Web-based kiln resource
By Marc Savard
Dec. 11, 2013 - It is widely recognized in industry circles that in order to help mill personnel meet new and more demanding standards for kiln-dried lumber, more advanced and comprehensive tools are needed for quality control and/or management of lumber drying.
To dry lumber efficiently in large industrial lumber operations, probably the three most important areas for consideration are handling (that is, lumber preparation, green yard storage, loading onto kin carts and dry yard storage), kiln equipment performance, and how the equipment is run to dry various products. For example, if the lumber is poorly stacked, it will affect uniformity of airflow, which in turn will affect the distribution of final moisture content. Stacking and loading can also increase the amount of wet and over-dried lumber and therefore result in significant value loss. Some other issues include longer drying times, reduction in planer productivity due to the presence of over-dried and warped lumber, and lower grade outturns.
FPInnovations is in the process of developing several web-based tools designed to offer kiln operators and supervisors the opportunity to evaluate specific performance indicators and thereby establish priorities within the framework of their continuous improvement program.
Introducing DryStack tool
By the end of 2011, the Nairn Centre sawmill had implemented a continuous improvement program and implemented a prototype of DryStack to evaluate drying related operations indicators and thereby establish priorities within the framework of their continuous improvement program.
At the Drying Conference hosted by the Quebec Forest Industry Council last April in Quebec City, Michel Gosselin, from EACOM Timber Corporation, described his own experience with the implementation of DryStack. Gosselin reported a reduction in planer cost operations, an increase in grades outturns, an increase in lumber volume and a reduction in sticker replacement. Overall, he estimated that up to two per cent economic gain can be obtained for their annual production of 250 MMfbm.
The DryStack tool for the continuous improvement program includes quantitative performance indicators inspired by the practical KISS principle, that is, Keep It Simple and Short! Thus, comprehensive procedures have been designed to evaluate critical aspects of the operations related to kiln-drying. These are the main practices evaluated through performance indicators:
- Stickering and stacking: detailed assessment of lumber packages integrity (for example, stickers and number of pieces, sticker alignment, production-related information on packages).
- Kiln loading: detailed assessment of kiln-loading performance (for example, bunks/bolsters presence and alignment, uniformity of packages).
- Rough lumber yards: detailed assessment of green/dry lumber packages storage (for example, bunks/bolsters presence and alignment, piles spacing, inventory turnover).
In addition to individual specific performance indicators, an overall performance rating illustrates the assessment for the entire operation.
Guidelines are provided to the mills on how to evaluate each one of the performance criteria and how to determine sample sizes for assessments so mill personnel can perform audits on a regular basis. Audit results are entered in the web-based application, which provides instant reporting features. In some cases during field operations, mill staff equipped with a tablet using Wi-Fi connection or 4G cellular connectivity can enter their results directly into the web
application. Results are stored in a confidential database, allowing trend and benchmarking reports over time to be used for comparing a mill’s performance with results from other anonymous mills across Canada.
These are the main components of DryStack:
- Internal audits: mill personnel are trained to conduct detailed assessment of lumber handling (stickering, stacking, and storage in green and dry yards) and loading onto kiln carts.
- Trending: comprehensive trending reports to follow drying related operations through the years
- Benchmarking: extensive analysis of data that allow users to compare their own results with the other similar mills across Canada.
The main goal of DryStack is to equip operators, supervisors and managers with the necessary information so that they can examine the resources that will be required to address the issues that need immediate attention. Continuous assessment coupled with benchmarking will constitute an important incentive for mill personnel to set new objectives and as a result explore new opportunities for continuous improvement.
DryStack is a complete web-based application that has been implemented over 20 sawmills across Canada. Mark Savard is a research scientist with FPInnovations in Quebec City.