Mills
March 28, 2017 - WHAT: OptiSaw Mill Optimization & Automation Forum

WHEN: April 25, 2017 from 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

WHERE: Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel, Richmond, B.C.

WHY: OptiSaw is a time-effective and affordable learning and networking opportunity for those driving the future of sawmilling in your operation. The focus is on the future of optimization and automation in our industry, including challenges and opportunities on the cutting edge of this side of the industry. 

REGISTER TODAY at: https://www.optisaw.com/
March 27, 2017 - USNR has developed a new log split detection system in partnership with Lakeland Mills in Prince George, B.C., and is now ready to take the equipment to market.
March 22, 2017 - A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That proverb is the main recruiting philosophy at EACOM’s Elk Lake sawmill. Here, hiring is based on values, not just skill-set.

“It's like a secret club, you have to be taught the secret handshake and you have to be the right type of person. It’s all about the outcome, whatever it takes,” mill manager Mark Everard explains.

Dedication to the job is the reason why Everard says new hires will never be recruited on a whim at Elk Lake, despite a town population of just a few hundred, and a consequent need to find people from nearby areas in the Timiskaming District of northeastern Ontario.

“We can teach anyone how to run a canter, we can teach a lot of people how to maintain a canter. We can't teach the attitude of staff getting a call that, ‘It's nine o'clock at night, we're in trouble here; I don't know what happened here but every log is jamming,’ and the reply is,  ‘Hmm, well I'll put the kids in bed and I'll be in in a half an hour to help out,’” Everard illustrates.

Everard says. “We have a pretty good group here. We have several vacancies but we are not in a hurry to fill them. We will wait until we get what we want.”

Some potential employees can on occasion be lost to other sectors like the mining industry when they are doing well. Still, Everard says the sawmill will never settle for less than what it’s looking for in a new recruit.

“There have always been good people here and we're helping to direct those energies in a productive and focused way,” he says.

As important as work values are to Everard, he also places some weight on the kinds of values that would make a person appreciate a northern lifestyle. Those are the hires that tend to stick.

“[If you ask the canter operators], they'll talk about Lake Trout fishing last week and how good it was… and the Speckles were biting too! That's the type of lifestyle people enjoy here, hunting and fishing. If you like that, this is paradise,” Everard says with a laugh.

He says chances are high that once someone gets through the initial evaluation period, they won’t be quick to change jobs again.

“People come for the money and stay for the people and lifestyle.”
March 14, 2017 - While $13 million invested in new technology since 2012 has helped bring EACOM’s Elk Lake mill up to respectable efficiency levels, mill manager Mark Everard explains that ongoing work on culture and performance management have been just as important.

“You pour a bunch of money into a mill, that’s the easiest part; it’s only the beginning,” Everard says from outside the mill on a crisp February morning. “The real challenge is getting everybody up to speed on how to get the most out of that equipment, and the most value out of our fibre. And that’s what we’re right in the middle of.”

This push to create a culture of continual improvement may only date back a couple of years, but the equipment upgrades themselves began back in 2012 with the addition of two single-pass sawlines. “In 2012, the company elected to refit the sawmill canter lines and they bought Comact DDM 12 and DDM 6 lines at an auction and then refurbished them. They also added a new USNR board edger and a new chipper,” Everard explains. “We kept the same debarkers, we’ve got two 18 inch D-Tec Cambio style and a 22-inch, single ring Nicholson A5A, which is adequate.”

Lumber flows from the canters to a Comact trimmer optimizer and trimmer and a 44-bin sling sorter. The final piece is an older Comact single-fork stacker, which Everard says exemplifies what they are trying to accomplish at Elk Lake.

“You might go ‘Gee whiz, that's an old stacker.’ Then again, if you maintain them, a single-fork stacker should be able to get 12 cycles a minute dependably and smoothly. People will claim you can get more, but day-in day-out, real life, if you're getting 15 you're really doing something special. This stacker will be able to keep up to about 56,000 fbm/hour so we are fine for now. It goes back to that continuous improvement mindset we’re trying to build that not only includes the iron but the people and the philosophy. So when we talk about the stacker — we’re not going to ask for a new stacker until we get 100 per cent of what this one is capable of.”

