By Paul MacDonald
The Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. is one heck of a busy place these days. The two-line sawmill turns out upwards of 300 million board feet of SPF lumber annually, and is in the process of being upgraded.
Producing that amount of lumber requires a smooth running operation, most importantly in the millyard, and in feeding logs into the mill.
Two new Volvo machines are now ably helping the Weyerhaeuser-Princeton millyard manage log operations—and improve its efficiency, both on the infeed side, and in chip handling.
Last year, the mill purchased two new Volvo wheel loaders from B.C. Volvo dealer, Great West Equipment, a Volvo L350F and a Volvo L150H. The machines are working out well, and the service level from Great West Equipment is hitting the mark, so much so that Weyerhaeuser-Princeton has ordered another L350F wheel loader.
The Weyerhaeuser-Princeton millyard features a good sampling of heavy equipment names—Link-Belt, Cat, Madill, Hitachi, Komatsu and Wagner. “They are all good machines,” says Jim “Slim” Norman, maintenance supervisor at the millyard.
The mill’s approach when looking at new equipment is to solicit at least three, and sometimes as many as five, quotes from dealers. The quotes, and of course the specs of the specific machines, are then evaluated. And this time around with the wheel loaders, Great West Equipment won out, with its Volvo equipment and a promise to provide a very high level of service.
And it has delivered on that, says Norman. “So far, so good,” he added. He notes a rep from Great Western checks in at the operation weekly, in person—sometimes with Timbits.
Service is top of the list when making an equipment purchase decision, explained Norman. “We’re looking for good service and parts support from the dealers we work with,” he said.
“At the time we were looking for loaders, Great West did not have any equipment in our ‘neighborhood’.”
There were a few Volvo pieces in a local mine. But Great West was very interested in establishing more of a presence on the mill side and in the forest industry. “We’re kind of the first guys to get this equipment in the area.”
And Great West is making sure the Volvo wheel loaders are supported. “They’ve been very good on the service side,” says Norman.
Their service needs are pretty straightforward, he says. “When we ask someone to be here, they need to be here, and when we need a part, we need it here pretty quickly. As long as they can keep that up, we’re good.”
The Volvo L350F has been particularly productive at the Weyerhaeuser mill. The machine is equipped with a specially engineered Weldco-Beales grapple. The log grapple is an M38 model, with capacity of 46.6 square feet. It can take a full bite of both short logs and long logs, up to 55 feet in length.
Equipped with the grapple, the L350F is able to feed the mill from both the short log and long log hot decks into the infeed. With a machine this size, and with the grapple, the mill is able to reduce the number of machine cycles since it is carrying more volume to the infeed. The unit features Volvo’s D16 Tier 3 engine, which delivers 528 hp.
“The grapple is working well for us,” says Norman. “We needed a grapple like that for working with our long logs and short logs.” They wanted to up the volume of cut-to-length logs being handled by their loaders—and the grapple-equipped L350F seems to be doing the trick.
“It’s specially designed by Weldco-Beales to give us a large volume of cut-to-length logs and be able to handle the long logs, without overloading.”
The Weldco-Beales log grapple has provided solid performance, with no tweaking or adjustments necessary. Norman notes he applied a little maintenance trick he learned from the bush to the machine. “We put a little bit of plating on the bottom of the grapple, and underneath the tips. It helps keep the wear down.” The plating is replaced on a regular basis.
The machine has had a very significant impact on production—pretty much doing double the volume of a predecessor loader. In addition to transporting logs more efficiently to the mill infeed, that kind of productivity means the L350F is also able to help out elsewhere in the yard, when it is not feeding logs to the mill.
The L350F, for example, helps unload trucks if their Wagner L4115 C log stacker is busy.
“It depends on what’s going on in the yard, and with our Link-Belt 600LX log loader and the Wagner, but we’ll unload the logging trucks sometimes with the L350F.
“It can get busy here first thing in the morning, with trucks lined up to unload. Depending on the time of year, and what’s going on in the bush, that can start anytime between midnight and 6 a.m.”
The butt ‘n top equipped Link-Belt is equipped with a bypass clam grapple. In addition to unloading trucks, the Link-Belt also does log sorting, and stacks logs on the yard’s decks during the delivery season. The machine then breaks down the high decks, as the wood is needed.
