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Logging and Sawmilling Journal March/April 2014

August/September 2014

On the Cover:
Greg Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Gilbert Smith Forest Products in Barriere, B.C.—and grandson of the founder of the family-run company—is proud of the resourcefulness the mill and its employees showed in carrying out a major mill upgrade on a tight budget (Photo by Paul MacDonald).

Landmark Alberta forestry agreement
A deal with Northern Alberta Métis that involves long-term commercial rights to 200,000 hectares of forestlands is said to be a landmark agreement and could be worth millions of dollars to the community, say its backers.

Resourceful mill upgrade
The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in the B.C. Interior has just wrapped up a multi-million dollar upgrade that included some new equipment, a lot of used equipment—and involved a whole lot of resourcefulness.

Tracking down energy savings at the mill
Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C. sawmill is seeing some big-time cost savings from a number of energy initiatives the mill has introduced over the last several years—and the operation is continuing to track down energy saving opportunities.

Cars made out of …Wood?
The BioComposites Group plant in Alberta is very close to bringing its unique product—wood fibre mat produced from refined SPF wood fibre—to industries such as auto manufacturing that are looking for greener materials, and cost savings.

Northwest an award-winner

Newfoundland logging contractor Northwest Forest Resources—now run by the third generation of the Reid Family—recently added to their award hardware collection, being awarded the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Contractor of the Year for 2014.

Old iron on the Internet
B.C.’s Todd Smith is on a mission to photograph and video old logging equipment—and he’s now sharing his work, and the rich history and heritage of B.C. logging, on the Internet at Youtube.

First Nations band gets into sawmilling
The Hupacasath First Nations band on Vancouver Island is now in the small sawmilling business, having purchased a portable Super Scragg sawmill from D & L Timber Technologies, and is looking at other opportunities in the forest industry, including getting involved in logging.

Ready for the upturn
With increasing demand for wood products, Nova Scotia’s Consolidated Forest Owners Resource Management stands ready to meet an increase in activity in the woods, with its high level harvesting and forest management services.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Forest Innovation Investment (FII), NRCan and the Woodlands Operations Learning Foundation (WOLF).

The Last Word:
Court ruling a possible
game changer

The recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Ts’ilhqot’in Nation vs. British Columbia case could be a game changer for the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.


Tech Update: Grinders






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Greg Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Gilbert Smith Forest ProductsResourceful mill upgrade

The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in the B.C. Interior has just wrapped up a multi-million dollar upgrade that included some new equipment, a lot of used equipment —and involved a whole lot of resourcefulness.

Greg Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Gilbert Smith Forest Products (left), says that planning for the upgrade had been in the works for quite a few years, and that the operation had been accumulating used mill equipment for an upgrade for about 10 years.

By Paul MacDonald

The headrig carriage at the Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in Barriere, B.C. is well travelled. When the carriage was taken out this past fall as part of a multi-million dollar upgrade at this Western Red Cedar mill, employees were trying to figure out the equivalent of how many times the carriage had travelled around the world, in its decades of service. The conclusion: many, many times around the world.

These days, the carriage has been retired to a place of honor, in front of the Gilbert Smith FP office, just off the Yellowhead Highway, which runs through Barriere, about 70 kilometres north of Kamloops, in B.C’s Southern Interior.

But it has a worthy successor—as part of the upgrade—in the form of a new-to-Gilbert Smith FP headrig system, made up of a combination of components.

After close to a year-long upgrade, the mill is running more smoothly and efficiently—with more efficiencies on the way, as the inevitable post-upgrade tweaking is completed.

Greg Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Gilbert Smith FP, and a grandson of the founder of the family-run company, explained that the upgrade was in the works for quite a few years. “It really goes back a ways—we’ve been planning the upgrade in a significant way for about six years, but we’ve been accumulating used mill equipment for an upgrade for about 10 years.”

Gilbert Smith FP is one of the handful of mid-sized independent sawmills left in B.C. And while it may not have the deep pockets of the large forest companies, it takes pride on being resourceful—and the upgrade illustrated that in spades, with the careful and strategic purchase and installation of used mill equipment. “As a small company, we have to be resourceful,” says Smith.

And that meant running the mill’s small log line right through the upgrade, a challenging feat in itself. “It was a bit of a leap of faith for us, because we became a one-line mill again, as we were before we installed the small log line with the HewSaw, back in 2003.”

The purchase of used mill equipment goes back more than a decade, when Gilbert Smith FP purchased cut-to-length log decks from forest company Tolko Industries after a forest fire swept this area, and destroyed much of Tolko’s Louis Creek sawmill. In fact, the Smith Family, and its employees, were extremely thankful that their mill was not destroyed in the fire.

