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Wanted: More saw filers!
New filing equipment and getting more people into the trade will be the hot topics at this year’s B.C. Saw Filer’s Trade Show and Conference, coming up April 25 and 26 in Kamloops, B.C.
By Paul MacDonald
Canada’s forest industry produces one heck of a lot of lumber. From January to September 2013, Canadian sawmills produced 18.1 billion board feet of lumber, and the lion’s share of that would have been produced at B.C.’s highly efficient, high tech sawmills.
As reflected by these lumber production numbers, the upturn in the forest industry over the last several years is great news, but it emphasizes the growing demand—and lack of supply—for trades people, especially saw filers.
That will be one of the topics front and centre at the upcoming B.C. Saw Filer’s Trade Show and Conference, being held April 25 and 26 at the Coast Hotel and Conference Center in Kamloops, B.C.
“The industry ramping up presents a couple of challenges, and one of them is the manpower shortage in saw filers,” says Bruce Doroshuk, president of the association, who is a benchman saw filer at Tolko’s Armstrong, B.C sawmill. “And with the mills increasing production, new saw lines are being installed, so there is also a need to manage new cutting systems.” Then there is the challenge of re-starting sawmills that have been shut down for several years.
All of this work means the demand for skilled people has gone up—but some have moved on. “When the mills shut down and curtailed during the downturn, a lot of trades people moved to the oil and gas industry,” says Doroshuk.
Now, he says, it’s the job of the industry to not only lure some of these highly experienced trades people back—but in the case of saw filers, make sure there will be new workers in the mills, through apprenticeship programs. In B.C., those programs are offered by Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
“Speaking for our trade, I think the forest companies and management have realized that they are going to have to start doing more training in-house because the opportunities to hire experienced saw filers from the outside are going to be fewer and fewer—and that involves getting involved with the apprenticeship program.”
Bringing the issue to the forefront now, and especially over the next few years, are plain demographics. “The demographics for all qualified trades people, saw filers included, mean that we are going to have a huge number of guys retiring from the sawfiling rooms. In the next five years, we are going to see an exodus of guys, just due to retirement.”
The industry is starting to step up, on a mill by mill basis—Doroshuk notes they recently took on an apprentice at Tolko Armstrong—but more needs to be done. “We’ve got to look to the future.”
Pretty much all of the forest companies have stated that getting and keeping employees and trades people is a top priority for them.
One term for what needs to be done is “successorship management”, says Doroshuk.
“It means when you decide to retire and leave the sawfiling room, you are succeeded by someone who is qualified to take your position, so the sawmill does not miss a beat in production.”
Apprentices are great, says Doroshuk, but it will still be a while before they have the breadth of experience of the retiring saw filers. “It’s very difficult to replace 120-plus years of experience when you have three or four guys retire in a shop.” Many of the saw filers each have 30 or 40 years’ experience, and in the early part of their career, they moved from mill to mill, giving them a wide breadth of experience. “The experience these guys have are not just from one shop—it might be from two or three mills,” he explained.
And it’s through events such as their annual convention and trade show that the B.C. Saw Filers Association is able to help individuals and the industry make the transition to the next generation of saw filers—and provide saw filers with a terrific venue for exchanging experiences and information.
“Our conference provides the opportunity for relationships to develop with filers from other mills—quite often, you’ll see guys breaking off into groups of three or four, to sit down and talk about sawing problems, issues and successes they might have had at their individual mill. It’s industry and trade oriented at a grass roots level.”
Saw filers use tools, such as the internet and e-mail, to keep discussions ongoing, and are not constrained by geography or the many companies they represent.
“We’re proud of the fact that we’re not only an educational group, but we are also a facilitator of building those relationships,” says Doroshuk.
He notes there is much to learn at the conference through conversations, in seminars, small group discussions, or one-on-one discussions. New filers especially can benefit from rubbing shoulders with experienced filers, having meaningful discussions, and gleaning their knowledge and experience.
“The membership of the B.C. Saw Filers Association is made up of a dedicated and progressive group of filers that focus on cooperation and education,” he says. “Our aim is to encourage sharing knowledge and resources for the benefit of all involved in the saw filing trade. I think the value our conference brings to all saw filers, and in turn, the saw mills they represent, is enormous. Our primary focus, as always, is educational.”
The trade show component will feature more than 30 different companies. Companies such as Hodgson Saw, of Salmon Arm, B.C. will be exhibiting, and have all the company’s V top saws in its booth, for various applications from planer mill trim saws and remanufacturing saws through to board plant saws.
Saw filers will be able to see the absolute latest in filing technology, some of which reflect the trend towards automation.
“There are pieces of equipment and automation that do facilitate and help in terms of the sawfiling process,” says Doroshuk. “Robotics have been in the picture for a while for saw manufacturers, and they are starting to develop robotics for the actual filing rooms, and automatic levelers and tensioners.”
