Interview 02/18

Wood is a complex business

Rhenus Forest Logistics is a partner for the timber processing industry

We are surrounded by wood on a daily basis, whether this comes in the form of furniture, floors or houses. The many products, which are made of sawmill residue, are less obvious wood chips that are processed into laminate or paper, sawdust to make wood pellets for generating energy or waste wood that is used to manufacture chipboard panels. Rhenus Forest Logistics specialises in providing the logistics and commercial operations for precisely these by-products from the timber processing industry. Astrid Unverricht spoke to its Managing Director, Heiner Höfkes.

Heiner HöfkesMr Höfkes, what do you associate with wood chips?
Wood chips are my daily bread, so to speak. However, I am not thinking about a meal in this sense, but one of the most important by-products from the timber processing industry. Our work at Rhenus Forest Logistics involves exactly these products

What exactly do you do?
We supply customers in the paper, wood materials, energy and soil production sectors with recycled and residual wood from industry as well as biomass.

Where does your wood come from?
We source wood from different sawmills and from forests. Sustainable forestry management is very important for us when we purchase materials. We also transport large quantities of waste wood.

And what is made from this?
Wood chips are used for the paper and cellulose industry, forest wood chips for fuelling power stations or sawdust for the pellet industry, for example.

How long has wood played a role at Rhenus at all?
For a very long time and in the most varied logistics processes – for example, in port handling and shipping operations. The foundation for what is now Rhenus Forest Logistics was laid in 2004, however, when we acquired the Fehring Holzspäne company. This marked the launch of trading operations and logistics for sawmill by-products.

A great deal has happened since then. You took over the Brenner Group in January 2015. What benefits have ensued from this acquisition?
We’ve been able to broaden our geographical base even further, as a result. We’ve also tapped into new markets for transporting wood and purchasing and selling it. We’ve been able to open up sales opportunities in the energy and insulation materials sectors too.

Rhenus reorganised its wood activities about one year ago and pooled them under the umbrella of Rhenus Forest Logistics. Why?
The reorganisation has enabled us to create a standard market presence. On the one hand, we wanted to respond to our customers’ wishes in an even better way; on the other hand, we wanted to maintain regional proximity to our customers by maintaining our business sites.

Do you need special equipment to transport wood?
Most of our vehicles are trucks with walking floor trailers. These vehicles are capable of unloading bulk materials like wood chips or sawdust by means of a movable floor. We also make use of container vehicles and short wood trains with cranes to load round timber, for example. As we offer our customers continuous purchases and deliveries, we also have our own storage space to provide intermediate storage. We work with partners to chop and sift different kinds of wood.

Do you experience any economic and seasonal fluctuations?
Definitely. Timber is felled whenever the weather is good, for it is harder to drive into forests in wet weather and wood is harder to cut in cold temperatures. Supplies of waste wood are lower in winter, but biomass power stations require more materials during the cold time of the year. There are hardly any long-term price agreements in our business. However, we’re able to transport other bulk materials with our fleet of vehicles in difficult times.

How do you view the position of Rhenus Forest Logistics in a competitive environment?
We’re able to score points in many different respects. Our employees have excellent market and product skills. That’s important, for each production process requires the relevant qualities. We also have our own large fleet of trucks. Then we have flexible infrastructure and an extensive network too.

Your main business activities are based in Germany. In which other countries is Rhenus Forest Logistics active?
We have business operations in Luxembourg through our Rhenus Forest International company and in Switzerland through Rhenus Forest Swiss. We frequently transport and trade in goods across borders. Our business operational area also includes the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Which other markets do you wish to tap into in future?
Geographically, we can imagine continuing to develop both in regions to the east and to the west. What’s clear is that wood is becoming increasingly important as a renewable raw material in an era of climate change. We’re already providing biomass power stations with the complete supply logistics for wood as the raw material.

Hackschnitzel

Wood chips are not automatically wood chips
Wood chips involve wood that has been chopped and cut. Most of the wood chips transported by Rhenus Forest Logistics occur as a by-product in the sawmill industry.

TMP WOOD CHIPS meet the highest quality standards and are made from spruce and fir wood. They are used in the paper and cellulose industries

MDF WOOD CHIPS are made from deciduous or coniferous types of wood. They are processed into wood fibre boards by being defibred, dried, glued and then pressed.

RECYCLED WOOD CHIPS are made from waste wood. The recycled wood is used in the chipboard panel industry and at power stations.

FOREST WOOD CHIPS originate from the tops of trees or industrial wood. They are mostly used as a fuel at biomass power stations.

Rhenus Forest Logistics
Rhenus pooled its wood activities within Rhenus Forest Logistics on 1 October 2017. The company specialises in transporting and trading in sawmill residue, waste wood and biomass and has a modern fleet of trucks. Rhenus Forest Logistics is certified according to PEFC and FSC, among other things – quality seals that designate forestry products that are manufactured in a cost-effective, socially acceptable and sustainable manner. The Rhenus subsidiary is a specialist disposal company and has an AEO certificate for customs clearance operations.

Rhenus Forest Logistics

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