Oct 2004 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal
Major focus on moulding
BC independent sawmiller Gorman Bros Lumber continues to invest in its mill facilities, with a major focus—to the tune of $15 million—on the moulding and planer end.
By Paul MacDonald
While many sawmills profess to have an equal focus on quality and quantity, one of those efforts usually has anedge over the other. In the case of dimension sawmills, with their strong focus on production, the edge usually goes to quantity. The Gorman Bros Lumber sawmill in Westbank, BC, seems to have an equal emphasis on both of these areas, however. “This mill is unique in this area of BC in that we are primarily a one-inch board mill,” explains Gorman Bros project manager Doug Tracey. “We’re not into dimension lumber, so quality is a big issue with us. We strive to be a leader in the board industry, and we’re constantly refining our process and rethinking what we do and how we do it.” A big part of their success lies in the fact they are stable suppliers in the board market—they are not in and out, depending on where the markets are. “That’s all we’ve been doing for 30 some years and we’re very good at it,” says Tracey.
The refining he refers to has in recent years consisted of adding some significant kiln and moulding capacity. More of the same is in the cards with a major $15 million expansion that will be complete in the fall of 2005. Anthony-Seaman of North Vancouver, BC is a consultant on this project, as well as on previous Gorman projects. The mill added five kilns in 2003, and will be putting in two more kilns this year. “As our production increases, we have to build more capacity in our moulding and kiln equipment,” says Tracey. “This year our targeted production is 140 million board feet.” They’ve had a strong push on increasing production, going up about 10 million board feet a year in each of the last several years. The operation produces 45,000 pieces a shift, and turns out about 600,000 board feet a day, with its two-shift operation. When they are finished, Gorman will have a total of 20 kilns on a very tight mill site. “That’s up considerably from the two Saltons (now Wellons Canada) and five DH kilns we had 10 years ago.”
The DH kilns, supplied by Custom Dry Kiln Company of Port Coquitlam, BC, have been a good fit for the company. They’ve added 11 of the DH kilns in the last four years alone. The kilns were outfitted with innovative items like moveable fan decks, air management systems and linear slide vents, and have provided impressive drying results. “The DH kilns have worked very well on our wider widths. And now we’d like to see some further improvements on the narrow pieces with the new kilns.” The two additional kilns going in this year are Wellons kilns. These new kilns will be drying lower grade, narrow 1x3 and 1x4 wood.” Overall, Tracey noted there have been some huge advances on the kiln side, especially in terms of quality, efficiency, programming and controlling the environment. “Lumber drying is a huge part of our production process.
It’s become somewhat of an art, and we have some people who are very good at it.” Also on the back end, the mill installed a Waco moulder five years ago, and they are now making major upgrades to that system. “Today we are putting the Gorman Edge S4S boards in and coming out with a moulding finish. But we want to make some major changes so we can run it at 1,000 feet a minute and get 15 knife marks an inch.” In 2000, they installed a Newnes edger optimizer line, which helped to take the load off the existing edger/optimizer line. They achieved some increase in recovery, but they were already getting some good numbers to begin with. Still, there are plans are to tweak these lines further. “What we are doing is going back to all of our machine centres and fine tuning them. For example, our J-bar sorter had been running at 100 lugs a minute and it’s now running at 126 lugs a minute.”
Another recent change was a Signode strapping line installed this year. They were considering doing some work on their double-length infeed to increase recovery, and optimized log bucking, but the decision was made to work on the finishing end, for the time being, hence the new strapping line. Over the next year, there will be a strong focus on the planer/moulder end, with the installation of new Weinig equipment. It will join some other Weinig equipment already in place. They have one unit that end profiles their boards, and they just purchased another unit. The Weinig equipment is supplied by Masse Sales Ltd of Coquitlam, BC. Using the Weinig equipment, they can produce what they call the “Gorman Edge,” a branded board product edged on all four sides, which was introduced to the market this year.
The mill opted to go with European reman equipment simply because it is more advanced and there is more selection there, says Tracey. “On the sawmill side, especially with dimension lumber, North American equipment companies do very well. But on the reman and lumber handling side, we’ve seen things in Europe that we need to implement here.” Weinig was also the equipment of choice at their reman operation in Oroville, Washington, with the equipment supplied by Masse Sales Ltd. Mill Tech Industries of Salmon Arm, BC also supplied equipment, including a lug loader, trimmer, and tilt hoist, to the Oroville operation. Tracey observes that the fact that there is a more developed reman industry in Europe has a lot to do with the large amount of added-value work there, with the focus on value rather than volume.
This compares to Canada and its high volume dimension lumber industry, where production is king. Gorman Bros has been in a challenging position all the way along when it comes to expanding. They occupy a narrow strip of land along a very busy Highway 37, that connects Kelowna and Westbank to Penticton and the US border. In fact, part of their lumber storage is on the opposite side of the highway. But that kind of situation just means they have to be that much smarter at planning things out, and using the available land. “When you look at some of the large mills that are spread out and take up acres of land, we’re doing the same thing in terms of production as they are and we are on a postage stamp-sized piece of land,” says Tracey.
Rather than build out, they have often built up. “I don’t think there’s another mill in the country where you can stand five stories up and look down through your J-bar sorter line and see your planer infeed,” he notes. To ensure good product going out the mill gate, they work hard to get good logs coming in. They are very selective about the logs they take—about 50 per cent of their wood is bought off private holdings. On their Crown land, they have some larch/fir that they trade off with other companies for the SPF they need. They harvest about 230,000 cubic metres a year off Crown land, using contractors. Forest companies operating in the Kelowna area are taking a joint approach to harvesting the wood damaged by the large fires from the summer of 2003. “There is still a lot of good timber,” says Tracey. “In some spots there was a lot of heat in the fire and there is nothing left. But if you take a look at the logs coming through, some of it is just slightly singed.”
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