Gilbert Smith Forest ProductsInstalling the CTL infeed was part of the latest upgrade program. While Gilbert Smith FP processes a fair bit of tree length wood to meet customer needs for longer cedar pieces, a good amount of their timber comes in the form of CTL wood from the logging operations of companies such as Canfor, which is 100 per cent CTL.

When Weyerhaeuser’s Kamloops sawmill closed in 2008, an iron opportunity again presented itself, and the company purchased the Kamloops mill’s Newnes-USNR board edger system and chip handling system. They knew they needed to get some edger improvements for the small log line—which is anchored by a very dependable and productive HewSaw R200 unit.

“The flow had to deadhead through our re-saw—it created a bit of a bottleneck and some recovery challenges—and we had a manually fed board edger.”

But before any of the upgrade happened, the downturn hit, and plans were put on hold. They hunkered down, and just worked away at producing whatever the market needed. “But we were still on the lookout for used equipment,” says Smith.

They did some small mill upgrades during the downturn, he says. These were more “close to the customer” upgrades, and strongly focused on customer needs. “We put in a Weinig WACO BKW twin band re-saw so we could produce metric sizing, and get into more of the offshore markets.”

And interestingly for what had been a strictly cedar operation, they produced some Douglas fir. They put in a Samuel Strapping packaging line, so they could tailor the packaging more for the offshore markets.

“We certainly did not need to increase production at the sawmill at that time—what we needed to do was create products that people needed in the downturn,” said Smith.

These were low capital, good payback projects that were done by their own crews. “It kept our crews busy and it’s paid real dividends. As the mill has come up in production, we have strap-on packaging and dunnage.” The twin band re-saw is not used much right now. “But it’s still a very effective sawmill tool—you can end up being a bit of a re-man with it.”

Accumulating further equipment, Smith said they had a good “war chest” of mill equipment to do the upgrade, and achieve their goal. While they employed consultants on a limited basis, by far most of the work was done by Gilbert Smith FP people, carrying out what Smith modestly calls “napkin engineering”.

“Our goal is to have the mill produce the most efficient cedar blank—we need to get the right product coming out of the mill for our customers.” They use the cedar blank as a building block for turning out the exact products their reman customers are looking for.

“We’ve developed relationships with a variety of different remanufacturers, both in Canada and the U.S. And through understanding their business and the products they turn out, we develop a blank that fits their requirements.” He added that the installation of the HewSaw small log line in 2003 has really been instrumental in allowing them to meet the needs of that market.

Although their older headrig and carriage had served them well—doing the equivalent of many trips around the world—a newer headrig had been on the company’s radar for years.

Gilbert Smith Forest ProductsBut all the changes had to be well-planned out, Smith explained, as space was very tight in the mill.

“The original mill was very close coupled—it was a very busy place. To do the new headrig properly, we needed the space of the old board edger. So, as a piece of the puzzle, we needed to install a new board edger, and take the old board edger out, freeing up that real estate, and then putting in the headrig.”

The new chip system had to fit in well with this, too. “We wanted to make sure the new chip system could handle the flow,” says Smith, noting there had been some bottlenecking there, as the mill had increased production. “It was nice in that we were able to put the chip system where our old beehive burner used to be.”

The mill took an innovative approach to installing the new residual wood handling system in the mill. “We built it off-line. We got a mini-excavator and dug out and built all the conveyors underneath the existing waste system. So when we were ready for our changeover weekend, we took out the old equipment, and the new system was sitting right there, underneath.

“And everyone who has dealt with waste systems knows the more vertical fall you have, the better. And that has certainly worked with the new system—we’re getting some decent fall with it.”

In doing the digging for the new system, they found some interesting additions to the foundation—everything from boulders the size of basketballs to metal bandings, to 1.5 inch rebar, mixed into the original footings

In addition to achieving other efficiencies, the CTL infeed allows them to make better use of their Nicholson A5 debarker, says Smith. “We were able to make some gains there—we did not have to speed the barker up. We just closed the gap and put more consistent wood through it.”

Again, this part of the mill was tight, creating problems if there was an issue with the cut off saw. “We can now buck and process, and dump the logs into a pit with the set-up we have now.” The Linden step feeder system for the set-up was purchased from the Federated Co-op mill.

“The step feeder was a piece of equipment we had been looking for and waiting for,” says Smith. “It was a good deal, and it has frequency drive control and electric drive, and not many hours on it.”

Even though they purchased almost all used equipment for the upgrade, Smith cautions that you need to be very particular about what you buy, and what kind of condition it is in.