Where it makes sense though, the mill is happy to invest in ongoing training, as is the case with the two Comact DDM lines. A few years back EACOM felt they should be getting more production through those lines, and so in addition to setting clear targets and establishing accountability, they have invested in significant training from the supplier. The difference in production has been significant Everard explains.

“Part of why the DDMs are running so well is because every three months we have a Comact guy come in and he stays for a week, and he goes over it with our operators, with our maintenance group, and with our leadership group again and again and again. We're now in our second year of this ongoing training. Initial visits precipitated large amounts of work to be done on the canters, now, when Comact concludes a visit they have largely been tuning and training we rarely have issues.”

Overall, through continual tweaking of existing gear, including both operations and maintenance, the sawmill is now producing around 25 per cent more than it did 2.5 years ago. In hard numbers, that means producing about 150 million bdft/year with a wood supply that is 75 per cent 6-in in diameter and below.



Drying better

That same process has been used to extract significantly more from the mill’s existing dry kilns. While the mill plans to produce 150 million bdft in 2017, a number Everard feels they can exceed depending on log diet, until recently the kilns had been struggling to dry 125 million bdft.

The mill runs an older Hemco (USNR) kiln and two newer Cathilds off a Konus hot oil system that until recently was also used to heat the mill. For starters they added a few hot air furnaces to heat the mill, allowing them to isolate the glycol system for lumber drying alone for a 25 per cent gain in drying energy. Then they looked at each step in the process to maximize efficiency.

“We didn’t spend any capital, but instead put a lot of attention on our kiln schedules, repaired the kilns top to bottom, the baffles etc… We also had to re-tube the Konus system. In the end we’ve been drying at 30 per cent over previous capacity for the past six months, so we are comfortable that can dry our current production now.”

The planer mill

Elk Lake’s sawmill isn’t the only area reaping the benefits of upgrades and performance management. Its planer mill, which burned down in 2005 and was rebuilt the following year, is also a big part. As Everard explains, it’s a well-built line that just required some tweaking.

“As the mill cranked up, it caused the need for the planer to crank up, and the planer is really answering the call well. It's a standard horseshoe configuration, with mainly Carbotech iron, but I’ve got to hand it to the guy that dreamed this up, he did a nice job — really nice tilt hoist, really good infeed to the pineapples,” Everard says. “We're going to do some automation in there, but it's a nice set up. Gilbert planer, which is a really nice planer.”

“The back end is basically Carbotech with a PLC lug loader. We did new Autolog controls with the new Prograder which helped as Autolog has some good code people.  After the lugloader we have a real nice Carbotech, dual-trim saw setup.  We've got a standard Carbotech fence with the standard trim saw and then a second PET fence with a second PET trim saw,” Everard says. “The second fence and saw set was never commissioned so we're in the process of re-commissioning that so we can get that extra value. There's a fair amount of value extraction capability in this line and we're going to realize its full potential.”

The most recent upgrade is the replacement of the original Autolog geometric planer optimizer with the supplier’s latest Pro Grader planer optimization scanning system that adds a wide array of visual defect detection. It was only two weeks old when CFI was on site, but Everard said the retrofit was going well.

“We want it all done yesterday,” Everard says, laughing. “In all honesty it's going well; we're on schedule with our proforma but it's got more and we're going to be several months dialing this thing to get all that it’s got.”

The Pro Grader adds functionalities like knot detection and measurement, slope of grain, stain and rot, but Everard says solving the latter might be easier said than done. “I'm not convinced we're going to completely solve the rot detection problem. But the slope of grain, knot measurement, and sap stain will be a huge impact on our grade recovery; enormous.”

The new unit is designed to sit in the same footprint as the original Pro Grader, which helped simplify the retrofit, Everard notes. While the mill looked at the full gamut of planer optimizers on the market for the project, they felt the Autolog unit gave the best value for dollar in their application.

