Nordic wood is part of a German success story

Wood processing company Cordes has become one of Germany’s largest companies in the wood products sector, and it aims to continue growing. The company’s success depends on high-quality raw material and reliable partners. Its location on the North Sea coastline guarantees good logistics connections.
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  • 2023, Customer story, Sawn timber

Cordes, a German company, buys sawn timber from around the world and is a major importer of Nordic wood. Having grown through acquisitions, the company had operations in 19 locations at the beginning of 2023.

“We are now one of the largest wood processing companies in Germany,” says Andreas Cordes, the company’s second-generation Managing Director.

Cordes’ growth can be seen most clearly in Bremerhaven, Germany, where its location on the coastline of the North Sea guarantees good logistical connections. In Bremerhaven, where Cordes is headquartered, it also has an import warehouse and container terminal as well as production facilities. In recent years, the premises have tripled in size and now cover 450,000 square metres.

A steady stream of vessels arrive at the port. The company’s annual imports total around 2,500 containers of wood products including plywood, wood for garden structures, and 600,000 cubic metres of softwood sawn timber.

“Bremerhaven is our gateway to the world for exports and imports alike,” says Cordes.

An international leader in wood products

In its home country, Cordes has a strong presence in the DIY market, the wood industry, and the wood products sector. In this very competitive market, Cordes relies on investments, premium Nordic raw material and reliable partners to grow and differentiate from the competition.

The company has invested in modern machinery for a wide product portfolio. It has a glulam line, three structural solid wood (KVH®) lines, eight planing lines and two edge-glued panel presses that produce external cladding, deck wood, furniture panels, matchboard, and so on.

Among its customers are construction companies and makers of prefabricated buildings and saunas, as well as suppliers of garden structures, wood and construction materials, and packaging. In line with its goal to be an international leader in the wood products industry, the company greatly increased its sales in neighbouring European countries in 2022 and plans to continue doing so through strategic partners.

Smooth cooperation promotes future growth. In the photo from the left: Fatma Evrin-Görlich, Sales Coordinator at Metsä Fibre; Bernhard Cordes, Founder at Cordes; Andreas Cordes, Managing Director at Cordes and Alexander Köberl, Sales Director at Metsä Fibre.

Metsä Fibre is an important supplier

Cordes procures spruce and pine sawn timber from Metsä Fibre. The companies have been working together for decades.

 “I have been with the company for 20 years, and we have been buying sawn timber from Metsä Fibre all this time. It was my father who signed the first agreement,” says Andreas Cordes.

Spruce sawn timber arrives at Bremerhaven from Vilppula and Renko sawmills in Finland. Pine is supplied from Merikarvia or Lappeenranta and from the new Rauma sawmill.

“We want to increase our exports, and Spain and the UK are especially promising pine markets. This is why Rauma sawmill is so important to us. In the future, it may also provide us with raw material for our glulam and matchboard production,” says Cordes.

Most of the raw material comes from Finland

Other companies in the Cordes Group also rely on Metsä Fibre’s sawn timber. Osmo Holz und Color, a Warendorf-based producer of for example external cladding, obtains nearly 70 per cent of its softwood from Finland, explains Managing Director Christian Cordes, brother of Andreas Cordes.

“We use almost exclusively Finnish products. Their quality is particularly well suited for surface treatment with our paints. The combination of high-quality Finnish sawn timber and our Premium Osmo paint results in unique external cladding products.”

In recent years, Osmo Holz und Color has invested in upgrading its products and modernising its paint shops.

“We believe we can continue to grow and succeed by using premium Finnish wood.”

Holz Henkel, based in Göttingen in Central Germany, also uses Metsä Fibre’s sawn timber. Planing accounts for 60 per cent of its business while wood importing and foreign trade generate the other 40 per cent. Most of the products are sold through a retail network to the DIY market and the process industry.

“We are one of the leading planing mills in Germany. We have an excellent reputation for product quality, which is why we belong to VEH, the Association of the European Planing Industries. We have followed its grading specifications for a decade in our planing products,” says Torsten Herzel, Managing Director of Henkel.

Quality is everything

Customers expect products to be of the highest quality. According to the Cordes brothers, Nordic and Finnish wood meets this requirement. 

Herzel says that customers expect the raw material to come from sustainably managed forests.

“When we make products from Nordic wood, our customers know that companies in these countries follow sensible forestry legislation. They also expect us as the importer and planing mill to use certified goods that have been produced sustainably.”

The products made by Cordes are both FSC®- and PEFC-certified. Certification of sustainable forestry management has been important when expanding into new markets.

Partnership supports growth

A good relationship with the raw material supplier is required for growth. When dealing with large volumes, reliable transport schedules and product quality are essential.

“Metsä Fibre provides us with the right volume of premium sawn timber at the right time, which is very important to us,” says Andreas Cordes.

All Cordes Group companies use Metsä Fibre’s Metsä Timber Online portal, which lets them easily check the status of orders. The portal also provides information about product improvements, new investments and changes in the market.

Partnership also means growing and developing together, he says.

“We enjoy a good partnership with Metsä Fibre, and it offers us enormous potential for growth in the years ahead.”

This article was originally published in Timber Magazine issue 2023