July 18, 2012

Our trip to visit Kährs premises in southern Sweden was extraordinary. Nybro is a small town with a population amounting to less than 13,000, and has been Kährs home since it was founded in 1857. Not only is Kährs a major employer for about 900 inhabitants of the town, but it is also one of the most sustainable and forward-thinking factories in the world.

Kährs thinking is simply this: Nothing Goes to Waste. Basically, the parts of the logs that can’t be used in the production of wood floors are converted into biofuel. Some is used to produce energy to heat the Kährs factory and converted into electricity. The rest is sold to a local energy company and used to heat the whole neighbourhood. Kährs is a major producer of energy – whilst also striving to reduce the energy that is being used. Even the ash from the heating plant is re-used for fertilizing purposes in local forestry operations. And during the last few years, Kährs have managed to reduce the use of raw material by some 25%, through their dedicated environmental work.

We saw the entire process, from the point where logs are brought onto Kährs premises up until the the where the planks are all bundled up, packaged and ready to be shipped off into the different corners of the world.

This oak tree (seen here in 7 pieces) came from a private homeowner’s backyard about 15 km away from Kährs factory. It is circa 150 years old, and had a height of about 25 metres. Did you know that the branches of a tree are what creates the beautiful knots in wood flooring? Each tree is picked to match one of Kährs collections through its size, width, species and branches amongst other things.

Here the oak tree is going through an initial manual check-up. Some could say that these two gentlemen have two of the most important roles in Kährs. The gentleman to the right (with his trademark cap) is John Ahlgren – who is responsible for purchasing the logs and is often found out in the field, hand-picking trees. The gentleman to the left is responsible for examining the overall health of the tree (log) and determines whether the log is accepted and ensures that farmers/sellers get a fair price for their logs.

The age of a tree can be estimated by counting the amount of rings on the tree trunk.

Fresh logs are placed on a conveyor belt to be thoroughly scanned through a metal detector and deemed acceptable/unacceptable. John told us that they once had a log go through through the metal detector only to discover that there was an entire bicycle inside of the log! Just imagine how many years it had to take for that to happen. If only trees had eyes, right?

The approved logs will then be placed categorically where they will remain outdoors under controlled conditions until they are ready for the factory.

Once the logs are ready, they are placed on another conveyor belt. This gentleman controls the logs with some seriously complex computers/machines.

The logs are sent into a machine that removes all bark (seen on the right), which is then converted into energy.  After this, the logs are fully prepared for the sawmill.

Unfortunately we cannot show you inside the factory, but are able to say this much: there is a lot of craftsmanship behind Kährs wood floors and the quality control is impeccable. I was a Kährs wood flooring aficionado even before visiting the factory, but now I can wholeheartedly say that there is no wood flooring of better quality than Kährs wood flooring.

Here is the sample room, where all the samples are cut and prepared to be sent out to Kährs representatives across the globe.

Let me present to you Kährs’ glorious 200,000 square foot warehouse. It is Scandinavia’s first warehouse to be certified by LEED, holds almost 2 million square feet of flooring and is heated with biofuel byproducts from the Kährs’ factory.

We met this gentleman, who like many others there, has been working for Kährs for 40+ years!

If there is one thing I learned during this trip, it is that Kährs is so much more than just wood flooring. Kährs breathes history and defines Swedish craftsmanship and tradition. It is about the people – each and every contributing individual who shares the same passion for Kährs wood flooring. The quality, the craftsmanship, the story-telling is endless.

So why not bring a little piece of Nybro into your home and share the story?

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