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June 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

mILL UPGRADE

New line for Ledwidge

The installation of a R200 Plus HewSaw line at Nova Scotia’s Ledwidge Lumber
has resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in recovery and the mill capturing a
higher percentage of appearance-grade product and long lengths.

By Stephen Bornais

On the highway speed kills, but in the lumber business, speed means life. And that’s the road Ledwidge Lumber Company Ltd of Enfield, Nova Scotia has decided to take with the purchase of a HewSaw R200 Plus system.

Ledwidge Lumber has been in operation for 60 years—in its current location since 1962—and, with the addition of its new saw line, is now one of the largest, and most modern, stud mills in Nova Scotia.

“This was quite a bit of new technology to throw employees’ way and between the operators and millwrights, they’ve been very good about embracing it,” says Doug Ledwidge, the company’s president and general manager.

Doug Ledwidge (above), president of Ledwidge Lumber, says that with their logs being of smaller size, the HewSaw R200 Plus system was a good fit.

Founder Laurie Ledwidge still comes in occasionally, but son Doug Ledwidge now runs the day-to-day operations as president and general manager. Another son, James, is vice-president and woodlands manager and he has two of his children in the business.

Ledwidge Lumber prides itself on continuity, especially when it comes to employees, many of who have been with the company for decades. No one beats planer mill supervisor Donnie Thompson, however, who has been cutting lumber with the Ledwidge family for 50 years. Thompson says the mill has changed almost beyond recognition from the one he started in.

“We used to have an old rotary saw and with that you were lucky to get 12,000 board feet a day,” he says. “This new equipment is right out of this world.” In 2005, the mill consumed 134,000 cords of raw wood which came from more than 700 private suppliers throughout central Nova Scotia. Ledwidge Lumber has fibre exchange programs with two pulp mills, Bowater Mersey and Neenah Paper.

The company also has its own holdings of about 23,000 acres. Ledwidge Lumber has been cutting more extensively from these lands as it hurries to harvest timber blown down during Hurricane Juan in 2003. Some 15,000 acres were affected, to varying degrees.

Despite the variety of suppliers, the mill’s wood supply has two common traits. Firstly, it “tends to be fairly rough” compared to what mills in other parts of the country may see. “It has a fair bit of taper and some double crooks so it’s a challenge to get some of that through some of the new machinery,” Ledwidge says.

It is also small. The average diameter of the logs the mill works with is only 5.35 inches. “On any given day, there is some portion of our production that is debarked and isn’t even sawn. It flows straight through to a chipper because it’s too small or too rough,” Ledwidge comments.

The log supply for Ledwidge has some common traits: it tends to be rough and it has a fair bit of taper and some double crooks, making it a bit of a challenge to get it through some of the new machinery. At the HewSaw controls (right) is sawyer Darrell Graham.

Last year, the mill produced slightly more than 70 million board feet of sawed lumber, a seven per cent increase from 2004. The plan is to boost that by another 14 per cent in 2006, mostly due to the new saw line.

Byproducts have also proven a valuable sideline. Hogged bark goes to Stora Enso and Brooklyn Power. Sawdust goes to Shaw Resources to be made into stove pellets. The shavings are either burned at the mill to make heat for the plant and steam for kilns
or sold to local farmers for animal bedding.

The mill normally operates on two shifts a day, although it does drop down to a single shift when wood supply gets tight.

In the weeks prior to a visit to the mill earlier this year, Ledwidge Lumber twice broke its daily production record when it cut 278,406 board feet on one shift. “We’ll better that in the future once we resolve some bottlenecks, but I consider that a good number considering our log supply,” Ledwidge says.

He gave credit to the mill’s employees, who were making great efforts to ensure that the mill remains productive and safe, even as production records are set and new equipment comes on stream.

But the big addition is the R200 Plus HewSaw installed last year, the first in North America. Being first meant the learning curve has been steep. “We did have some start-up issues with getting everything productive and working with our rougher wood supply,” Ledwidge says. “But HewSaw has been really good in dealing with every concern we’ve had.”

In the first year, even with all the startup issues, Ledwidge says recovery increased 10 per cent and the mill captured a higher percentage of appearancegrade product and long lengths.

In the revised set-up, logs are handled at the infeed by Prentice ATL 425 or Fuchs 460MH loaders. The mill has two large log bins, and both use Comact wave feeders.

The new HewSaw machine has a double-rotor log turner and a four-side chip chanter which feeds directly into a double cluster saw arbor, itself a big boost to productivity. “The double cluster gives us the option to change from one saw cluster to another saw cluster. If you had a bad saw, you could change it in a couple of seconds just by pushing a button. A new set of clusters come in and away you go. There’s much less lost production time.”

