Eskom – the power behind a local timber enterprise

Ten years ago Hendrik du Plessis from Die Houtwerf in Brits, North West, started a timber sawing and curing business for marketing to the furniture industry. It has grown to the extent that to be able to use the new, huge electric saws, Eskom has again had to increase the business’s power supply.

Eskom – the power behind a local timber enterprise

Hennie Willemse, Eskom’s adviser for energy in agriculture in Brits, with the new 315kVA supply point at Die Houtwerf.

SOME 10 YEARS AGO HENDRIK DU Plessis from Die Houtwerf near Brits, North West, searched for an alternative use for the old tobacco kilns on his farm. He experimented and decided to use the kilns for timber curing for the furniture industry. He never imagined that it would grow into today’s large and successful business.
Because of the latest expansions and the constant addition of new infrastructure on his farm, such as larger saws, he had to call on Eskom to increase the power supply to the business.

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Growing the business
When the expansions were complete Hendrik struck a deal with R&H Timber, a timber dealer in Pretoria, to handle certain functions such as the sawing and curing of timber on their behalf. The timber merchant did the necessary expansion and supplied the machinery for the factory, which Hendrik also maintains on a full-time basis.

“The work at the new factory enables me to utilise my well-trained staff and existing infrastructure so much better, while my own business still continues as usual. We currently employ 71 people,” Hendrik says.
Piet Roos, partner and manager of R&H Timber, says they have been doing business with Hendrik for a while now, and know exactly how meticulous he is about top-quality products and timeous deliveries.
Like Hendrik, R&H Timber also buys its timber in logs, the majority being bluegum from KZN and Mpumalanga. It also buys exotic wood from the rest of Africa, when it’s available, including Cape teak, red teak, rosewood and chamfuta. All the wood is received as logs and then processed into ¬market-ready cured and graded planks.

More expansion, more processing
The latest expansion at Die Houtwerf ensures that the company can process up to 200m³ of sawn timber a month. To do this it has to process 500m³ of logs into cured and sawn planks, says Hendrik.

All timber processed on R&H Timber’s behalf at Die Houtwerf is transported to a warehouse in Pretoria from where it is marketed to the furniture and construction industries. R&H Timber also imports cured products from the US, Malaysia and Europe for the local market, which includes oak, ¬meranti, beech and maple, says Piet.

SA lacks large quantities of suitable timber for the furniture industry. Mostly pine and blue gum are available locally, but there is a worldwide scarcity and decline in the availability of exotic woods. Although the price of imported wood has increased steeply, there is still a strong demand for it locally.
This high and growing demand is, according to Hendrik, good for the production and use of the sustainable local supply of pine and bluegum.

Eskom makes expansions possible
“Eskom has been involved with Die Houtwerf since its inception,” Hendrik says. “At that time I was assisted by ¬Hennie Willemse, Eskom’s energy advisor for agriculture in Brits, who went out of his way to get all the available information on timber curing. He also gave me a lot of expert advice in converting the old tobacco kilns for curing timber. Because he is still a regular visitor to the farm, I can approach him for advice and assistance in getting sufficient electricity for the new expansion.
“Hennie had to do a needs analysis again to determine how much more electricity would be needed for the new factory,” Hendrik says. “Thereafter he did exactly what we knew he would: he advised us in detail about various aspects such as specifications and cable thicknesses that would be needed to relay electricity from the supply point to the various electric motors of the saws.”
To ensure a sufficient supply of electricity to the new factory, a new supply point with a 315kVA transformer had to be installed. Die Houtwerf now has supply points with a total capacity of 715kVA, sufficient to handle further expansion.
The support and advice from Eskom is the same excellent service that Hendrik experienced when he started the timber curing enterprise. Hendrik says with Eskom’s expert advice and support, it’s easier to make the correct decisions timeously and with peace of mind.

Hendrik still maintains his farm, and has mostly lucerne under the irrigation he installed some years ago. This aspect of the farm is now managed by his son Frederiko.

Nothing goes to waste at Die Houtwerf, not even sawdust. Smaller pieces of wood that are discarded are chipped and the end-product is very popular as bedding or matting in stables and fowl runs. Planks from the first cuts on the outsides of logs are also in high demand for fencing.

For more information contact
Eskom on 08600 Eskom or 08600 37566 (share call), or visit