But all this has to be overseen by people who are experienced. “You still need people who have the skillset and the ability to set up an auto tensioner to your shop standards.” He added that saw filers often have to be quite resourceful. “It not always black and white—if you are having difficulty sawing or want to try something new, you need to have the ability and confidence to try something new and program that into the piece of equipment.” It involves thinking outside the box, so to speak.
“There are certain basic principles that you must follow as a saw filer to be successful, but once those basics are taken care of, there are a lot of new things that you try, whether it involves a new piece of equipment or perhaps a new thickness of saw plate. If you have the proper skill set and confidence, there should not be a sawing problem you can’t solve”
The trade show runs Friday April 25th from noon until 7 pm. On Saturday the 26th association will be conducting its annual AGM, have a key note speaker, educational presentations and an open forum discussion to discuss relevant current issues.
Bruce Doroshuk wanted to express the thanks of the B.C. Saw Filer’s Association executive to all its members, the sponsoring companies and its suppliers for their commitment, all of whom make the conference as success.
In addition to the trade show, there will be a wealth of sawfiling information presented at the conference. Following are the presentations:
Resource Training Organization (RTO)
Ed Jarvis from Resource Training Organization (RTO) will be providing an update on the apprenticeship/educational program. RTO was established in 2007 to oversee the management and development of apprenticeship training for the resource sector in B.C., and represents a cross sectoral group of employers in the pulp and paper, solid wood, mining and smelting, oil and gas, shipbuilding and repair and utilities sectors. Information will be provided to employers regarding sponsoring an apprentice and program information regarding the Saw Filer trade.
RTO notes that the new program model was launched in the fall of 2013. The core saw filer program is a two-level program, culminating with a BC Certificate of Qualification (C of Q). Three technical training classes have been completed at Thompson Rivers University (Williams Lake Campus) since the fall of 2013. These include two level 1 classes and one level 2 class. A communique was sent out to employers by RTO in early 2014, summarizing the new program model. Information also was provided regarding registering employees as apprentices (with contact info for the Industry Training Authority) as well as upcoming course delivery schedules (with contact info for Thompson Rivers University).
During his presentation, Dave Carlson of Rockwell Industries will be talking about saw guides, aluminum and steel, and—a critical area—their behavior during machining. He will also review saw guide lubrication systems, oil and water consumption and the right mix, along with water conservation and oil conservation. Carlson will also talk on sawing with absolute control of the cant—“If you need more control, add more control.”
As noted, and of high interest to the industry, Carlson will be talking about enticing and training young people for the saw filing trade, as well as convincing experienced filers to come out of retirement to train new filers, and having the mills pay for the training.
Brunson Instrument Company
Brunson Instrument Company, a world leader in geometric alignment solutions for over 80 years, will be at the conference. In addition to providing sawmill alignment services and training, Brunson offers a Sawmill Kit to improve recovery by reducing board deviation, eliminating wedge and extending saw life. The kit can be used on all machine centers.
Brent Grisamore and Steve Addington from Brunson will be presenting at the conference. The presentation will include an alignment video, which walks through the steps of lining up a popular primary breakdown, Chip ‘n Saw. The Brunson speakers will also talk about the benefits of employing a precision alignment program in mills, and the Brunson transit (optical instrument) shooting key machine center components. They will also go over the company’s Sawmill Kit, its components and how they are used.
John White, Innovation Support Specialist, Machine and Saw Performance Group (High Speed Sawing component), and Bruce Lehmann, Associate Research Leader, Machine and Saw Performance, of FP Innovations, will be talking about high speed circular sawing and saw stability at the conference.
Changing the operating parameters, saw design or arbor speeds of circular saw machine centers in a production setting is a risky proposition. Mistakes can result in decreased sawing accuracy reducing product value and recovery, increasing downtime and maintenance costs. Although feedspeed changes are straightforward to make and undo, other changes are not. For example, increasing saw arbor speeds may require new sheaves and belts to be procured and installed, and the arbor bearings and lube system to be upgraded. Incorrectly choosing the new arbor speed can have a significant negative effect on saw stability due to inherent critical speed instabilities.
Saw arbor speeds are limited by three main factors: tooth speed, bearing speed and saw critical speeds. The presentation will discuss the limitations of arbor speeds due to the saw critical speed and stability.
Traditionally, operation of circular saws at the critical speed has not been recommended; however, current research is showing that while large diameter saws should not be operated around the first critical speed, smaller diameter saws can successfully be operated at or above the first critical speed.
The upper limit on arbor speeds for small saws seems to be limited by a phenomenon dubbed “flutter instability” that occurs near the second critical speed. Operating a saw in the region of flutter instability will result in very high saw vibration and guide wear. Poor cutting accuracy under these conditions can be expected.
Results of research into the production of fine sawdust from circular saw machines will also be discussed during the FPInnovations presentation, which has important implications for fine dust management and compliance with safety directives.
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