From there, the logs come into a fully optimized profiling section. All the optimization is done by a ProLogic 3-D scanning system. The Quebec-based company supplied all the controls and operator interface. “They have been very supportive. They’re a smaller company than some of their competitors, but they’ve really done a great job working with us,” Ledwidge says.

To complete the upgrade, the company still has to install a straight sawing option to the machine.

The green end of the operation includes a PLC lug loader, Lucidyne grade mark reader, Autolog trimmer optimizer and a Carbotech fence.

Not to be left behind, Ledwidge upgraded its drying operation, adding a Coe package kiln to its two Wellons dual air pass track kilns. A refurbished Wellons/FEI low pressure steam boiler was brought on line early this year.

Ledwidge Lumber began working on upgrading the saw line in September 2004. The older saw line was not optimized, leading to too high a proportion of short lumber, a far less marketable— and less profitable—product compared to longer lengths. “If we recover seven-foot instead of eight-foot, there’s a big loss of value,” Ledwidge says.

Another big factor in swaying the mill toward HewSaw was its satisfaction with the R200 MSA it had been running for the last 12 years. “We liked that design and as we researched several different options of machinery, we knew we were familiar with the HewSaw,” Ledwidge says. “The serviceability looked very good on it, and our log size seems to be more on the smaller size than the larger size, and the second HewSaw seemed to be a good fit.”

The move means the mill is now limited to a maximum diameter of 14 inches, down from 17. That sounds like more of a sacrifice than it really is since much of the mill’s raw log supply was moving in this direction already. “There is a portion of our log diet which we are forced to trade and that’s worked out fine,” Ledwidge says.

He remembers well the day the R200 Plus arrived at the mill. Excitement was mixed with some trepidation. “It came on the back of a flatbed,” he says, “and the first thing we thought was ‘Holy crow, we’ve got to get this thing lifted off and on to a base without damaging it’.”

Getting the line up and running to the point where the mill was comfortable with it took a little longer than everyone had first hoped, Ledwidge comments. “When we look back now, that was perhaps predictable,” he adds.

The R200 Plus’ price tag exceeded $4 million, a lot of money even for a mill the size of Ledwidge Lumber, but it was something that had to be done.“We are in a private woodlot market where we must compete with everybody in the province and outside the province, and even outside the country, for log supply,” Ledwidge explains. “If Ledwidge Lumber is not efficient and productive, then the mill is not going to get the log supply in the future.”

Installing the new saw was one thing. Retraining long-time employees to run it efficiently was another. Ledwidge says both HewSaw and ProLogic provided a lot of training. In the end, Ledwidge thinks the exchange helped everyone involved. “It’s a new machine for them, too, and they learned a fair bit in the process also,” he comments.

The mill produced slightly more than 70 million board feet in 2005 and the plan is to boost that by 14 per cent in 2006, mostly due to the new saw line.

Employees have embraced the new technology, he says, both for how it has improved their work and the future of the company. “They realize that things have to progress, that things have to change in order to stay in business,” he says.

Sawyer Darrell Graham, who has been with the company for 31 years, says training on the saw was a little stressful for the first few months, because there were bugs to get worked out. “But right now, I’m happy with it,” Graham says.

The change has meant Graham no longer actually runs the cutting and decision making. Instead, he is responsible for ensuring the machine is doing it right and making adjustments on the fly.

All told, the process from deciding to upgrade to installation of the new HewSaw took nearly three years. The mill first considered simply upgrading the existing saw machinery with the addition of a scanning and log orientation system, but the thinking evolved to go with a new saw line.

The new saw set-up also gives the mill the capability of cutting nine-foot lengths, which commands a slight to decent premium over eight-foot. “We need to do a few adjustments in our debarker end to enable us to process that,” Ledwidge says.

Ledwidge says production with the new saw machinery could be higher, but the mill is limited by its debarker capacity. The mill will likely have to upgrade that area within the new next two to five years. The mill’s twin debarkers are currently running around 285 feet per minute. At best, each debarker can push through about 25 logs a minute, but in practice that drops to 23 or 24 logs.

The new HewSaw can do 55 logs a minute without breaking a sweat. That is a deficit Ledwidge is anxious to shrink. “We have been trying to run the debarkers on break, even weekends, to try to get extra debarker capacity,” he says.

The R200 Plus can go even faster. “If we went to a pre-scanned batch feed mode, theoretically we could get up to 58 logs a minute,” Ledwidge says. “But I don’t expect that. We have targeted in the range of 50 some day for the future.”

 

 


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