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Low-Cost Recovery

With a relatively small $2-million investment in optimizing equipment, Kenora Forest Products targets a 14 per-cent recovery gain.

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

For nearly seven years, the Kenora Forest Products stud mill, owned by Boise Cascade in Kenora, Ontario, sat idle. Three years ago, Winnipeg-based Prendiville Industries purchased the mill, and this year will spend $2 million adding optimizing equipment to increase recovery. Some of the upgrade has already been completed.

The stud mill now represents 30 per cent of total annual sales for Prendiville Industries, and is a key supplier to their wood remanufacturing divisions. Kenora has also regained 70 full-time jobs, and a measure of stability in the stud mill.

Kenora Forest Products is located across the road from Ontario's pristine Lake-Of-The Woods, in an area that regularly witnesses the arrival of as many as 70,000 vacationers on a summer weekend. At the time of the stud mill's sale, Boise Cascade also operated a large pulp mill in Kenora. That has since changed hands as well, to Abitibi-Consolidated. An ownership change at Kenora Forest Products gave former employees new hope for the stud mill.

"Our two biggest well-kept secrets are our log sizes and our people," says Bob Evans, mill manager during the upgrade. "The people here have really grabbed hold of the place, and they are enjoying what they are doing. It's showing in the production, the quality and in the recovery."

The original stud mill burned down in 1985, after which it was rebuilt. Its forecasted annual production was 35 million board feet, and 75,000 board feet per shift. After 18 months, Boise Cascade mothballed the new stud mill because of economic conditions. With new ownership and new management, the mill is now on pace to achieve 44 million board feet this year, and already averages in excess of 80,000 board feet per shift.

Kenora Forest Products produces mostly 2X4 studs, but also 2X6 studs, 1X4 rough product, and 2X4 shorts for the Prendiville Industries lattice plant located in Winnipeg. They also produce railway ties.

Their wood supply is 60 per cent jackpine averaging 7'', and 40 per cent white spruce averaging 8''. The source of their wood provides them with a competitive advantage.

Kenora Forest Products has a timber management agreement and log supply agreement with Abitibi-Consolidated. All jackpine and spruce below 6'', all tops, and all wood deemed outside set specifications for crook and centre rot goes to the pulp mill. "What we get basically is a high-end product coming out of the bush," says Evans. "Our average is up because we don't have the under 6'' wood here. We don't have skidders, scalers, bush crews, road crews yup, there's some advantages." The downside of no direct control on the timber supply is that when Abitibi-Consolidated sneezes, Kenora Forest Products gets a cold.

Except for purchasing mobile equipment such as log loaders and lumber carriers, Prendiville Industries operated the stud mill with existing equipment at the time of purchase. Now they see the benefit of optimizing equipment to improve recovery. Evans says a major reason why they started to invest in optimizing equipment is because they have seen the cost of logs rise.

The 1997 modernization has meant installation of a new Denis Comact optimizing infeed for the gang edger, with a High Tech Scanner. Plus, they have purchased a Del-Schneider Hydraulics lumber stacker and a small bin sorter. They expect to achieve 10 per cent better recovery from these improvements.

"It will give us the ability to pull more grades and trim more lengths than we can now," says Evans.

The wood enters the stud mill up a jack ladder. Kenora Forest Products has installed a new Kockums floating infeed leading into the 24'' Cambio debarker. After the debarker, they have an option to either kick inside or out, in case there is a bottleneck at the debarker.

Logs kicked inside proceed down a single deck toward the headrig. They go through a stop and load, and into a set of turning rolls on top of the sharp chain, "so that we can orient the logs horns down."

Evans says their long-term projection is to install a new headrig. "The sharp chain limits recovery," he says. "While replacing the headrig would represent the biggest recovery increase, its also the biggest capital expenditure."

The log is then stabbed by the chain and scanned. The headrig consists of the sharp chain, RBS Kockums bandsaws, and two conical reducing heads. When the bandsaws cut, "we have the ability to do four, six or seven down the middle, and one, two or four off the sides."

The sideboards drop off to a three-pocket board edger. The 4'' cants drop onto the gang deck, now equipped with the Denis Comact optimized infeed. Both lines feed back onto a tail edge deck.

The stud mill comes equipped with several extra features. "We have the ability to run past both of these decks," says Evans, "to another deck where we have a small Baker resaw. That gives us the ability to cut ties horizontally." They also have a single Baker resaw available, to resaw down to 1''. And they have installed a system where they can trim down rough boards to 6'.

After the edgers, the stud manufacture process then turns 90; 2X4s are dropped downstairs to a Newnes stacker for mechanical stacking 2X6s and 1X4s are pulled off and hand piled. The mill has two dry kilns.

Kenora Forest Products has made a few modifications to its planer mill, but the equipment itself came with the purchase and is standard for the industry. It comes equipped with a Stetson-Ross 416A narrow lumber planer, but also, "a pre-trim ahead of our planer so we can pre-trim our primary product." Always mindful of extra value, they have installed a position after planing so they can drop out studs to a hula saw and trim shorter lengths. A premium stack of 2X4X6' fetches $260 more than a stack of economy 2X4X8' boards.

This fall, they plan to purchase an optimizing system for their board edger, representing a further $800,000 investment, and four per cent improved recovery.

Evans says while some Kenora Forest Products employees were initially reluctant to embrace new technology, they now look forward to improvements, since they realize the benefits.

"The employment level will not change," he says, "the recovery will go up, and the value of the product will go up."

He concludes that the best measure of their success so far can be seen in the employee parking lot.

"Take a look out there, and tell me how many new vehicles you see," he asks. "There are plenty now. Three years ago, there were very few. With a pulp mill in their midst that employs almost 10 times more people, the grass might seem greener over there. But Evans says that they have introduced a production bonus system into their wage structure so that a stud mill paycheque rises as production increases, so the benefits are shared.

Prendiville Industries is a diversified lumber company, involved in building supply retail, manufacturing timbers for the mining industry, wood remanufacturing, and commodity stud manufacture. Three years ago, they became interested in acquiring a sawmill to complement their growing remanufacturing divisions. By purchasing Kenora Forest Products, they also acquired a facility able to supply feed stock to their wood lattice plant and finger-jointing divisions. They are Canada's largest manufacturer of wood lattice panels.

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