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May 22, 2013 – Sawmills being a continual work in progress, it's a rare sawmiller who's not looking ahead at ways to improve.

Despite recent improvements at the Ontario mills (see our main article on Nairn Centre upgrades here), Mel Lemky is no exception. EACOM's vice-president of operations for Ontario sawmills brings a fresh perspective with his background in the B.C. Interior's sawmill sector. Discussing future plans in his Nairn Centre office, he lists a few potential opportunities facing the company's Ontario mills.

Optimized bucking

Currently the mills are fed with a variety of gang slashed and cut-to-length in-woods processing or mill slashing, none optimized. As senior vice-president forest management and operations, Brian Nicks explains, one hurdle is the historical wood flow (see story on the integrated Ontario operations here)  . In many cases centrally located woods operations are feeding two EACOM mills with distinct needs, and possible other operations, making optimized bucking at a single mill a logistical challenge. Still, given the volume involved, Lemky says the potential is worth a serious look. "You're talking a potential lift of eight to 11 points."

Planer consolidation

Currently production from Gogama and Nairn Centre is dressed on two adjacent lines at Nairn. Lemky sees opportunity to create a more efficient flow.

"We're looking at the opportunity of moving to a single, high-production line to handle it all," he says. "The combined production is 250 million bdft, so it would have to be a very efficient, well-run line to handle that, but it can be done. We also have an excellent planer line in Elk Lake that is running only 1.5 shifts, so there may be room there to handle the little bit of extra flow or to take pressure off a single line here."

New small-log line

The Nairn Centre small-log line was shut down a few years back to adjust to slow markets and focus on making the single Optimil DBL line as efficient as possible. With improving markets, there may be room to add an efficient small-log line to tighten the log sorts and speed production.

"There are no immediate plans, but certainly you can see the potential for one here."

Still, not all opportunities require capital. Lemky says that with the right staff and outlook, significant improvements can be found almost anywhere. He cites a recent recovery project by the sawmill manager and his team as an example.

"They ran a project looking at tightening up a number of small things, and implemented it. We saw trim loss drop by 1.5 per cent. Continual gains like that are the key to success in sawmilling."

Lemky concludes that an overall drive to boost recovery will lead to EACOM's success as a Lumber company. Given the predicted combination of high demand and constrained supply, it will also be key in making the most from the forecast lumber "super-cycle" ahead.

"When in doubt, go back to recovery. Fix that and problems tend to go away."

May 22, 2013  By  Jayson Koblun

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