Bike excursion adventure vol. 4 – From large- to small-scale operation

Our master students participated in a bike excursion on July 1st – 6th 2019 as part of the module “Organization and Management Systems”. Along a track of about 220 km by the Neiße river at the border between Germany and Poland, various forests and forest organizations were visited. The blog post series, written by the students, reflect the impression and lessons learned.

On the third day of the bike excursion, we had a scenic cycle of about 17 km from Görlitz to Kodersdorf, where we visited a large-scale sawmill, and then a small-scale forest association.

Shortly before 9 AM we arrived at the “Holzindustrie Schweighofer” sawmill in Kodersdorf. We were greeted by Mr. von Geibler, who is the head of the purchasing department. We were led into the conference room and given safety instructions as well as safety vests and earplugs to accompany us on the guided walk through the large factory.

At first, we saw one of the six drying chambers where the processed wood is stored for a couple of days until it is ready for further treatment. The long walk that followed took us all around the wood stockyard where enough commodities for 3 days of sawmilling is stored. On this end of the compound, the timber is sorted and checked for any metal content before it is put on the factory belt in the heart of the sawmill. As we entered the mill, we equipped ourselves with the earplugs and wondered at the amazing speed and accuracy at which the timber is processed.

As a last stop, we visited the planing mill before we were led back into the conference room where we were had the chance to ask questions on the history, management and operational aspects of the company. All in all, it was a spectacular site that was surely enjoyed by everyone which became clear at the large amount of questions that were asked after the visit.

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The sawmill from above (©Holzindustrie Schweighofer GmbH, https://www.schweighofer.at/de/unternehmen/produktionsstandorte/kodersdorf.html)

After the visit at the large-scale sawmill, we visited the Forest Association “Niederschlesische Heide” in Rothenburg. The timing of this meeting was on point, too. The comparison of a huge international player to a small, at best regional, forest owner association is helpful to put organizations and their different values and goals into context.

We were greeted by Dr. Eichhorst, the director of the forest association. This meeting was in fact a detour from the originally planned route and it turned out to be a very valuable detour. The association lives solely off membership fees and state funding, and manages forests of private landowners ranging from 1 ha up to 500 ha. At present the forest association has a total of 31 members. In turn, owners of smaller landholding size get access to markets and owners of bigger landholding size, often living far away, can sleep easy, knowing their forest is under sound management. Thus, everybody benefits from being a member at the association, which is important for any association.

Another key lesson was: networking matters. It matters, because thanks to Dr. Eichhorst’s invaluable connections in Poland, the association is a little less affected by the bark beetle than other forest owners we met before.

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Visit to the Forest Association with Dr. Eichhorst (©P. Aung)

By Florian Thiem and Jonas Möller

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