By Paul MacDonald
When it comes to upgrades, it’s said that the best operating sawmills are really never really finished—they are always a work in progress.
The Teal-Jones Group and its operations in B.C. are a textbook example of that. The company’s Surrey sawmill on the Fraser River, east of Vancouver, has made a number of improvements in recent years. The most recent is the installation of a new Springer Microtec Goldeneye 900 Multi-Sensor Scanner—an investment that is already paying off for the company.
“The new scanner has allowed us to achieve more flexibility in mill production, as we provide a wide range of very diverse products to customers all over the world,” says Dick Jones, Chief Operating Officer of the Teal-Jones Group.
“Our company has a long history of commitment to international markets for our lumber products,” he explained. “The Goldeneye 900 Scanner has reduced our trim-loss, improved on-grade accuracy and allows us to produce multiple customer runs at the same time.”
The Teal-Jones Group produces a wide range of solid wood products including high quality decorative products, structural lumber for housing and general construction, special sizes and grades for remanufacturing, as well as utility and lower grade products suitable for pallets, packaging and other industrial uses.
To say they turn out a huge multitude of wood products would be an extreme understatement—and now they can do that more efficiently.
The Goldeneye 900 Multi-Sensor Quality Scanner with transverse feeding is the first of its kind running in a North American sawmill, says Springer Microtec. The scanner was installed directly into the Teal-Jones mill line without height modification or elevation changes, and fit with the special “occlusionless” conveyor chain by Springer, meaning only 0.2 inches of the bottom surface is hidden for each chain run. This enables full visual detection combined with 3D laser triangulation scans for defects on all four surfaces in a single scanner frame at the same time, which is carried out without board turning.
The scanner is said to be ideal for sawmills, scanning, grading and sorting rough lumber and to optimizing trimming. Dry sorting and optimization in planer mills before secondary wood processing and remanufacturing is also possible. The optimizer is capable of evaluating re-edging, re-sawing and cut-in-two products.
The equipment utilizes next generation transverse lumber scanning. By detecting and localizing all types of knots as well as cracks, discoloration, pitch pockets, wanes, curvature and other dimensional defects, the scanner allows mills such as Teal-Jones to automate, streamline and optimize all further production steps. The value optimization software implements customer specific grading, trimming and sorting rules.
Dan Doyle, mill manager at the Teal-Jones mill, and Allan Bose, electrical superintendent at the mill, explained that they had been looking for equipment to improve the mill’s optimization for some time.
“It emerged as our number one project,” says Doyle. “We talked with a number of vendors, and at the end of the day, the equipment had to deal with our requirements—and one of those requirements was the fact that we were changing over cutting programs all the time.”
“In the end Springer Microtec’s system was the best fit with what we have,” Doyle added.
The previous optimization system had more than done its duty; it had been brought in from one of the other company mill operations. “Using that system was one of the ways we were able to keep the cost reasonable, when we built the mill years ago,” says Bose.
“But with the old system, we could not get as accurate a scan as we wanted—the scan density was too low.”
As a result, Bose explained, they were experiencing trim loss and falldown, especially with product they were drying and dressing. They were experiencing the same with the product that is shipped out green, too.
“It meant that the front end of the mill had to compensate for the lack of trimmer optimization accuracy by making sure the product we eventually produced was almost too good,” said Bose.
“We felt that with better scanner accuracy, we could reduce our trim loss and falldown numbers, and get a decent payback.”
Most of the work for the scanner installation was done in-house by Teal-Jones’ own employees. Bose did the mechanical and electrical engineering for the project. They had a contractor, Gravelle Mill Construction, which they have used for numerous projects at the mill, also help out.
The start-up technicians from Springer Microtec were “phenomenal”, says Bose. “The installation really went flawlessly—everything was looked after.”
There was a great fit between the Springer Microtec tech people and the Teal-Jones employees.
“Our technicians were very impressed with the capabilities of the Teal- Jones team and consequent smoothness of the start-up,” said Norvin Laudon, chief technical officer, Springer Microtec North America. “In terms of preparation, professionalism, and competence, the group’s personnel are right up there with the rest of the teams we’ve worked with around the world.”
Mill manager Dan Doyle said a good degree of the ultimate success of any mill project lies in the planning—and this project was no exception.
“We had a lot of communication back and forth with Springer Microtec before the project started, so there were no surprises. We knew what was going to happen.”
The equipment calibration took a fair bit of time, but this was accounted for in the schedule, and the plan. They built in a couple of days’ time to do testing of the new scanner.
“There are literally dozens of cameras on the scanner equipment, so it really is not a surprise that it would take time to calibrate,” says Bose.
From the get-go, they planned to do the installation during a maintenance shutdown at the mill.
“It really fit well with the shutdown,” says Doyle. “In addition to the optimizer installation, we were able to do a bunch of different things that had been on the To-Do list for a long time.” Safety is a high priority at the company, and there were some safety upgrades that they wanted to do.
All in, the shutdown was for 10 days.
Doyle talked about the very methodical way they planned the install and other associated tasks down during the shut.
“We got together as a group, and listed the tasks on a whiteboard, and put hours to each task—and we ran out of space, so we had to use another whiteboard, to list everything we wanted to do,” he says.
