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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

August/September 2015

On the Cover:
Tolko’s Lavington, B.C. sawmill has recently seen a major upgrade that positions the operation well as lumber markets move in a healthy direction, with increased lumber demand, both in North America, and overseas. Read about the major improvements at the Lavington mill beginning on page 14 (Photo of Tolko mill by Paul MacDonald).

Learning from others
Canada’s forest industry will have to implement various approaches to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a skilled workforce—and it can learn from other industries and companies, from Apple to Telus, on how to do this.

Re-start for Resolute sawmill
Resolute Forest Products recently re-started its Ignace, Ontario sawmill, having invested $10 million on improvements, with a strong focus on the infeed area so that the mill can now receive cut-to-length logs exclusively.

New headrig and optimization improvements for Tolko Lavington
Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmill has undergone a significant upgrade—involving installing a new headrig from Salem Equipment and associated controls from USNR—that has delivered a solid improvement in recovery.

Rain Forest Sawmill … in the rainforest
Dale Crumback has recently moved from sawyer to company owner at B.C.’s Rain Forest Sawmill, and things are hopping these days with a wide range of customers looking for a variety of wood produced from their biodiesel-powered Wood-Mizer LT 70 sawmill.

Logging ‘n lobsters
New Brunswick logging contractor Drew Conley juggles running a logging operation—with most of the wood going across the line, to Maine—with helping out in the family fishing outfit, catching lobster.

Resolute’s wood pellets now generating power for Ontario
Resolute Forest Products recently completed construction of a $9 million wood pellet plant in Thunder Bay to supply Ontario Power Generation’s power plant in Atikokan with wood pellets as a fuel substitute.

Busy woodlot a welcome sign
One of the primary motivations in establishing the CVWPA woodyard was to diversify wood product production and, in turn, supply diversified markets.

Fearless Contracting: not afraid of diversifying
Vancouver Island’s Fearless Contracting is finding the best business approach is diversification, and as part of that, it is increasingly doing logging work on B.C. Timber Sales, for other larger logging contractors, and for log brokers on the Island.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions.

The Last Word
With the federal election coming up, Jim Stirling says there may be a mood shift underway with voters, which could yield some surprising results.

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Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmilHeadrig and optimization improvements deliver the goods for Tolko Lavington

Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmill has undergone a significant upgrade—involving installing a new headrig from Salem Equipment and associated controls from USNR—that has delivered a solid improvement in recovery.

The major improvement at the Lavington sawmill involved installing a new headrig from Salem Equipment, and associated controls.

By Paul MacDonald

Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmill has a rich heritage.

A planer mill on the Lavington site was actually the first forest industry operation started up by Vernon, B.C.-based Tolko Industries, whose sawmill, OSB and pulp mill operations now span B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with sales to more than 30 countries.

Company founder Harold Thorlakson established the Lavington mill back in 1956. These days, the third generation of the Thorlakson family, Brad Thorlakson, heads up the company, as president and CEO.

The Lavington sawmill drew upon that heritage—and the resourcefulness of its employees—to make it through the most recent industry downturn.

“We were really no different than any other sawmill—it was looking within the mill and trying to figure out how to be more efficient and extract more lumber,” explained Dave Gillespie, who was acting manager of Lavington, but now heads up Tolko’s sawmill in High Level, in northern Alberta.

Lavington employees got very creative and resourceful with maintenance practices, from looking closely at area-based maintenance and machine centres, to partnering with suppliers to ensure equipment performance levels were reached.

“The next step was taking the existing equipment and looking at how to utilize it to produce more—recover more lumber and improve grade outturns,” says Gillespie. “We did a lot of work on that. The guys really hunkered down to figure out how to weather the storm, and we came out stronger than when we went in.”

The results were impressive. The Lavington mill came out of the downturn being able to produce in two shifts what used to take three shifts.

One of the key values of Tolko is that it seeks to be progressive in its operations, and that includes working to keep their mills productive, with up-to-date machinery.

Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmilThe Lavington sawmill has recently seen a major upgrade that positions the operation well as lumber markets move in a healthy direction, with increased lumber demand, both in North America, and overseas.

And along the way, they were able to help out two other Tolko lumber mills improve their operations.

The major improvement at Lavington involved installing a new headrig, and associated controls.

“We knew it was time for a change at the mill,” explained Gillespie, who oversaw the project at Lavington.

The operation has two primary breakdown lines: the typical double-length infeed line, and the headrig line.

The Lavington mill has a Nicholson A7 ring debarker and a Comact double-length infeed two-faced canter twin band combination. The mill has two USNR gangs.

On the large log line, the headrig, which was bought used at an auction in nearby Grand Forks, has more than paid for itself over the years. “It has been running for many years, and was an effective machine, and very versatile,” said Gillespie. “But we needed to update the technology.

“Looking at our timber profile going forward, we could see that our log size in the region was increasing, and we needed to make changes so we could effectively utilize the larger logs that we would be consuming at Lavington. We knew that we needed to increase the throughput and recovery on that piece of equipment.”

The timber profile in the region is changing. With the reduction of mountain pine beetle kill wood, there is now higher elevation spruce, and Douglas fir, both of which are larger dimensions.

It was time for a major change—and the change came in the form of a new headrig from Salem Equipment, and significant controls and optimization improvements from USNR.

Around the same time, and on a broader basis, Tolko was looking at making mill improvements at two other operations.

“Tolko operates three headrigs in its eight sawmill operations, and all three were of an age that the company was looking at different variations of improvements,” explained Gillespie.

Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmilThe two other operations with headrigs are the Nicola Valley Division in Merritt, B.C. and the Lakeview Lumber operation in Williams Lake.

But Lavington was the first to make the improvements—and started doing some legwork on their new headrig first.

“When you’re talking about headrigs, there really isn’t a long list of suppliers any more—you’re starting with a pretty short list,” says Gillespie. “It did not take long for us to shorten the list based on products and service. And then we went to tour operations, to see different headrigs in operation.”

The tour included sawmill operations in Canada and the U.S., and lots of discussion that followed, to arrive at the decision on what equipment, controls, and optimization would best suit Lavington.

A cross-functional team of mill employees was formed to review the equipment, and how it might fit with the Lavington mill.

Gillespie points out that the Lavington mill is quite different from most B.C. Interior mills; the headrig operates more like a coastal B.C. mill that cuts to grade.

“We’re not the standard interior headrig operation that utilizes the oversized wood from the timber profile. We’re taking that wood and cutting vertical grain clears, posts, free of heart centre products, timbers, beams, customer grade and tally.”

Essentially, they want to extract the maximum margin out of that larger timber profile. “We look at the headrig and associated controls as our margin machine,” says Gillespie.

One of the must-haves for the new headrig was that it had to be good fit, literally, at Lavington—there wasn’t a lot of room for making adjustments at the existing sawmill facility.

“With our project, we were doing the headrig replacement in location—we were not looking at setting up a new building. We were looking for something that would fit into the existing spot where the headrig was already—essentially in the middle of our mill.”

The replacement of the headrig was a major project. “We took the roof off around that part of the sawmill,” says Gillespie. “And we took it right down to the slab and the dirt.

“The old headrig was a dual circular saw, and the new one is a double cut bandsaw, so we had to build a new structure from the basement all the way up.”

Tolko Industries’ Lavington, B.C. sawmilOregon-based Salem Equipment built the headrig, the carriage and all the associated iron—the infeed deck and the outfeed deck. Salem also provided a Key Knife slabber. Using drawings supplied by SKS Engineering, the TEBO Group of Delta, B.C. installed the headrig, and Summit Electric did the electrical work.

To take advantage of the usually fine weather in the B.C. Okanagan region, they scheduled the work for the middle of the summer of 2014. They planned for a 23-day shutdown, and it came in at 27 days due to some additional work that had to be done around the project. “With any large project in an older mill, there are a few surprises with a major shut” says Gillespie.

The new headrig itself was important. But so were the upgraded controls and optimization that would deliver the improved speed and flexibility the mill wanted.

“To give us the optimization capabilities to do that, USNR, we believe, had the best flexibility for us.”

It’s also a good fit with the operation since they already have USNR’s MillExpert optimization systems on their gangs, trimmer and board edger, and they have USNR’s Lineal High Grader system in their planer. “It’s technology that we are familiar with, and we’ve been happy with its performance.”

The upgrade has been very good at keeping logs moving in the mill, says Gillespie. “Depending on where they are loading the log, they can be just 18 inches away from making contact with the first cutting tool—we didn’t want the operator to be waiting.”

There were not a lot of equipment changes required to the mill to handle the upgrade, says Gillespie. “We had planned to make some upgrades to our large gang saw to handle the extra volume of the larger material. But the other changes involved the way the overall mill operated, more than anything—how material flowed within the mill. The guys were very good at getting together and determining how to operate the mill differently.” Mill employees were a huge part of why the upgrade was so successful, Gillespie said.

The focus throughout the project was on better recovery. “We weren’t trying to consume more volume, though that did occur—our goal was to improve recovery.”

With the upgrade, they have realized a material improvement in recovery.

Through the late summer and early fall of 2014, some tweaking was required, which is not surprising with new equipment and controls. “There was an expected start-up curve both in terms of recovery and throughput. Part of it was our people getting familiar with the optimization, and working with a bandsaw vs. a round saw—but the equipment suppliers and our people worked well together.”

To get a head start on that, a group of employees—including sawyers, electricians, production and quality control people—went down to the USNR office in Eugene, Oregon, for training.

“They were able to get training on the controls so they could get familiar with what the system was capable of doing, and how it could meet our needs, and what we might be able to do prior to the installation. The guys were very familiar with what we were getting.” And what they were getting was state-of-the-art mill control and optimizer systems.

The project was successful, and much of that was due to the people involved—the equipment selection team, the project planning team, the construction team and the start-up group, says Gillespie. There was a core group of people involved with all of these teams. “Like a lot of projects, its success was due to the right decisions being made, and having benchmarks in place to ensure the equipment achieved the levels of performance.”

What they were able to learn throughout the process was shared with the Tolko operations in Merritt and Williams Lake, which were undergoing similar optimization and control upgrades. “That is part of Tolko’s approach of sharing best practices between the mills, which allows us to leverage the innovations at all the Tolko operations,” says Gillespie.

For Gillespie, being involved with the upgrade—and what it is now delivering—was very fulfilling. “It’s a big project, challenging and rewarding—it’s not often you get the chance to be involved with a major project such as installing a new headrig at a mill. And we’re very pleased with the result.”

Now that Gillespie has moved over to Tolko’s mill in High Level, he has turned the reins at Lavington over to Stephane Bouchard, the new plant manager. Bouchard is enthusiastic about the new headrig, and the controls and optimization improvements. All the ingredients are in place—the people and the equipment—for it to deliver the goods, big time, he believes. “It’s very exciting,”
he says.