Thomson Sawmills invests for success

Thomson Sawmills is an independent family business with ambition. Founded on the outskirts of Norwich by managing director Brian Thomson in 1982, his initial 1.9 acre site has grown to 100 acres and has an expected turnover for 2017 of £14 million. More than 38 acres of the site are dedicated to the treatment, processing and handling of FSC certified British timber from all over East Anglia, the Midlands and the South of England, and the company sells product across the UK.

The company is driven by its six directors; husband and wife Brian and Mary Thomson, along with four of their next generation, who have brought with them business management and engineering skills and experience gained from working outside the timber industry.

As one of East Anglia’s largest timber product manufacturers, Thomson Sawmills manufacture and supply all types of  fencing, decking and gates from raw materials that are dried, cut and treated on site, with around 75% national bulk trade sales, and the remainder serving a brisk local customer market.

In recent years, the company has invested over £12 million in infrastructure, machinery, workshops and buildings, the latest being a brand new business and customer sales office which opened in May 2017. Developments include a new automated sawmill, a mechanical stacking and sorting line, a new biomass facility, as well as a new timber treatment plant. With four drying kilns, Thomson’s has the capacity to kiln dry 200 cubic metres of timber at a time. Brian Thomson said, “Our investment means that we are supervising the site 24 hours a day, and we are working toward doubling our productivity and recruiting more people in addition to the 52 staff we already employ. We’ve also segregated the site with areas for the public with dedicated professional service and to keep them safe, and for industrial trade, our new one way system and own weighbridge keeps the lorries moving through safely and efficiently.”

As well as timber being sawn, stacked and banded on site, Thomson Sawmills also operate two large modern timber treatment plants. Brian said, “We’ve been treating timber on site since 1984 when we had a small plant. We’ve now got two big efficient timber treatment plants running on TANALITH preservative from Lonza Wood Protection.”

The increase in product volume coming from the installation of the new mill created a bottleneck, and the company needed new timber treatment solutions to get the product through faster. Having worked with other timber treatment providers over the years, Thomson Sawmills made the decision to return to Lonza Wood Protection in 2015. “TANALITH from Lonza is a great preservative – giving high performance protection for our timbers,” continued Brian. “The support we get from Lonza is also very important. We are compliant with the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) regulations, and the team at Lonza is responsive to our technical needs, regularly checking samples we send them and keeping us informed of changes to regulations and market information we need to know.”

For over 80 years Lonza Wood Protection has pioneered and developed customer and market focused protection technologies for timber. As the leading European supplier of products and processes for the effective preservative and fire retardant protection of timber, its products are extensively tested in accordance with national and international standards.

Andy Hodge, marketing director at Lonza Wood Protection, said “The ‘TANALITH’ brand leads the market providing our customers with a tried, tested and real world protection for construction and outdoor timbers.

“However, like all innovative organisations, we are always looking to improve our products and provide extra confidence to secure and maintain our market sectors. Modern TANALITH preservatives contain the successful core ingredients, with the additional bonus of our innovative BARamine application technologies to boost its already impressive performance. The combination of TANALITH and BARamine work together to give enhanced, robust protection. Our latest generation product, plus TANATONE brown colour option, give Thomson’s a fantastic treatment package for their growing business.”

Thomson Sawmills’ two timber treatment plants are now running double shift, with 12 charges a day and the night shift is running at 75%, moving toward capacity very soon.

Brian said, “We are already planning further investments and installations on our production line to increase output. We have great partnerships with our suppliers – whether it’s machinery for processing or the treatment that is essential for many of our products – and that gives us added reassurance as we continue to grow our business across the UK.”