect home for Maderas José Saiz S.L. to produce wooden pallets and finished timber.
The company fells trees from all over northern Spain and south-west France, transporting over 500,000m3 of timber each year with its fleet of 60 trucks. The wood is processed at two sites – Castets in south-west France, and the main site in Cantabria. The high-tech sawmills can process over 170m3 of wood every hour, and work never stops, thanks to Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE) machines that keep on performing in hot summer temperatures and over rough terrain. With a winning recipe of fast processing production techniques and highly productive construction equipment, business at Maderas José Saiz S.L. is positively booming despite the financial crisis that has hit Spain hard over the last few years.
José Gabriel Saiz, owner and founder of the company that bears his name, puts his success down to two things: his dedicated team of 210 employees who have remained loyal in an unstable economy – and his reliable fleet of Volvo CE machines. But entrepreneurial acumen also clearly plays a part, and Mr. Saiz has a long track record in this regard, having established a successful family-run logging company at the tender age of 17.
The company produces EUR-certified wooden pallets – that are made to the European Pallet Association’s exacting size specifications and standards. In addition, customers can order finished timber, even requesting a certain humidity percentage between 10-50% because the wood is dried on site.
“The most important thing is to keep an eye on the global market – and adapt to the changing economies,” he says. “When the financial crisis hit in 2007, we decided to expand our EUR-pallet production – and this has now become the main part of our business. We also scouted out new suppliers and customers along the Mediterranean coast and in the south of Spain – as well as consolidating our French market – so despite the market decline, we have seen a 50% revenue increase year-on-year since 2010.”
The Cantabria-based site operates for 88 hours a week on two production lines – so even when one is undergoing maintenance, manufacturing can continue come rain or shine. And when the sun is shining, temperatures can reach a blistering 35°C. “The working conditions here are tough – it’s hot and dusty – but it doesn’t stop us,” explains Ramón Alvarez Alvaro, head of construction equipment maintenance at the site. “We work the machines really hard and the hours quickly rack up – so it’s essential we have good quality machinery that’s up to the challenge.”
Maderas José Saiz S.L. has a fleet of 13 Volvo CE machines including seven L120s and two L180 wheel loaders and four A25 articulated haulers. “One of our D-Series L180s has 28,000 hours on the clock and has never undergone any major repairs – we’ve simply followed Volvo’s maintenance plan,” says Ramón. “The fleet’s long life cycle and the fact that the machines perform so well mean that intervals between replacing the machines have increased by 25%, from 15,000 operational hours to over 20,000 hours.”
The latest addition to the fleet – a new generation L120 G-Series loaders – has clocked up almost 2,000 hours in six months. “The G-Series offers a new feature that discourages operators from accelerating further once they reach a high RPM – this saves up to two liters of fuel an hour,” says Ramon. “Environmental care is at the heart of our values, and saving fuel makes commercial sense too.”
“In my experience, it has been difficult to source machinery to transport the heavy loads over haul distances of 3km over rough terrain,” says José. “Our fleet of Volvo machines is reliable and does the job well. The maintenance plan and service Volvo offers is fantastic and our relationship with our local dealer – Lejarza S.A. – will continue well into the future.”
In addition to the construction equipment itself, José believes that machine attachments should be of the highest quality to be reliable and long lasting. All of the machines feature Volvo original attachments, including the specially developed Tree Length Log Grapple – used to transport logs to the production line – which can handle up to 50 trunks with a diameter of up to 600mm and a length of 4.5m – all at once.
In 2011, Maderas José Saiz S.L. introduced its most advanced technology onto the production line - investing €8 million in the process. The fully-automated, computerized sawmill uses 3D imaging to scan each tree trunk before cutting it to size with absolute precision, eliminating waste. Once the logs have been loaded onto the production line, just one operator is needed to monitor the screens that oversee the whole process.
The by-products from the process – bark, chips and sawdust – are collected by a conveyor belt and taken to their respective stores. “In total we process around 450,000 tons of timber each year and around 200,000 tons comes out as packed, finished wood,” José explains. “The rest is sold for use in horticulture and landscaping – or recycled.”
Delfín Sánchez, sales manager at Lejarza S.A., an independent Volvo CE dealer, explains that even the company’s used machinery is recycled: “The site’s older machines are easily resold because buyers know Volvos are reliable and these machines have been properly maintained. Despite the fact they’ve been put through their paces at Maderas José Saiz S.L., local tradesmen quickly find the second-hand machines a new home,” he says.
Text: Holly Brace
Caption 1: Grabbing more than 20 tree trunks makes for easy work
Caption 2: The Volvo L180F works in the beautiful mountainous setting of San Vincente de Toranzo
Caption 3: Strong and steady up high