Wood Business

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How smart technology and pitch removal can help eliminate downtime, profit loss

May 12, 2020  By  PJ Boyd

There are a lot of tips and tricks for sawmills to consider when it comes to productivity and the elimination of downtime. That’s why as part of File Week 2020 from May 4-8, CFI hosted two free webinars to discuss how smart technology, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and pitch removal can improve productivity in the filing room and the mill.

What is IIoT?

Williams and White CEO Justin Williams presented the first webinar on May 6 on how IIoT can help filing rooms better monitor, collect, exchange, analyze and deliver valuable insights.

As Williams describes, IIoT is a network of multiple industrial devices connected by communications technologies. This connectivity in the filing room allows for smarter and faster business-making decisions, as multiple machines’ performance can be monitored and tracked. This data can help operators understand key trends and “allows for up-to-date answers on performance,” Williams explained.


“IIoT gives you accurate data that enables you to position your labour force. And it is being introduced more into the filing room,” he added.

In filing rooms, IIoT solutions can monitor multiple applications, including grinding equipment, mill machinery, heat sources within cutting, and saw performance, Williams shared.

“We are looking for reduced or eliminated downtime, and an increase in efficiency through analytics, enabling greater insights into the operations of the mill where the filing room is sometimes disconnected,” he explained.

By using this technology, mills and filing rooms can reduce or eliminate downtime, increase efficiency, and monitor equipment 24/7, thereby getting up-to-the-second results. This leads to better utilization of labour, lower oil consumption, and lower maintenance costs since the data can help pinpoint times of expected failures.

Consequently, Williams and White is looking to introduce more of their smart technology into sawmills and filing rooms.

Williams then shared details about their IIoT-connected products:  the Smart Guide Sawsense Performance Monitoring System, which monitors saw temperature, and the  Saw-ADD Smart Band Saw and Arbor, which monitors both band saws and circular saws.

With a connected sawmill and filing room, mills can reduced costs, increase quality and speed up operations, leading to significantly increased annual profits.

To watch a free recording of the webinar and learn more about the benefits of IIoT, click here.

Removing pitch accumulation

For the second free File Week webinar, on May 7, Supersaul Chemmex’s Samuel Scheideman discussed how removing pitch accumulation can increase mill productivity. He discussed the causes of pitch accumulation, how to remove pitch through physical labour and machines, as well as the financial costs associated with pitch as it affects productivity and product.

Sawmills can see pitch build-up on equipment due to log diet and time of year. This can cause downtime, down-graded lumber, logs becoming out of sync with the set works and logs breaking equipment.

“As sawmills have been increasing speed and margins of error have been reduced, pitch is becoming a bit of a problem in maintaining precision cuts. So, if a feed roll gets built up with pitch to the point that it doesn’t have its nerols anymore, it can’t hold on to the log, causing it to not be let through, or it can’t be held on to, resulting in climb cutting. Then it will go through faster than it is supposed to, causing saw deviation,” said Scheideman.

Pitch accumulation can create friction, forcing logs to stop, jamming logs in behind them that then need to be forced through. Little things like this will throw off your grade of wood from being cut.

Scheideman also explained that slide or hydraulic cylinder shafts can build up with pitch to the point of not being able to position properly or becoming jammed. This will result in downtime, affect production and quality control.

“Modern high-speed sawmills work with tight tolerances, tight margins and low room for errors. One area that can be overlooked is what pitch accumulation is costing your mill,” said Scheideman. “A major cost of pitch accumulation is downgraded lumber.”

This can result in significant profit losses.

“One board per cant is downgraded due to pitch, with downgrading costing losses up to and around $0.20 to $6.00 a board. With these costs, if there are 16,000 logs per day with one board per log downgraded from pitch interface, at a loss of $0.20 per log, this will result in a loss of $3,200 per day, $16,000 per week or $70,000 per month of profits,” Scheideman explained.

Manually removing pitch is not an appealing job, Scheideman admitted, but it is essential for mill productivity, product quality and overall profits. Supersaul Chemmex offers a number of automated pitch removal products that have been proven to help mills increase productivity and profits, he shared.

To watch a free recording of the webinar and learn more about pitch accumulation, click here.

These webinars were part of File Week 2020, which happened May 4-8, sponsored by Supersaul Chemmex.

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