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New sawmill for Lesbats-Scieries d'Aquitaine
The company Lesbats-Scieries d’Aquitaine inaugurated a new sawmill in Saint Perdon, in the heart of the area "Landes" in the South-West of France being rich of maritime pine: a 10 Million Euro investment.
The company Lesbats with the headquarters in Léon purchased the site of Saint Perdon in 2007 to safeguard the operation and the jobs despite the difficult situation. The family-owned business invested 10 Million Euro to make the new sawmill a modern, competitive and complementary site to the already existing mill in Léon. The investment was supported by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) with 350.000,00 Euro, the Conseil Général des Landes (General council of the area Landes) with 160.000,00 Euro, the Draaf Aquitaine (Regional Council for Food, Agriculture and Forest) with 312.450,00 Euro and the Conseil Régional d'Aquitaine (Regional council of Aquitaine) with the same sum. Not to be forgotten is the Oseo (Financing of innovation and growth of small- and medium-size enterprises) and the Strategic Fund for Wood with 1.5 Million Euro from which the sawmill could benefit first. Assembly was not easy... The work "in the open countryside" (soil studies, land surveyors) started in April 2011 and lasted 7 months (log yard, saw line and stacking plant). A considerable part of the project work and manufacturing was realized by the Lesbats team itself, e.g. the steel support structure underneath the supervision of the German supplier Linck. The first logs could be processed in November 2011 with own personnel trained in the Léon sawmill.
One cutting pattern per batch. The site of Saint Perdon "only processes log batches", explains Camille Godot who has been responsible for quality, safety and environment in both mills for three years. She is also nominated commissioner for development (tangible and intangible investments) and worked on the project from the search for financing until start of production. The maritime pine logs - the only species processed - are taken to the debarking machine via a longitudinal conveyor with the possibility to manually kick-out oversized logs up-front. Manual intervention into the production plant is always possible for the operator. After having passed the metal detector, the data of each log are determined in the scanning system. This part was realised in close cooperation between Lesbats and Segem which designed and supplied the log yard, the by-product removal and handling for the new plant. On their way to the first Linck machine group, the logs called up by the operator in the control cabin pass the 3D-scanner for Linck optimsation. The optimising software is working with the data received from the mill manager Alain Durou. The infeed system in front of the first chipper canter positions the log for optimum processing. The chipper canter then opens the first two faces of the log. The first circular saw unit is equipped with six tool axes, three per side, the sideboards are fed to the board edger and the chips to the by-product removal system. After the cant turner, the cant is processed according to the technical specifications: it can be returned to the first machine group which then opens the remaining two faces for producing a four-sided cant. This cant is then fed to a second Linck machine group with horizontal and vertical saws. The investment for the sorting line concentrated on the new line with 15 more robust sorting bins for main products. The large amount, however the smaller volume, of sideboards is transported to the existing old sorting line with 45 bins. The lumber arrives in a sorting area where the experienced operator plays a significant role for visual grading and then passes a scanning system. Electronic administration is a control function. Boards are used for pallet production or partly cut to length by the circular saw. Complementary to the Léon mill it is possible to process short lengths. The by-products are burnt in a biomass boiler - as replacement for gas - which is supplied via two silos. Two supply lines provide the heat for the five drying kilns. The old installations were not dismantled. They will be "canibalised".
A defensive investment. Salesman Yann Taverne underlines the flexibility of the two plants which make it possible to cover the whole market of the company Lesbats: design of outdoor areas, construction timber (roofing beams), timber for outdoor areas and packaging material. The saw line adapts itself to the 17 to 60 cm diameter logs, all lengths from 2 to 4 m are accepted. Log lengths exceeding 4 m will be handled in the "parent company" in Léon about 80 km from Saint Person. Paul Lesbats, Managing Director, remembered that the site of Léon was reconstructed between 1996 and 2003: three important building phases required 10 Million Euro to rebuild a chipper canter line for construction timber. A different logic dominates in Saint Perdon which represents an overall facility. "Why building another sawmill? We believe in the concept of an overall sawmill with possible forestry operation", says Paul Lesbats. From 1996 to 2008 the company could profit from "a natural growth with a gain of market shares and getting logs which were spared by the first storm was easy. A time of confidence". In 2009 the situation changed considerably: economic crisis, storm Klaus and also the fatal accident of Jean Lesbats, Paul's brother. A more defensive time started. Saint Person was therefore a defensive investment in the core business to make the company more competitive. Reason for this was the need of carrying out a rather difficult analysis of the forests after the storm (age classes, timber resources, timber mobilisation) and of "changing the decision model" in order to compensate the loss of Jean", explains Paul Lesbats.
Prepare the offensive. "It would have been more dangerous to do nothing than doing this investment". The Managing Director hopes that "this investment will make it possible to develop new products (finger-jointed timber, solid structure timber) in the second step". The investment in 2011 was possible "because it was already prepared up front", particularly with the building of equity capital. "Now we have to prepare the future investments (finger-jointed timber etc.)", announces Paul Lesbats. Future projects will be "more and more planed in cooperation with other colleagues. However, this cooperation should not represent the opportunity to conceal our shortcomings, but to demonstrate strength in our core business". By Pierrette Castagné
Five generations of sawmillers
The family-owned company is now headed by the fifth generation. The Managing Director, Paul Lesbats, who has worked in the company for 17 years now, belongs to the fourth generation. The company has approx. 100 employees in two sawmills: 35 in Saint Perdon and 65 in Léon. In 2012 the turnover will exceed 19 Million Euro. Production capacity in Saint Perdon: 200 m³ / day. The primary machine operates at max. 100 m/min. feed speed. The saw line operates 8 hours a day, 36 hours a week.