THERMOWOOD PRODUCERS EMERGING IN KAUNAS FEZ
With the current supply disruption, the main thermowood traders in Lithuania, UAB Brolis Timber, have not hesitated to turn towards production: during this year, the first certified thermowood factory will be built in the Kaunas Free Economic Zone (FEZ). Its production volumes should meet the needs of the country’s consumers.
UAB Brolis Timber specializes in environmentally friendly timber products for homes and landscaping. Since its inception in 2007, the company has tested and introduced to the market a variety of modified timbers. However, due to practically proven advantages, sales focus gradually shifted to Thermowood® which has organically developed into a dominant part of their offered assortment.
“When we started working with thermowood, we saw it as a niche product. This approach has changed over time − we have acknowledged its functional properties, and the general market awareness for sustainability has increased immensely. Thermowood® grew into our most important product range, accounting for more than 80% of the assortment,” says Ingrida Vizbaraitė, CEO and co-owner of Brolis Timber.
In the last decade, Brolis Timber has become the main supplier of thermowood in Lithuania. Wood processed only with heat and steam, without any chemicals, becomes extremely durable and stable, its thermal resistance improves, and no resin remains. According to thermowood producers, due to these characteristics, it is an excellent nature-friendly alternative to exotic wood species.
The company has timber stores, located in the major cities of Lithuania − Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda. They offer variety of outdoor and indoor cladding, decking, oak flooring, and complimentary products, while Kaunas-based production and warehouse center carries out wood planing, brushing and coating. Export comprises 22% of the volume.
Despite supply challenges and other adverse global factors, Brolis Timber has grown with momentum in recent years, reaching as high as 81% in 2021.
“With growing demand for wood, the capacity of our suppliers − thermowood manufacturers − has become insufficient. They chose strategically most potential markets, significantly and unpredictably increasing prices, and cancelling contracts. We have been forced to urgently diversify supply, constantly address difficult situations with our customers due to shortages or delays. Paradoxically, this critical situation has only increased our concentration and creativity, and we have decided to start producing ourselves. This decision is probably the most organic development of our activities. In Lithuania we do not have a certified production of this type, one that could offer competitive products to both the Lithuanian and export markets,” says Mrs. Vizbaraitė.
Due to convenient infrastructure, tax incentives, and opportunities for further development, Brolis Timber chose their land lot in Kaunas FEZ. Here, in a rented area of 0.9 ha, by the end of this year a complex of approximately 2,500 m2 will be built: thermo treatment chambers and stick & stacking facilities, as well as two raw material and finished product storage warehouses. In total, more than €6 million is being invested into this project, which is the largest investment in the company’s history.
The main production will be fully automated. Therefore, in the first phase, the company plans to employ only five new employees − two of them with engineering qualification.
The initial production capacity will reach 12,000 m3 of thermowood annually − almost as much as the sales volume in 2021. At the next stage, the intended production line will reduce the need for preparatory manual work, and there are plans to install a solar park on the buildings.
As the company’s CEO says, own production will undoubtedly open new opportunities for export. However, in the beginning, the production capacity will barely meet the existing needs. Therefore, growth will lead to unavoidable expansion of production, which is already being planned but has not been announced yet.
This is already the fourth wood and furniture industry company based in the Kaunas FEZ territory: in 2019, one of the most modern furniture factories in Lithuania, Geras baldų fabrikas, owned by Freda, was opened here; in 2018, UAB Fitsout, which provides furniture and interior solutions for businesses, started its activities; for many years, the bathroom furniture manufacturers UAB Kamė have been operating here.
Currently, Kaunas FEZ has attracted 46 foreign and local investors applying advanced technological solutions and developing innovative products. From the first investor in 2005 to today, the territory of Kaunas FEZ created more than 6,200 jobs and attracted more than €1 billion in direct investment.