When they were finished talking—sometimes loudly, says Bose, with a smile—they took photos of the lists on the whiteboard.
“We held to that plan—but we gained time once we started into the project. The hours it took for each job went down because we were more efficient once we got going.
“Any successful venture like this comes down to good planning,” summarizes Doyle.
The planning included the mill’s quality control people, Kelly Murray and Leif Lynum, working on the optimization software weeks before installation. They did a lot of modifications to the software along the way, which was essential for the Teal-Jones mill.
In terms of the software, an off-the shelf system would not have worked for them, said Bose. “We really needed a custom system with capabilities for modifications, because of the large number of sorts and the upwards of 10 per cent of product that is returned to the mill for remanufacturing,” he explained.
“Springer Microtec had to greatly modify their system to work for us—but they were willing to do that. There was risk on their part in doing that, and our part, too. But it worked out fine.”
The bar was set high, in effect, in terms of the custom changes for the Teal-Jones project—but it was reached.
“It gave us what we needed,” said Bose. “But by doing that, there will also be a marketing advantage to Springer Microtec, too, I think,” says Bose. “If they can make the system work for a demanding customer like us, well, they can make it work for anyone.”
The planning that went into the project was a worthwhile investment of time and people, says Doyle. “We planned the heck out of it,” he says. “Everyone’s input was encouraged.”
And once they had the plan, it was communicated, from the mill office to the mill floor, to get people committed. “From the welders to the production people, we wanted to get people revved up about the project ahead of time,” says Doyle.
Employee training for the new system, Bose says, was done in two ways. “Because we were doing our own installation, employees got very familiar with the layout, the components and how it was all going to come together. And during the installation, Springer Microtec people also did training of the Teal-Jones crews.
“There was very close co-ordination between Spring Microtec and Teal- Jones during the install—lots of back and forth.”
The end result: the mill is now seeing significant efficiencies and improvements in lumber recovery.
“Before the system went in, we had to account for the lack of optimization detail—and product sometimes had to go through our planer, which is off-site.
“With the new scanner, we no longer have to do that—the product coming off the line is exactly what the customer wants. The sizes are just bang on.”
With CLS lumber, for example, it had previously required trimming, and they were losing six to seven per cent on pieces. “That goes to chips,” says Dan Dewar, production manager at the mill. “But now we have that six per cent down to 2.5 per cent—saving that 3.5 per cent in lumber recovery is huge for us.”
“There is payback for us every day, too, with that lumber now not having to go through the planer,” says Dewar.
Doyle and Bose noted the mill is still working on the opportunities the new scanning equipment has created—and happily so. “It’s not a matter of clicking a switch to do all this—it means adding features, and were experimenting with the cuts we do,” says Bose.
“Once the scanner was in, it has had a ripple effect on the sawmill upstream and downstream, to make efficiencies and changes.” Machine centres can be fine-tuned to run better and more efficiently.
And they have continuing support from Springer-Microtec in doing that. The mill has access to a full-time technician that Springer Microtec has hired (brought from Italy), who is based in the Lower Mainland.
The scanner changes build on a mill that has been evolving in recent years.
It goes back a ways, but Teal–Jones’s owners Dick and Tom Jones have to receive full credit for seeing the future of coastal sawmilling—and investing in the mill—big time. The result of that vision was a new $30 million sawmill built in 2003. The new mill was considered a watershed for the industry, in that it was the first new major sawmill to be built on the B.C. Coast in a very long time.
The mill is specifically designed to handle smaller second growth timber, rather than the large old growth wood that has been the mainstay of mills in this area of B.C. Illustrating the focus on smaller wood, the mill can handle as small as a four-inch top through to a 10-inch top.
The mill was designed with the overall goal that production should be extremely flexible. The idea is to get the broadest production and return from the investment in the mill and from the logs—they did not want to be stuck producing for one particular situation or market. The mill was set up so they can move into or out of markets—sometimes in a matter of hours.
Even though the project cost $30 million, that budget figure could have easily doubled if the Jones brothers and their employees had not been resourceful. Instead of buying all new equipment, and having to bump up the dollars, they elected to source most of the mill equipment through mill sales and auctions.
There was little in the way of new equipment on site, when it was initially built. At the front end, logs were run through a single 22-inch Nicholson debarker and an SKS Engineering designed cut-off saw system. SKS did the design of the mill, and worked closely with the Teal-Jones people. “We had Steve Deakin from SKS working from our office in the mill, so if we had any questions or issues, he was right across the desk from me,” says Bose.
They can put up to a 24-inch log through the Optimil canter, with cants then sent through to a McGeehee vertical gang saw. The canter line is optimized with software from Porter Engineering, determining what the best cut is based on the wide markets the mill has.
The Flare International combination bull/gang edger, one of the few pieces of new equipment when the mill was built, can take up to a 12-inch cant. There is also USNR resaw equipment and further along the process are a Schurman/USNR optimized edger and Newnes trimming equipment.
Besides using expertise from the supplier side, the company relied mostly on in-house staff for building the mill, which was about a year in the works.
