When I first decided to develop a small saw mill to manufacture timber frames for my small oak framing company it was a daunting prospect. I knew we would benefit from this development but oh, boy there is so much to consider in the early years and that’s when I was introduced to the advantages of reusing our bi-products. To be honest my priority was getting the machinery in, cutting the frames and establishing processes to keep the bank manager content.
To begin with we covered all the important tasks and soon got the mill up and running. The economy was strong, orders were coming in and we embraced every single one. It was rewarding to build something from a oak rounds/logs and see it go out the door as a beautifully crafted oak framed building. As we moved forward we started to cram materials into the mill, In addition we were stock pilling our bi-products such as saw dust, bark, odd timber cuts etc outside, in fact every sq/m had something crammed into its space and after a while it become apparent that we needed to do a bit of house cleaning and this is when we realised the sheer volume of bi-product we were producing.
Now to begin with I thought perhaps this all had a value to it, I was asking myself questions “how do I sell my saw dust” and “can use off cuts as fire wood”. I quickly done some research and learnt a variety of uses for all this stuff, the problem was that even though it was all saleable it was so labour intensive or required fuel usage/costs to get it to its end user that it practically cancelled out the effort and besides we really needed to maintain our focus on our core business – cutting oak frames. I found this very frustrating because we had so much of the stuff that it was becoming a problem for us yet I just couldn’t stack the figures up.
This is when the synchronicity of events timed themselves perfectly in teaching me a very valuable lesson, one which I have tried to share with other small business owners along the way – the power and importance of community! It was by chance that our bi products were stacking up in our yard, so much so passers by could see it from the road side adjacent to our premises. Local villagers starting popping in and politely asking if they could grab a bit of wood for heating, I was more than happy to see a small dent in the stock pile and at every opportunity I encouraged them to return anytime they needed more, in time this started to pay dividend as one or two soon turned to tens and twenties, after a while it dawned upon me that they were all talking to one another and we were fast becoming popular within the community.
It then developed into something quite interesting, the weird and wonderful usages came out of the wood work (excuse the pun) we had the local game keeper using saw dust to smoke trout on, artists using odd shaped planks with bark on to create interesting sculptures, animal keepers used shavings, an archer who wanted the thick chunks as a base for his target and the farmer using various off cuts for several different farm usages. Within one year we had local users for every piece of timber bi product and the beauty was, they hardly used any fuel to collect it. In rough terms we had around 90% reusable bi product all from local sources and to top it off the locals were very grateful! We started receiving trout from the game keeper, borrowing heavy machinery from the farmer and local residents looked favorable towards us when we took out planning alterations on our saw mill. It was like one big happy family.
Because we had achieved these statistics we had additional support from the local council, they loved what we had achieved and they encouraged us towards grants and other favorable resources. Press became interested and this gave us free marketing along with some website links to our website. These days our development has moved on and we have launched our new company brand and improved our cutting facilities which is a lot more stream lined and efficient, our family name still receives a warm welcome from the community and we have made many friends locally.
Now I can’t claim our intentions were pure and that we set out to support the community intentionally but I can say it was a very rewarding lesson and I would encourage small businesses to open their minds to communicate locally with their needs, started networking on your door step to see what’s out there, you will be amazed at the power of community.
Article written by Andrew Guppy.tagsbarnsclassic barn companyoak frame