Since 1992, Roundwood Timber Ltd has come from humble beginnings to providing a complete range of forestry consultancy advice and harvesting services to private forest owners in Ireland.
This family run business established by Noel Kenna and based in Roundwood, Wicklow has seen its client base increase considerably during the last 29 years and their reputation sees them work all over the country.
These days Noel has taken a small step back from running the business and has handed the day-to-day decisions to his sons Tom and Conor who took time out of their busy schedules to speak to Irish Tractor magazine. Another son, Denis, is involved in the haulage side of the business.
The services provided by Roundwood Timber Ltd include Forest Establishment, Forest Planning and Management, Harvesting, Haulage, Timber Sales & Marketing and Christmas Trees. With the help of the guys, we take a look at each service and discuss the industry in general.
You often see businesses advertised as a ‘leader in their field of expertise’ which may or may not be true, but in the case of Roundwood Timber Ltd, it is very true as their extensive client base will testify too.
“We have customers all over Ireland. There are 21 employed here, so that means we generally run a number of jobs for different customers at any given time,” said Tom.
“We have carried out work right across the country. We were the main forestry contractor for the 233 million Centre Parcs project in Longford. One of our biggest customers are Coillte, so with the services that we provide, we are able to diversify into different areas and that helps keep us busy all year round.”
The daily routine of someone involved in this industry has very much changed since Noel Kenna first picked up a chainsaw as technology now plays a massive part in the sector as machinery has advanced immensely over the last few decades.
“Our father started out with just a chainsaw, but these days we have a fleet of machinery that does the majority of the work for us. We would upgrade our machines on a regular basis,” added Tom.
“All our machinery is purchased from John Deere Forestry Ltd here in Wicklow and we get a great service from them. They have an in-depth knowledge of the machinery and their service is second to none. In the last two years, we would have bought three new harvesters from them,” stated Conor.
The fleet is kept in excellent condition with the machinery which is under warranty going back to the main dealer, while their own in-house mechanic looks after all other issues and they know the importance of investing back into the business in order to maintain the high level of standards that they produce, which is what their clients have become accustomed to over the years.
“We’ve built our reputation on providing a good service down through the years and it is important to maintain that and improve on it in any way that we can. To do that, we have to invest in the business on a regular basis and it is something that our father has always focused on down through the years,” revealed Conor.
Of course, none of the company’s success would be achievable without the hard work, loyalty and expertise of a dedicated work force and the guys stressed that they are fortunate in this regard.
“The employees are an important key to the success of the business. There are lads here years and the experience they have is invaluable. There are 21 employed here and everyone works well together. A lot of the guys here would be the second and third generation of their families that have worked in the industry,” pointed out Conor, who added that an issue in the industry was sourcing new employees. “The younger generation don’t see a career in this industry and therefore it is hard to encourage lads in.”
There are numerous grants available for landowners to plant trees and the team at Roundwood Timber can offer their expertise and advice to clients. They are full registered to apply for any available grants.
“We consider the afforestation planning stage as an opportunity to plan for the long term and for future operations. Using our expertise in forest tending and thinning operations, we plan the forest establishment to avoid unnecessary costs and hassle into the future. This ensures a better long-term return for the woodland owner and a reduction in future costs,” declared Tom.
The letters H&S play an integral part of the business as health and safety is paramount in an industry that has seen its fair share of accidents down through the years.
“The attitude towards health and safety has changed a lot since when our father first started the business. The industry is much more regulated than it used to be and the safety of all our employees is paramount,” insisted Conor.
Felling licences are needed to carry out their work and Tom informed us that the issuing of these licences is causing some frustration in the industry.
“The delays in the licensing process could lead to timber shortages and thousands of job losses. It is a situation that needs to be addressed immediately.”
The backlog in appeals is hugely damaging to the forestry industry and it needs to be dealt with urgently, as job losses are imminent and an industry which supports 12,000 mainly rural jobs in Ireland and contributes €2.3 billion to the economy is at immediate risk.
Only a quarter of the Forest Service planting targets were planted last year, and Conor divulged to us that the situation has left them in limbo regarding the expansion of the business.
“We were hoping to expand, but we have had to put that on hold due to the licensing issues. We are happy with the workload we have on and we are busy, but the aim is to expand down the line and hopefully we can do that in the near future.”
Roundwood Timber Ltd
Eircode: A98 N832
T: +353 (0404) 45346
Tom 087 2692444
Conor 087 7633366
First published in Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 9 No 4, July/August 2021