The Volvo L150H handles things at the other end of the mill, in that it loads trucks from the chip pile, as well as hog fuel. It has several quick attach buckets, to separately handle those materials, and to make sure the wood chips are kept clean. It features Volvo’s new D13J Final Tier 4 engine, which delivers 300 hp.
At such a busy mill, there is a huge focus on equipment uptime. The mill runs two 10-hour shifts a day, Monday to Thursday, and a 12-hour shift each day, Friday to Sunday. So they need mobile equipment that delivers, day-in, day-out.
“Our loaders are a big part of the mill operation—we need to be able to deliver the logs to the sawmill from the yard, seven days a week.”
Related to that, there is a strong focus on preventative maintenance.
“I’m very detailed about the maintenance program we have,” says Norman, who cut his teeth in the forest industry doing equipment maintenance out in the bush and for the mining industry, in B.C.
“We service and fix equipment on schedule—we’re very diligent about doing our 250, 500, 750 and 1,000 hour servicing. We’re usually within about 20 hours of that mark. That’s something that I was brought up with when I worked on the logging side—and we stick with it, because it works well.”
Having experience on the logging equipment side has proved helpful at times, says Norman. The equipment can be similar, though a bit different. “With the butt ‘n top and wheel loaders, it’s a bit smaller out in the bush, but it’s the same idea.”
When it comes to getting uptime from their millyard equipment, Norman says the most important thing is preventative maintenance. “That is the single biggest thing you can do. Keep it clean, keep the heat down, and service it.”
The heavy duty mechanics at Weyerhaeuser-Princeton do a very capable job of maintaining and servicing upwards of 25 pieces of equipment in the mill yard, everything from the Volvo and other loaders, to the 10 Cat and Hyundai lift trucks on the lumber end of the yard.
The shop is busy as they have a mix of newer and some older mobile equipment. The latter stood up very well during the industry downturn, when new equipment purchases were few and far between. “The guys in the shop worked hard to keep equipment going then,” he said.
A few examples of equipment longevity: their Wagner log stacker has close to 50,000 hours on it, their Hitachi EX450 LC-5 loader has 40,000 hours, and they have two Cat 966 wheel loaders with close to 40,000 hours on them. Their Madill 4800 butt ‘n top loader has 53,000 hours on it.
“Some of them are getting up there,” says Norman. “But we look after the equipment—and it looked after us during the downturn.”
The new Volvo wheel loaders are mere youngsters in this equipment picture. This past summer, the L350F had 3500 hours on it, and the L150H had 2500 hours on the clock.
“They’re still new to us—we’re generally looking to get 20,000 hours on a piece of equipment before doing any major work on it.”
This will come as no surprise to anyone working on the mobile equipment side, but the operation has had some challenges dealing with Tier 4 Interims and Tier 4 Final engines on their equipment. To reduce emissions, these engines have Engine Control Modules (ECMs) and feature exhaust after-treatment components, such as a Diesel Particular Filters (DPFs).
“We’ve struggled with some of our equipment—it’s given us a little bit of trouble—but we’ll get there,” says Norman.
Norman says they are fortunate in that they have a good complement of younger heavy duty mechanics—such as lead hand Dave Holland—to whom new technology is second nature. “We’ve got good guys, and they do better at technology than I do—I’m a bit older,” says Norman, who is a 15-year veteran at the mill. “They’re learning a lot more technology in school now, and with their apprenticeships.”
If there are computer-related problems with equipment, the mechanics are quick to get on the dealer-supplied laptops to do some diagnostics, and if necessary, get dealer representatives on the phone.
They work from an on-site shop, with three bays to handle the smaller loaders and forklifts, and a recent shop addition to take on the larger equipment, like the Volvo L150F and the Wagner stacker.
“We try to do as much of the maintenance ourselves, as possible. We’ll sometimes go to the dealers for exchange components if it’s a major piece of production equipment. “
In terms of maintenance, the mill has factory-installed autolube systems on the new Volvo loaders, and the butt ‘n top loaders, too.
“This helps us a lot because we can have limited time for maintenance between shifts—sometimes just a little more than an hour.”