While the new mill used mainly used equipment, it relied upon the services of a number of core suppliers to help link the equipment together, and get it up to speed. These included Optimil which supplied PLC programming and mechanical set-up, Coe-Newnes which did trimmer optimizer programming, Lucidyne which did sorter control, USNR-Perceptron who handled optimized edger programming, and Porter Engineering which did the canter line programming. SKS Engineering handled the mechanical aspects of the project and were structural engineers. Gravelle Mechanical Contracting did the main mill mechanical installation. ISM handled the building erection and log end steel fabrication. Kay-Son Steel Fabricators did the main building steel fabrication. A C Nelson and Forest Electric handled the electrical installations. Pottinger Gaherty were environmental consultants.
In addition to the Springer Mictotec scanning equipment, there have been other upgrades to the mill.
“We’ve been fine-tuning the operations at the mill,” says Allan Bose, who was involved with building the mill, in 2003. “We’ve been busy upgrading equipment here and there throughout the mill.”
At the log end, they replaced their debarker with a twin-ring Nicholson A8 debarker. They have since upgraded the software canter optimization with Porter Engineering. They also upgraded the edger with equipment from Optimil and scanning from USNR, and added a 4 head, 8 axis profiler from Optimil, to the canter line.
“We’re constantly looking at what’s out there, both in terms of new equipment and online, at the mill auctions. We try to approach it from a multipronged perspective—we look at the new equipment at the shows such as in Portland, and what is available for sale in used equipment. And we also look at designing and making equipment in-house, too.”
The driving force is to make the operation more efficient. “The goals are always going to be getting higher production, number two is improved recovery, and the third goal is to better meet customer needs.”
Mill manager Dan Doyle explains that the mill, and Teal-Jones in general, is very “customer-centric”.
“Tom and Dick Jones are extremely customer focused, and so are the operations,” he explains. “Almost everything we do at the mill is based on what the customer wants and needs.
“There are sometimes products we turn out for customers that are not terribly profitable for us—but it helps build customer relationships. We face world-wide competition—and we need to keep our customer’s business.”
The mill is somewhat different in that it does not cut into stock—they cut to customer orders. “There are plenty of times when we are cutting for five different markets around the world—we market to a huge number of countries,” says Doyle.
As a result there are a lot of changeovers at the mill. “Our order list at the mill is kind of like a grocery list type order list.”
But cutting for these multiple markets earns them business—and repeat business. “There are some mills out there that can’t be bothered with doing this type of business, with smaller volumes.” They just want to churn out product from a limited cut list, he notes.
“It isn’t easy, but we are good at doing the changeovers quickly—and we’ve got good at doing a lot of different cuts,” says Doyle. A long production run for them might be eight days, and a short production run could be eight hours.
Just how wide is the variety of products? According to one of the mill’s quality control people, Kelly Murray, the mill produces a staggering 50,000 different types of products, for markets all over the world, offering huge diversity.
“We still watch what is going on with the U.S. regarding softwood lumber, but this approach insulates us a bit against the ups and downs in that market—we know we have other markets we can produce for.
“And this new investment in Springer-Microtec scanning equipment will help us deal with the moves in the market going forward,” he added.
On the Cover:
Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, with its operations including stump-to-dump contract logging operations in Mackenzie and Cranbrook, B.C. and Saskatchewan, post and peeling facilities and two pressure treating plants, and, most recently a chipping operation. Read all about Jemi Fibre beginning on page 10 of this issue (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
Spotlight – First Nations forestry in Ontario
A local forest management corporation has been launched in northwestern Ontario to help provide economic development opportunities to First Nations and it’s now been followed by a new First Nations-owned logging enterprise, Mkwa Timber, that is supplying timber to local mills.
Logging, manufacturing …and more
B.C.’s Jemi Fibre Corporation does just about a bit of everything in the forest industry, from logging through to added value manufacturing—and it’s looking to do more, says company president, Mike Jenks.
Workhorse wood chipper
Sutco Contracting is one of the leading trucking companies in B.C. , but it also has a chipping division—BC EcoChips—that does contract chipping with what the company describes as a “workhorse”: a Peterson 5000H chipper.
New scanner eyes mill improvements
The Teal-Jones sawmill in Surrey, B.C. has seen a number of equipment additions over the years—the most recent one came earlier this year with a new Springer Microtec Goldeneye 900 Multi-Sensor Scanner that is reducing the mill’s trim loss and improving its on-grade accuracy.
Field testing Cat’s new 538 forest machine
Veteran B.C. logger Alfred Poole was a clear choice for field testing a new piece of Cat equipment—the new Cat 538 forest machine, which came equipped with a SATCO 323T processing head—and he reports it offers good power, and is stingy when it comes to fuel consumption.
From carpenter...to logger
Nova Scotia’s Justin Thibault tried his hand as a carpenter and crewing on fish boats, but he found that logging suited him better—and has recently expanded his iron line-up with a new Tigercat/LogMax harvester to work alongside another Tigercat/LogMax harvester, and his Ecolog and John Deere forwarders
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.
The Last Word
It’s time to clamp down on unrestricted ATV access to unprotected public lands, says Tony Kryzanowski.