The planer team has been through a similar process as that in the sawmill, with similar gains. Everard says productivity is up 25 per cent in that same 2.5 year period, with better grade upturns. The latter is expected to improve further still with the new optimizer installed.

‘A good place’

Everard says all the hard work over the past few years is paying off in markedly improved productivity. There is still work to be done, he adds, to turn the mill into an above-average performer. Still, he feels the roughest part is now in the rear-view mirror.

“We're a work in progress; we're about halfway to where we want to be, but we're in the fun part now. The real heavy lifting has been done and now it's becoming easier and easier. Once you get people aligned with the philosophy, adopt it, adjust to it, and then they start winning — the entire site is running at levels it’s never seen before — everyone starts having fun, and that's a good place.”



VIDEO | Exploring EACOM's Elk Lake sawmill
March 14, 2017 - West Fraser announced Monday that Larry Hughes will retire as vice‑president of finance and CFO at the end of March 2017.

President and CEO Ted Seraphim said, "Larry has contributed greatly to West Fraser during his 10 years as part of our senior executive team.  Before joining West Fraser he was our outside legal counsel and served on our Board from 2002 to 2005. Larry has played a pivotal role in the growth of West Fraser and we have all benefitted from his practical approach and thoughtful advice."

West Fraser is pleased to announce that Chris Virostek will become vice‑president of finance and CFO upon Mr. Hughes' retirement. Chris is a Chartered Professional Accountant, CA and has held a number of senior financial roles at Masonite International Corporation since 2002, most recently as senior vice‑president of strategy and corporate development.

Mr. Hughes will remain with the company until the end of June 2017 to assist with the transition process and thereafter may provide advisory services to West Fraser's management.
March 10, 2017 - Resolute Forest Products Inc. announced Friday the indefinite idling of its paper mill located in Thorold, Ont. The facility, which employed over 100 workers, has an annual production capacity of approximately 197,000 metric tons of newsprint on one machine using 100 percent recycled furnish.

The difficult decision to proceed with the indefinite idling is driven by the ongoing significant decline in North American newsprint consumption, coupled with the increasing cost of recovered paper. The company had already been taking downtime at the operation since mid-December 2016.

Resolute is collaborating with Stone House Investments Holdings Inc., an independent third party interested in converting Thorold to production of an alternative product. Resolute recognizes the impact of today's announcement and believes conversion of the mill would provide a more sustainable future for the operation, its workforce and the surrounding community.

The company remains committed to customer service and delivery of high-quality products, and is working closely with customers to ensure a smooth transition. 

The indefinite idling of the paper mill is effective immediately.
March 9, 2017 - What is sawmilling 4.0 and what does it mean for your mill? How can optimized data-collection impact operations? What does the future of the smart mill look like?
March 9, 2017 - EACOM’s Elk Lake sawmill in northern Ontario has invested in $13 million toward new technology since 2012. But as mill manager Mark Everard explains, that’s where the real work began.

Canadian Forest Industries got a peek at the inner workings of the sawmill, adjacent planer mill and the wood drying process here in Elk Lake.



RELATED | What goes into a $13M sawmill investment?

EACOM's total Elk Lake sawmill investment more than $13 million
Feb. 24, 2017 - OptiSaw – the must-attend forum for those driving the future of sawmilling – is accepting registrations for the one-day event in Richmond, B.C., on April 25.
Feb. 22, 2017 - A fire at NorSask Forest Products has meant half of the company's workers have been laid off. The mill is currently running at 25 per cent, and expects to be back at full production in August. CBC News reports. | READ MORE.
Feb. 22, 2017 - Patrick Lumber Company has acquired a portion of Mary’s River Lumber Company in Philomath, Ore. The eight-acre purchase encompasses five dry kilns andthe reman plant. 

McCool Millworks Inc., based in Sweet Home, Ore., will head operations. The Philomath operation will begin by processing primarily high grade Douglasfir and Hemlock lumber creating an opportunity for a dozen employees with plans for expansion. 

