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Red Stag Timber -- Known for Its Production in New Zealand
Red Stag Timber: Red Stag Timber is a leading sawmill and lumber manufacturing business in New Zealand and operates the country’s largest sawmill; its primary focus is structural lumber products.
By Ed Brindley, Ph.D.
Date Posted: 4/1/2008
ROTORUA, New Zealand — A bus load of visitors from the United States, Canada, Spain, and Portugal visited Red Stag Timber in Rotorua, New Zealand in March of 2007. Gordon Hughes, executive general manager of the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association, sponsored a great trip that offered pallet people a chance to visit both the beautiful country of New Zealand and three of its biggest pallet plants and its largest sawmill, Red Stag Timber. This is the last article of the four I have written about these fine companies. Each of the companies offered a unique exceptional educational opportunity for those of us who were fortunate enough to visit; few places in the world can match New Zealand for its beauty.
Red Stag Timber is located near historic Rotorua. This area of New Zealand is known for its past volcanic activity and offers some exceptionally beautiful scenery. Its legendary lakes and cultural history help make it one of the top tourist destinations in the country. Volcanic activity is still in evidence as steam rises out of the ground in certain places. The region is famous for its red stag deer, which served as the relatively new name for the nearby Waipa Sawmill, now the largest mill in New Zealand. The quality of New Zealand red stags is known worldwide. Originally the country imported stags from Scotland and England to provide hunting for the local sportsmen. With no predators, they thrived and grew heads that are superior to the stags in their native homelands. Since the 1970s, New Zealand has built a deer farming industry on red deer. The country is known for its sheep and deer farms.
The Waipa Sawmill was established in 1939 as a state-owned experimental sawmill to pioneer the milling of Radiata Pine. Even at that time, it was obvious to the forest managers that the widespread logging of native forests was unsustainable and that the soon-to-mature Radiata Pine was seen as a sustainable source of timber to substitute for native timber in most applications. Since that time, the sawmill has grown to become both a local and a national icon of sawmilling and the largest sawmill in New Zealand. The sawmill was incorporated in 1988 and privatized in 1996. Red Stag Timber was established in 2003 to own and operate the Waipa Sawmill.
Red Stag Timber consists of a sawmill and associated timber processing operations. The mill has two major sawing lines, a small log line and a large log line. It cuts about 300,000 cubic meters (127.4 million bd.ft.) a year (about $100 million a year) and is working toward a 450,000 cu. mt. goal. Its primary focus is on structural lumber products, but it also manufactures outdoor, industrial, appearance and furniture grade lumber. To achieve its goals, Red Stag Timber is committed to the continual upgrade of its production facilities. Red Stag has a long-term commitment to further develop its product range and market base.
In 2006, Red Stag Timber started its two stage plan to expand output by 50%. Recent investments included: a new stand-alone planer mill processing plant, which increased the site production by approximately 50%, a sonic testing of logs and lumber, machine stress grading of structural timber, and a new high speed dry kiln. The company says that these additions combine with a long term secure log contract, a stable workforce and a commitment to quality to give Red Stag Timber an edge for long term success.
Red Stag cuts primarily Doug Fir and Radiata Pine from New Zealand forests. While the company has a long term log supply commitment, the availability of logs in New Zealand is definitely a concern for the forest products industry. The New Zealand news had heavy editorial coverage concerning the reduction in local forest land and the problems associated with meeting New Zealand’s carbon goals. They had depended heavily on their forests to meet their carbon commitments but have recently been converting significant forest land to more economically productive farming and ranching. Logs going off shore, particularly to Asia, are a concern for the industry throughout New Zealand
The Red Stag’s expansion program in 2006 has boosted the plant’s capacity from 200,000 cubic meters to 300,000 cubic meters, working toward its ultimate goal of 450,000 cu. meters. The new planer mill building, running since August 2006, is the largest building on the grounds. This new planer mill is the largest and fastest in New Zealand with an output capacity of 75 cu. meters an hour, consolidating Waipa Mill as the largest sawmill in New Zealand. The mill’s new building measures 5600 square meters and has a height of 11 meters. This height is needed because of the 27 10-meter high bays on the mill’s outfeed stacker.