The lumber storage yard is mostly paved, as is wherever the forklifts are operating. But like many other millyards, Weyerhaeuser-Princeton has some dusty conditions to work with, at times, in its unpaved log storage area. “In the summer months, there can be a lot of dust. We try to keep the equipment clean and cool in the summer.
“Our log yard is pretty level, but it is dirt, so we can have some mud issues in the spring and fall. And since we deck wood in the winter time, there can still be some mud—and even ice and snow—under the log decks in the summer, so we have to deal with water. The equipment has to work harder to get through any mud that is in the yard. That’s always an issue with a dirt yard.”
Whenever they can, they do some grader work in the yard, to help fill in the heavily trafficked areas.
Winter is kind of welcomed, as the ground in the yard will freeze up. But the temperatures are not as severe as they used to be—with it getting -15 degrees Celsius, and perhaps as cold as -20 degrees a few days through the winter. “Growing up in Princeton, I remember it being a lot colder,” says Norman.
Norman reports their new Volvo loaders are well-equipped, with good heaters to handle the cold, and are solid ergonomically and in terms of controls. “Pretty much all the manufacturers have gone away from a steering wheel to joystick steering, and electric controls. A lot of the guys really like the joystick steering. If they are doing some fine work, though, they will switch back to the steering wheel.” He says the joystick steering and electronic controls mean operators are less tired at the end of their shifts.
With the L350F and L150H fitting
well into the Weyerhaeuser-Princeton operation, another L350F machine, this one equipped with a Weldco-Beales Pelican grapple to unload logging trucks with cut-to-length wood, will be joining the equipment ranks. The Pelican grapples are used for handling shortwood (20 ft and under) in millyard applications. The Pelican Grapple’s taller curved profile and larger envelope area delivers the higher capacity payloads required in shortwood applications, says Weldco-Beales. The profile of the grapple enables high capacity log handling or sorting with tip-to-tip precision, yet still maintains excellent visibility for the operator.
The additional L350F machine will be an especially good fit, as the mill is moving increasingly to cut-to-length wood, and away from long logs.
The processing begins at the mill with short log and long log combinations of Comact wave feeders followed by Nicholson A7 debarkers. Long logs are scanned and processed thorough a custom designed cut off saw system. The equipment on the large and small log primary breakdown lines includes Kockums CanCar (now USNR) chip ‘n saw units. On both chip ’n’ saws they use Cougar XX round saws from Cut Technologies.
MPM Engineering, of Surrey, B.C., has been involved with a number of projects at the Princeton mill, both in terms of equipment and optimization software. There are MPM Scanners on all log infeeds, primary breakdowns and trims. The mill edging equipment is Newnes, (also now USNR). The planer is a Stetson-Ross.
The mill has six double track 120’ dry kilns, from 13 MBTU to 20 MBTU, with single/double pass air flows.
As with all sawmills, the equipment and systems have evolved over the years.
Several years back, Weyerhaeuser Princeton contracted North Vancouver-based LNS Services to design, supply and install a new log processing system for short logs. This new system allows the mill to process a wider variety of logs and meet the demands of a changing marketplace. LNS worked closely with Weyerhaeuser to design an efficient system that integrated with its existing infrastructure.
A number of years ago, Lucidyne did five GradeScan installations for Weyerhaeuser with systems in British Columbia, Alberta, and North Carolina. The B.C. application required Lucidyne to integrate information from a Metrigard CLT machine and a Northern Milltech moisture sensor to grade machine stress rated (MSR) and dimension lumber. The mill requires the scanner to process lumber at speeds up to 2,250 ft/minute.
They’ve also made a significant shift to variable frequency drives on the sawmill lines, as well, installing a number of Mitsubishi VFDs from Arrow Speed Controls.
Current projects at Weyerhaeuser Princeton include the overbuild of the entire sawmill building with a new high efficiency building, including overhead cranes. The new building will provide a better envelope for lighting, heating, dust control and the installation of future lumber processing equipment. Once the new building is complete, the old timber structure will be demolished from under the new building, using the overhead cranes. In addition, a further new short log infeed will be installed to better process cut-to-length wood.
On the Cover:
The Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. has added two new Volvo wheel loaders, a Volvo L350F and a Volvo L150H, from B.C. Volvo dealer Great West Equipment to help manage log operations. Read about how the equipment is helping make the operation more efficient beginning on page 10. (Photo by Paul MacDonald).
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