JRM's journey to success

February 9, 2023
JRM’s team is headed up by Klaas Ramalema, Jason Mohle and Henry de Beer, who, together with the 93 mill employees, drive its success.

Hectorspruit-based JRM Pallets is investing in continued growth to improve productivity and unlock business opportunities in the region …

The commissioning of JRM Pallets’ new Wood-Mizer WB2000 line in April 2022 underscores the business’ evolution from a farm start-up 10 years ago to a highly productive, sawn timber producer and manufacturer.

Based in Hectorspruit, Mpumalanga, near South Africa's border with Mozambique and just south of the Kruger National Park, the sawmill is located in one of Southern Africa's fastest-growing economic hubs. It is South Africa's second-largest citrus producing region, and the burgeoning agribusinesses here are some of JRM's biggest customers.

JRM was established on a farm in nearby Louw’s Creek in 2008 by CEO, Jason Mohle, with the aim of manufacturing pallets for farms in the area. He started with just one Wood-Mizer that has subsequently grown into a full fleet which has allowed the part-time operation to expand into the success story it is today.

JRM’s Wood-Mizer WB2000 primary breakdown sawmill processing 6m pine logs into slabs for resawing.

"It was tough at first,” says Jason. “We started the sawmill during the 2008 recession with no bank financing. I had to cash in everything and even borrowed from my Dad.”

From these humble beginnings, JRM Pallets has grown into an integrated timber business. Its main focus is sawmilling with the output from its sawn pine and gum divisions providing the feedstock for its manufacturing and sales operations.

"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. 

Three flitches produced from one cant on a Wood-Mizer HR2000 Double Head Resaw

"On the pine side, JRM has 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,” said Jason. “But we knew we could do it better."

Efficiency, precision, productivity

And then JRM did do 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.

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 means less cuts and turns to be made per log and improved productivity.

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 recovering smaller dimensions as needed. 

The line takes in 100m³/day and cuts out 50-60 m³/day with recovery bringing it to roughly 60%.

"JRM is now geared for steady growth into the future depending on available log volumes. The line design was intentional, and we aimed for a clean and highly productive process where 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. 

Automation drives productivity. As one cant enters the resaw, the next one is automatically lined up against a set of hook-stops, ready and waiting to be fed in automatically.
Ready sawn boards exits the Wood-Mizer EG800. Recovered material is cut into pallet components and waste is chipped.

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 of the mill upgrade. The energy savings from the new line is now driving two recently installed kilns.

The first dries 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. 
Jason acknowledges that Wood-Mizer's support during the design and commissioning phases and maintaining the mill at optimum productivity has been a cornerstone of the mill’s success.

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, has laid the foundation for a future growth path.

Watch the mill in action in the video below:

Premium quality sawn structural timber ready for dispatch.
JRM’s smaller diameter gum line. Logs are broken into two-sided cants on a Wood-Mizer TVS with resawing and recovery done on Wood-Mizer resaws after ripping.
Large diameter gum processed on a Wood-Mizer LT70 Remote and LX450 into pallet components.

Visit www.woodmizer.co.za for more info.

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