One of Red Stag’s recent improvements was its new 100,000 cu. meter per year Mahild dry kiln, which almost matches the total capacity of its 13 older kilns. The new kiln and planing mill remove two of the major bottlenecks that had limited production. General manager, Tim Rigter, says this new technology will both lift the mill’s capacity for kiln drying and maintain Red Stag’s ability to ensure the highest quality finished products. Tim said, “When our customers buy timber from us, they in effect back our quality standards. In turn, timber of the highest standards, by certification, enables them to compete for business and transact sales with confidence. To us, this is the highest priority we have.” Lumber is checked for its strength and moisture content to make certain it is up to grade. If it is too moist, it is kicked to the side so that only lumber of the proper moisture content goes to the planer mill for planing and eventual delivery.
To support future plans for market diversification and business growth, Red Stag Timber joined with five other forestry production companies in New Zealand and in partnership with NZ Trade & Enterprise to form New Zealand Wood Innovations (Asia) Inc. which has established the New Zealand Wood Innovation Center in Shanghai, China. The Center officially opened in March 2006. Phil Verry, executive chairman of Red Stag, chaired the consortium to establish the Wood Innovation Center. The center is devoted to developing offshore market development and diversification for the customer base in Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Middle East.
People Make the Difference
The mill is situated within the Whakarewarewa Forest where employees can take advantage of the many mountain bike and running tracks, just a short commute from Rotorua. Red Stag Timber is committed to safety with its comprehensive health and safety program. All potential employees and contractors undergo drug and alcohol testing before becoming employed. The mill runs two ten hour shifts a day for four days a week. It works some extra time as needed on Fridays and Saturdays.
An example of the dedication of Red Stag’s people is illustrated by the training courses for solid wood processing. Based upon the experiences of other companies, it expected around 20 staff members to enroll, but 90 Red Stag people stepped up to the mark, making the company the leading staff training company in the industry. Executive chairman Phil Verry says, “The staff’s commitment to training to acquire skills was a material consideration in the company’s decision to invest in its current expansion program.”
Red Stag has taken a local leadership position by becoming a sponsor of the new Rotorua indoor events center. This enabled Rotorua District Council to leverage off Red Stag’s leadership to obtain other corporate support and to supplement the core funding from the Rotorua Electricity Energy Trust and the Council. Red Stag general manager, Tim Rigter, says Red Stag’s contribution to the new Events Center is an example of the culture of leadership that now exists at Waipa Mill. This new center opened in early 2007.
Red Stag’s Lumber Products
Over 60% of Red Stag’s products are used domestically, while about 15% goes to each of Australia and Asia/Middle East customers. The Pacific Islands and a few more distant markets such as the U.S. make up the remaining few percent.
Red Stag Timber manufactures a wide range of lumber products for the building and landscaping markets. It cuts structural lumber in a full range of sizes and lengths that are machine stress graded to New Zealand standards. They meet the strictest quality assurance requirements and comply with the new grading regulations that came into effect in April of 2007. Building products include machine stress graded Radiata Pine and machine stress graded Douglas fir, and finger-jointed machine stress graded Radiata Pine 90x45. All sizes are available as selected length packages, while the 90x45 is also available as cut-to-length studs. Doug fir is available in both dry gauged size (e.g. 90x45) and green gauged size (e.g. 94x47). Other building products include finger-jointed strapping and finger-jointed cavity battens. Red Stag Timber manufactures treated lumber products for outdoor landscaping. Most of Red Stag’s lumber is kiln dried for high valued products.
The company supplies appearance grade lumber used for manufacturing furniture, joinery, fixtures and fittings. Markets include New Zealand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and USA.
Lower grade material is used for industrial grade lumber markets, including pallets, boxes, and bins, which are used for shipping such items as kiwifruit, apples, paper, general food, car parts, computer parts, and glass. While much industrial lumber is sold in New Zealand, half goes off shore to markets in Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, and the Middle East. Radiata Pine species is used for industrial applications; most is shipped green. Much is fumigated when it arrives. The mill does not typically dry industrial grade material. Timpack, Red Stag’s biggest industrial lumber customer, uses about 1200 cu.meters (500,000 bd.ft.) per month. Red Stag specializes in resawing to customers’ exact requirements when needed. It uses anti-sapstain chemical to ensure that lumber is fresh when it is received. When dry pallets are required, as they are for export, kiln dried lumber is available. Standard industrial lumber sizes include 100x40, 100x50, 100x60, 100x75, 100x90, 100x100, and 150x100 (all measured in millimeters) by 1.8-6.0 meters in length. It is delivered in random length and pulled to single length options.
As they so often are, this tour seemed to be over too soon. It was a pleasure to visit this outstanding facility. It is always enjoyable to tour a leading manufacturing facility. This tour was enhanced by the fellowship of our group and the beauty of New Zealand. Any reader who has a chance to join Gordon on a future international tour will look back fondly on the experience.