This acquisition is expected to add approximately twenty percent to Patrick Lumber’s processing capacity.
Feb. 15, 2017 - Morbark, a manufacturer of equipment used in forestry, recycling, tree care, landscaping, sawmill and biomass markets, has strengthened its senior management team with the appointment of Walt Niziolek as the new vice-president of operations and supply chain.

Niziolek joins Morbark at a time of continued business growth to take charge of supply chain and site operational requirements. This includes managing local, U.S. and overseas vendors and suppliers, all warehouse and distribution activities, quality initiatives and liaising with business unit engineering support.

Niziolek’s extensive expertise includes holding many previous senior leadership roles in manufacturing with companies such as CPG Building Products and Pride Mobility Products, where he specialized in deploying standardized work and other lean initiatives to improve safety, quality, delivery, supply chain management and cost.

“I’m excited to bring Walt to the Morbark team,” said Dave Herr, Morbark CEO. “Walt has a proven track record of driving change through lean manufacturing and continuous improvement techniques. This, along with his experience in complex manufacturing environments producing customized, engineered products, makes him a great fit for Morbark.”

Prior to his 20-plus years in manufacturing operations, Niziolek served as a captain in the U.S. Army, where he held multiple leadership and staff positions, both in peacetime and periods of conflict.

“Working with Morbark is an exciting opportunity to take a solid company to new heights,” said Niziolek. “I look forward to developing many productive working relationships with both internal personnel and external suppliers and stakeholders.”

Niziolek earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Southern Illinois University, as well as an MBA from the University of Michigan.



Morbark, LLC, based in Winn, Mich., is celebrating 60 years of innovating and manufacturing durable, high-performance equipment for forestry, recycling, tree care, sawmill and biomass markets. Morbark equipment helps customers harvest, process and convert wood and other organic waste materials into valuable, useful and profitable products. The Company produces a full line of whole tree and waste wood chippers, flails, brush chippers, horizontal and tub grinders, sawmill equipment, material handling systems and more. “Like” on Facebook, follow on Twitter or subscribe to our YouTube channel. For more information, please visit www.morbark.com.
Feb. 13, 2017 - Lumber company Hefler Forest Products is being sold to merchant bank Hawthorne Capital and wind farm company Katalyst Wind Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

The N.S.-based company had been under creditor protection since July 2016.

Among the assets, Hefler's biomass plant is what remains running, but Hawthorne Capital president Trevor Hannigar told the Chronicle Herald there are plans to revive the sawmill.

“Although the energy side is important and we are excited to be contributing to renewable energy in the region, our team is considering all options to get the sawmill running again, including the possibility of having a third party operate it,” Hannigar told The Chronicle Herald.

The business deal is set to close on Feb. 24.

Read the full story.



RELATED: Hefler asks creditors for more time
Feb. 13, 2017 - Maibec has optimized its Saint-Pamphile, Que., mill by using data available at all stages of the sawmilling process to make real-time decisions. Welcome the 4.0 sawmill.
Feb. 6, 2017 - OptiSaw West is calling for presentation proposals.

Are you a manufacturer or researcher in the sawmill industry offering an innovative optimization or automation option that can help sawmill operations succeed? Send us your presentation proposal now!

OptiSaw is a one-day workshop focused on the future of optimization and automation in sawmilling, including challenges and opportunities on the cutting edge of this side of the industry. Taking place in Richmond, B.C., on April 25, OptiSaw offers a time-effective and affordable learning and networking opportunity for those driving the future of sawmilling operations. 

We welcome sawmill management and owners, process engineers, continual improvement managers, optimization staff, researchers and design consultants. Registration for this exclusive event is limited to a select 50 seats.

Previous presentations have covered data-driving sawmilling, fibre supply, planer grading optimization, primary breakdown efficiencies, scanner scaling, avoiding equipment obsolescence, and more.

Send your presentation proposal to Maria Church ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by Feb. 22.

For more information or to register, visit www.optisaw.com.



Read about last year’s OptiSaw East.
Page 1 of 20

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Popular Articles

Latest Events

Montreal Wood Convention
Tue Mar 28, 2017
COFI Convention 2017
Wed Apr 05, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM

Marketplace