October 20, 2015 - Recovery is a word used often in the wood products industry. Every mill operation is looking to maximize what they can get out of every log that passes through their mills. So it’s no surprise that when Gorman Bros. decided to invest millions of dollars into a new green end lathe line for their Canoe Forest Products plywood plant in Salmon Arm, B.C., that optimization was the name of the game.
By Andrew Snook
The company spent $16 million planning and putting the project together for the better part of 2014. It was commissioned in February of this year.
“The goal with that line is better use of the resources we do have,” explains Marcello Angelozzi, operations manager for Canoe Forest Products. “What it appears to be doing with our testing is a 10- to 12-per cent recovery pickup. So over the course of a year, we’ll consume 25,000 to 30,000 less metres of logs to produce the exact same amount of veneer.”
In addition to recovery on the line and consuming less logs, the upgraded equipment outperforms the old lathe line by about 50 per cent. Although the capacity of the green end line has increased by about half from a potential production point of view, the plan was never to consume additional logs. It was to extract increased value and recovery from the log volume the plant currently consumes.
“We will run similar log volumes as last year but produce 10 to 15 per cent more veneer volume through increased recovery that the new line technology and equipment delivers,” Angelozzi says.
The capacity for the plant is roughly 160 million sq. ft. of plywood on a 3/8” basis (or 3.5 million panels of plywood varying from 3/8 to 1-1/8” in thickness). That would be if the company were to make plywood out of all of the veneer it produces off the new lathe line, but that’s not the plan moving forward.
“The plan is to diversify and sell some veneer into different markets, but plywood will still be the main focus of the plant,” Angelozzi says.
As part of the company’s product diversification strategy, the Gorman Bros. also invested in a new Metriguard veneer tester, which was installed last spring. The Metriguard unit allows for veneer testing and sorting for the structural wood products market.
“We added that to the outfeed of our No. 1 dryer,” Angelozzi explains. “It allows strength testing on the dry veneer and unit allows us to diversify into the LVL market.”
The cores that come off of the line can now be stacked, as well. The centre cores are 3.25” rounds that are sold for use as dunnage and posts.
The upgrade has not just improved the potential for increased quantities at the plant, but quality as well.
“The old line could not deliver the same sort of quality as the new veneer line – low standard deviation, tight sizes and smooth peel in the veneer,” Angelozzi says.
The new line also helps address other constraint areas in the mill.
“With the improved sorting at the stacker line, the dryers have seen a 10 to 15 per cent efficiency pickup.”
The sheer number of contractors involved on the major upgrade of the green end lathe line provided the biggest challenge to keeping the project moving forward, according to Angelozzi. When one contractor had an issue with their part of the project, it sometimes generated a domino effect with other contractors, creating delays in start-up and commissioning.
“If parts weren’t delivered on time that would delay more than one contractor. If a contractor didn’t hit their timeline, that would delay another contractor, that sort of thing,” he explains.
The other big challenge has been learning the new technology.
Despite having special training and spending time with the contractors as the project was being commissioned, there has been a steep learning curve.
“It’s been six months since we commissioned this line and its been a very steep learning curve for us, because there is so much to it – so many transition points, lots of PLC stuff – programming, and it just takes time to learn it,” Angelozzi says. “But a lot of it is sort of trial and error, a little bit of head scratching or calls to the primary contractor, but that’s expected with a project of this size.”
A couple of times a year, Canoe Forest Products management reviews a three-year, capital project list focused on projects coming up over the next 12 to 18 months.
“Each division of the Gorman group will essentially have several small-cap projects every year and a couple larger projects fleshed out over the next three to five years,” explains Angelozzi. “The list rarely shrinks despite the fact that we’re always doing something – knock off four and we’ll add five to it. The Gormans are always willing to invest and look at these projects for us.”
The by-products from the plant, including the bark/hog, chips and cores are all sold to other companies for various uses including pulp and paper, mulch, bio-materials and dunnage.
“No part of the log is wasted,” Angelozzi says.
The hog and wood chips are sent over to Domtar for use in their cogeneration facility in Kamloops, B.C., while other residual products that come off the grade line and the composers are sent to Pinnacle Pellet in Armstrong, B.C.
“The cores are sent to different manufacturers that make dunnage and all sorts of other things from it,” explains Matt Mead, plywood manager at Canoe Forest Products.
Last summer, the company also invested in layup line controls upgrades to improve the flow and minimize gaps.
“It’s all to do around the PLC menu interaction to build various plywood products,” Angelozzi explains.
The company also made upgrades to its Prentice 8-deck longitudinal dryer in December 2014, through the help of mechanical contractor, Systematic.
“It was some structure work, and we added some individual variable frequency drives to each of the decks, which allows torque alarms to be used and mitigates plug-ups, mechanical damage and avoids downtime,” Angelozzi says. “It extends the life of the dryer as well.”
“Plywood 101” at Canoe
Logs for the operation are harvested over an area covering Three Valley Gap to the east of the plant, Chase to the west, Salmon Arm to the south, and the Seymour River Valley to the north. The logs are hauled to log watering and storage areas on Shuswap Lake, where tugboats tow them to the sawmill and plywood plant for processing.
Once they arrive, they are brought out of the water by a recently purchased, stationary mounted Optimax 950, which feeds the logs up the jack ladder into a swing saw to cut the logs to length.
The cut-to-length logs are fed into a Nicholson debarker then into two chop saws that cycle on the outfeed side of the ring to cut them into the 100 1/2 block length required.