“Sometimes you will buy something used and it will drive your whole program—you need to be careful about that. Also, you can buy something used and spend so much money converting it to something that you can use that you might as well have bought it new.”

They purchased some new equipment, notably on the technology side, as part of the new headrig set-up. Some of the outfeed lumber decks were new, and a new headrig slabber from Corley was included.

Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in the B.C.True to their used equipment approach, the Corley carriage and framework came out of the former Pope and Talbot sawmill in Midway, B.C., and had low production hours. But the bandmill with it was not what they wanted, so they ended up getting a Letson/Kockums bandmill set-up from Interfor Adams Lake. “It was in Interfor’s boneyard, so it needed some work. We put a new bottom wheel on it and did some other major work. And it’s turned out be a beautiful band mill and is running very well for us.” The work was done at Premier Bandwheel & Equipment Ltd. of Surrey, B.C.

As noted, a good deal of the investment went into technology-related items.

“A lot of the equipment we looked at, especially the headrig, there might be some new valves or cylinders, but mechanically there has not been a lot of changes in heardrigs or carriages.

“We thought that we would go with used equipment that way, and invest in the optimization, which is where it has all changed and advanced.”

Another major change involved installing an Andritz Iggesund Tools PH-27 powerhead on the Corley slabber on the large log line.

“We’d already gone through converting chip face slabber heads to a saw face with the HewSaw on our small log line, because of the knot tear-out with our cedar. We sell an appearance-type product, and the knot tear-out was sometimes resulting in quarter-inch tear. So we decided to go with the saw face on the slabber head, and the finish is outstanding.”

Smith noted they did some upgrades to the carriage, with some Brownsville log turners and a Corley sumner style dog that is better able to handle the bigger and frozen wood.

Gilbert Smith FP acted as the general contractor on the project, though Smith noted they had a lot of help from suppliers, both local and further afield (see sidebar story for supplier list). Major contractors on the project included MB Construction of Chase, B.C. and NDF Enterprises Inc., of Coquitlam, B.C.

The timing for doing the upgrade was good; after the wrenching downturn, they saw signs that the market was getting better in 2013, says Smith. “Once we saw things starting to turn around in lumber markets, we wanted to get the project done while people were available, before things took off.”

Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in the B.C.After close to a year-long upgrade, the Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill is running more smoothly and efficiently—with more efficiencies on the way, as the inevitable post-upgrade tweaking is completed.

Smith said there were several keys to the project being successful. “You have to do it safely and you need to be able to communicate well with your crew because you now have this construction project going on, on a working mill site—it’s not a greenfield situation. With the small log mill operating, we still had log trucks, lumber trucks, and chip trucks moving around the site, and all these construction people on top of that.”

There was a lot of communication between the construction people and the mill production people on when was the best time to do work, and where.

Overseeing this was mill superintendent Dan Doyle, who was project manager. Smith credits Doyle for shepherding the project through its twists and turns. An assistant project manager and safety co-ordinator were also hired for the project.

As much as possible, they did fabrication and prep work on the used equipment in a designated area, equipped with electric welders, water and air, away from the running mill. “That way, we were able to reduce the amount of hot work going on close to the mill, and we could bring new equipment that was already set up to the mill, and put it in place.”

The end result was as a successful project—40,000 man hours without a lost time accident.

And the project kind of took on a life of its own. Initially, it was just going to be the CTL and edger upgrade.

“We thought, well, if we are going to be in build mode and have cranes and construction people on site, let’s just roll one project into the next and keep the momentum going, so we carried on and did the headrig project, as well.”

The upgrade has positioned them well for the improving wood products markets.

And, Smith adds, despite all the equipment coming from a variety of mills, it’s all 100 per cent Gilbert Smith Forest Products equipment now.

“I can look at parts in the mill, and know that it came from this mill or that mill. But once you put some new paint on it, it all blends together.”

On the supplier end, while companies would have preferred if Gilbert Smith FP had bought brand new equipment, they also now know that the mill will now be a steady customer for parts and service. “Corley, for example, was great. They took the used equipment we have and supported it, and it’s great to have them on board.”

And with the construction work behind them, the focus has now changed. “We’ve put all these dollars and equipment into the mill, and now we’re doing everything we can to have it perform as safely, effectively and productively, as possible.”

Supplier List

Corley Manufacturing

Lewis Controls

Andriz Iggesund
Tools Canada Inc

Samuel Strapping

Joshua Friesen
Electrical Services

MB Construction

NDF Enterprises Inc

Premier Bandwheel
& Equipment Ltd.

Hollins Industries