June 2005 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Revamping the veneer line
BC’s McBride Forest Industries is completing an $11 million modernization program that will deliver a variety of benefits including a revamped veneer production line and an expansion into veneer drying.
By Jim Stirling
The new veneer production line at British Columbia’s McBride Forest Industries Ltd has been painstakingly rejuvenated from the nuts and bolts up. When the process is completed this summer and key associated improvements are added, the operation should be faster, more efficient and achieve an improved recovery from available wood fibre. And the line should purr like a contented cat.
The estimated $11.3 million modernization project will elevate McBride Forest Industries (MFI) to a new level and help cement its future.McBride is a village in the mountain-fringed upper Fraser River valley, about 200 kilometres southeast of Prince George. MFI employs about 90 people when operating three daily shifts and is hugely important to the regional economy. The company received a $2.8 million loan toward the modernization project from the federal government’s softwood aid program. The initiative is designed to diversify economies and offset damage inflicted by the protracted softwood lumber dispute with the United States.
The addition of a veneer dryer is an essential ingredient in MFI’s sustainability. The company has acquired a suitable used unit, but not before a little good news/bad news scenario. “We were cruising the Internet looking for veneer dryer availability,” recalls Dutch Molendyk, MFI’s woodlands manager and special projects co-ordinator. They found one; it was decommissioned in 2000 from a mill in Georgia, but Weyerhaeuser beat MFI to it.
“But there, on the same web page, was this entire veneer production line, including all the hydraulics, from the X-Y scanner up to and including the clipper,” he says. It was down to the Deep South for MFI and Molendyk for a close examination of the line. It was in excellent condition and after some successful negotiations about price, it was dismantled and trucked north.
“We revamped the line from one end to the other,” relates Molendyk. “We believe in doing as much as we can in-house.” Every part of the line was stripped down and every nut and bolt, seal and motor scrutinized. “If it could be fixed up, it was, and if it couldn’t, it was replaced,” he explains.
MFI achieved an additional benefit besides saving money by taking the course of action it did with revamping the new line. “We have a core of our people who rebuilt it and understand the equipment thoroughly. That knowledge is invaluable when the line’s up and running. They know it like the back of their hands,” points out Molendyk.
MFI supplemented its revamped line with some new equipment. A Linden log ladder equipped with GLC controls helps get the optimum production and efficiency from the new line. It makes sure there are no gaps in the log delivery system, explains Molendyk. Without it, any hole created by a missing log would continue throughout the processing line. Process control on the line from the log infeed all the way through the veneer production sequence is governed by a system from Altec Integrated Solutions Ltd, of Coquitlam, BC. Molendyk says the line is designed to run at speeds up to 1,100 feet per minute when fully operational. “This line almost runs itself,” he adds.
“Right now, our old lathe needs an eight-inch log top with kick-out around 4-1/8 inches. The new line will be able to go down to a six-inch top with the kick-out about 3-1/4 to 3-3/8 inches,” he estimates.
That’s critical as MFI’s average block sizes are getting smaller. One of the factors influencing that is the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The beetles’ route through the BC Interior has extended into the mixed species forests in MFI’s operating areas approaching the BC/Alberta border. Molendyk says MFI continues to take an aggressive approach toward dealing with the beetles’ incursions. “We need the faster processing system that can efficiently handle the smaller wood,” he summarizes.
McBride's average block sizes are getting smaller.
The storage space required in the drying process is accommodated in the 320 feet of new building housing the revamped veneer production line. A new energy system is scheduled for installation this summer in conjunction with re-assembly of MFI’s used dryer. The company is opting for a hot oil system with a heat exchanger on the top from Del-Tech Industries Inc to run the dryer. Molendyk says the system will burn about four tonnes of hog fuel an hour to heat the oil and operate the dryer. MFI will be able to retire its existing beehive burner when the new energy system is up and running.
Just as MFI reaps advantages from using its own crews when feasible during the modernization project, the company gains additional benefits by using regional construction services and suppliers. “If it’s competitively priced and the expertise is there, we’ll go with them (regional suppliers) every time,” vouches Molendyk. It explains why many core services on the project are from Prince George, which is only a little more than two hours’ driving time from MFI’s McBride operation.
The list includes consultants International Quest Engineering and Peerless Engineering Sales Ltd. “Everyone working here has been just phenomenal,” enthuses Molendyk. “When you get the kind of co-operation we’ve got on this job, there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished.”
Molendyk says MFI has yet to decide what will happen with the original veneer line. If it’s retained, he anticipates additional conditioning capacity will be required to present logs to the lathes with the optimum core temperatures.
MFI has been able to get through some tough times during the last five years or so under the present locally-owned management team. “We’re getting there,” says Molendyk. “And we’re doing it in baby steps.” The revamped line, the addition of drying capacity and installation of an energy system represents substantial progress. Eventually, the goal to strive toward is a lay-up line for plywood manufacture to add more value and bring the company closer still to the end customer. Baby steps perhaps, but the direction is unmistakably onward and upward.
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