“With the new line there’s lots of pressure to keep the logs moving up the jack ladder,” Mead says. “We can’t shut this machine down at all right now. We’re running 24 hours a day, five days a week.”
After the blocks are cut, they are fed into storage bins by two John Deere wheel loaders. One of the older models is in the process of being replaced with a brand new John Deere 524K, already on order.
“We probably need one-and-a-quarter loaders on a daily basis,” Mead says.
The loaders then transport the logs from the storage bins to heated conditioning vats, where the water is heated to 60°C for a period of 12 to 14 hours.
“We’ve got a series of sprinkler heads that run through the vats,” Mead says. “Species dictates how long you keep it in there. Fir right now is probably around eight hours to get it to the core temperature that we need it. Spruce, in the summer, we can probably turn around in four to five hours. For fir, you want it a little hotter than the spruce.
From the conditioning vats, the logs then proceed to the company’s brand new $16-million green end lathe line, which was commissioned this past February. There, the logs are peeled into ribbons of 1/8” thick veneer.
“This project has been the main focus of the team in the Canoe plant for the last six months,” Angelozzi explains.
The new line currently operates at about 530 feet per minute, but has the capacity to run faster when necessary. Mead says it’s taken five or six months of tuning, but the new lathe line is producing the way Canoe wants it to – outside of a few small kinks left to work out.
“We didn’t just install an XY scanner or a stacker, we installed an entire line. We’ve got things to learn right from the log deck on – lots of intricate parts new to the operation,” he says. “This has the latest and greatest technologies. It’s a state-of-the-art system.”
Pel Engineering built the new lathe line and was responsible for the management of the project. Systematic and Norjay Industries performed the mechanical work for the installation of the lathe line; while Westwood Electric and Summit Electrical did the electrical work.
Altec Integrated Solutions out of Coquitlam, B.C supplied the controls for the lathe.
“They basically control the lathe up to the clipper,” Mead says.
Ventek supplied the diverter equipment, and the company’s software performs the scanning of the veneer, which then transfers the data back to Altec’s software. The Altec software shows what the peel is going to be and the Ventek software scans to the grade rules inputted by the controller.
“I can go in, pull up a sheet of veneer and look at it, then tweak or change the grade rules to whatever I need – if I need to add bigger knots, smaller knots, etc.,” Mead explains. “Our old set up was that we could just grade by moisture. Now we can actually physically grade the knot size, the defect size, characteristics in the veneer. This will allow us to do a lot more with the veneer in the future.”
The veneer is then sent through a moisture scanner and a grade scanner and is sorted by grade.
“We’re basically sorting four sorts: a heavy sap, a light sap, a Heart No. 1 and Heart No. 2,” Mead explains. “Another payback of our system is the moisture sort for better efficiencies on our drying.”
The veneer is then fed through USNR COE 6 deck jet dryer and Prentice 8 deck longitudinal veneer dryer systems – one heated by hot oil and the other by natural gas. Drying times range from three to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness and moisture content of the veneer.
Ventek GSc2000 grade scanning systems perform the scanning for both of Canoe’s veneer dryers.
“We tell it what defects we want to see in the veneer by grade and it picks them out,” Mead explains. “Moisture overrides everything on the dryers.”
The dryers are run 24 hours a day during the weekdays and 31.5 hours over the weekend.
Mead says the drying schedules for the operation are pretty simple.
“Based on your moisture you have your time and temperature,” he says. “So on the heavier saps we run a little hotter with a little longer drying time. On the heartwood we can run a cooler temperature but also run it faster through the dryer since there’s less moisture in the veneer.”
Once the veneer leaves the dryer, it either goes back into the dryer for a re-run, if it missed all of the moisture targets, or it will go to the composers to be composed for interplay, or straight to the lay-up line for plywood manufacturing on the Durand Raute Curtain Coater.
The dry veneer is then taken to an automated lay-up line where each sheet of veneer passes through a glue curtain and is laid up into various panel thicknesses.
The panels are then placed in a Williams, White & Co. press with Spar-Tek charger and unloader at a temperature between 140°C to 149°C and a pressure of 175 to 200 pounds per square inch so that the plies become permanently bonded together with a waterproof glue. Depending on thickness, pressing time ranges from 3.75 minutes to 8 minutes.
From the press, the plywood panels move to the grader line, where a Globe skinner saw is used to cut the eight-foot sides of the plywood panels, and Globe trim saws cut the four-foot sides and the panels.
“The guys here are looking for the quality on the edges of the panel,” Mead says.
The panels are graded as good one side, select, sheathing or a custom specialty panel. Further upgrading can occur by tongue and grooving, sanding, or oil and edge sealing the plywood for construction or industrial applications.
Panels that have holes that need to be filled are sent to a putty line, where the holes are filled to upgrade the panels to a select grade. The panels are then run through a sander.
A golden time for Canoe
Canoe Forest Products celebrated its 50th anniversary this past summer.
The company started production on July 12, 1965 with an initial investment of $1.5 million, an annual production of 1.5 million panels and a staff of 90 people.
Fifty years later, under the leadership of the Gorman group – which purchased Canoe in November 2012 – the plywood plant now has the capacity to produce to up to 3.5 million panels annually and is Salmon Arm’s largest private sector employer with approximately 225 employees.
With millions of dollars in upgrades in the latest technologies, and an ownership eager to invest in plant optimization, Canoe Forest Products and the residents of Salmon Arm will likely be celebrating more major milestones in the years to come.