By Jim Stirling
Every time a log is moved it costs money. Streamlining the efficiency of the log handling process is the objective of a government/industry co-operative venture now underway on the British Columbia Coast.
Questioning how, where and when logs are moved in the journey between forest and destination is the focus of the business improvement strategy.
The provincial government’s application of the “Lean” philosophy is based on a well established business model designed to eliminate waste and improve efficiency through the collaboration of all parties involved.
The Lean process—it’s not an acronym, more a description of intent—has been credited through the years with turning around the business fortunes of many companies and organizations. The reinvention of the Toyota management system during the 1980s in Japan is just one example.
The first Canadian province to adopt Lean principles was Saskatchewan, within its public service. More recently, Lean objectives have been applied to parts of the B.C. Ministry of Health.
The Lean analysis of log handling procedures on the coast is the first application of its kind in the B.C. forest industry.
The initiative is jointly sponsored by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Coast Forest Products Association (CFPA) representing the regional forest industry.
The Lean project began in June 2015 and both parties involved report satisfaction with the progress being made. The program’s financial objective was an ambitious one: to reduce coastal log handling costs by $5 to $7 per cubic metre through identifying and eliminating waste process inefficiencies. However, the parties report they are well on the way to realizing the project’s financial objectives.
Both ministry and industry spokesmen also emphasize the Lean process is not code for job cutting.
“The objective is to save effort and effect process cost savings,” points out Paul Knowles, executive director with the forests ministry in Victoria.
“Lean is about eliminating waste, not peoples’ jobs,” concurs Les Kiss, vice-president forestry with the CFPA. “In fact, through Lean, individuals can achieve more and have more fulfilling jobs.”
Knowles says every step in the coastal log handling process was considered from the time a mature forest stand is cruised to the time a log is delivered to a mill or put on a ship for export. “We mapped out the process to establish what’s most important and productive,” he summarizes. It led to identifying four priority areas: scaling logs: the when, where and hows; log export processes and systems; cruise-based billing; and log grades.
An inclusive working group was formed for each of the first three priority areas. The log grade working group is scheduled to launch its Lean examination this fall.
Having a dedicated process to follow is the initial step. Making it work on a practical and realistic level requires guidance.
Fortunately, an experienced Lead facilitator with the B.C. government was available to make sure participants maintained focus and asked questions of the present systems guiding coastal log handling.
“From the first workshop, John Marcheson mapped out the process required and brought it home to the participants,” recalls Knowles.
“We sat at the table—not across the table. Everyone was committed to the process,” adds Kiss.
There’s a further advantage. Working together to advance mutually beneficial Lean goals helps erase a traditionally adversarial relationship between the provincial government and the forest industry, notes Knowles.
An examination of the present log handling process at log sorts was cited by Knowles and Kiss as a good example of working together to improve efficiency and lower costs.
“We have got this requirement at every log sort to have a load available for checking,” backgrounds Kiss. The Crown needs to ensure it’s getting full value of a publicly owned resource. But the present method involves additional log handling to ensure check load availability.
The Lean process working group asked: “Is there a more efficient way while still meeting checking requirements?”
The answer appears to be yes, although it is still subject to pilot testing at a handful of dry log sorts run by TimberWest and Western Forest Products. The key is to refine the software in hand-held scaling computers to accurately record “parcels” from each load for scale checking purposes. They are seeing a savings from the pilot projects, better flow-through and an increase in production levels, reports Knowles.
Another initiative being tested under Lean is the installation of a scale scanner at Interfor’s Acorn Division sawmill in Delta, B.C. “The system has significant savings potential,” continues Knowles (see the July/August issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal for the story on the scanner).
The export of B.C. logs is a sensitive issue. The broadly-based working group examined the subject from a cost savings/process perspective and not the politics of the issue. One of the results was to reduce the application process for export logs, while maintaining the two week advertising period during which domestic mills can bid on them. Knowles reckons systemic change reduced the approximately 45 days required for an export permit by nine days, creating significant savings on a coast-wide basis. This change has been implemented resulting in cost savings, without increasing log export volumes.
A water scale trial is underway on the south coast under the Lean program, says Kiss. It, too, is demonstrating positive results. The advantages can be considerable in a heli-drop operation, for example, if dewatering logs can be avoided and they are delivered direct to the mill.
Kiss is bullish about the application of Lean principles to coastal log handling. “I’ve found it very interesting and think it’s really positive,” he endorses. “There are definitely other aspects of the coastal forestry business that might benefit from a Lean examination.”
On the Cover:
The Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. has added two new Volvo wheel loaders, a Volvo L350F and a Volvo L150H, from B.C. Volvo dealer Great West Equipment to help manage log operations. Read about how the equipment is helping make the operation more efficient beginning on page 10. (Photo by Paul MacDonald).
Tapping into the growing bio-economy at Alberta’s Bio-Mile
A new $11 million Clean Energy Technology Centre recently opened in Alberta and among its goals is supporting greater product diversification within the forestry sector, and encouraging more participation by the industry in the bio-economy.
Volvos delivering volume
Some new Volvo wheel loaders are helping the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. deliver efficiencies in the millyard, in feeding logs into the high production, two-line sawmill, and handling chips and hog fuel.
“Big Data” already being utilized by forest industry
Although “Big Data” has become a buzz term in business circles in recent years, the forest industry is already well on its way to using Big Data in a number of areas, from machine centres at the sawmill, to woodlands operations.
Hard work = successful sawmill
Though it requires a lot of hard work, Alberta sawmiller Colin Ruxton says that small sawmilling can pay off—and he’s proven it with both a band and circular sawmill.
Going from logger—to lumber producer
New Brunswick’s Pierre Friolet has used skills developed as a logging contractor to set up an added-value operation that produces thermally modified wood, finding customers from architects to guitar makers for the unique wood product.
Lean log handling
B.C.’s coastal forest industry and the provincial government are working on streamlining the log handling process through making changes based on the “Lean” philosophy that is practiced in other industries—and it’s already showing results.
Family fencing operation
B.C. specialty mill operation Nagaard Sawmill, run by brothers Darrol and Dale Nagel, has found its niche—and it’s in producing fence components from western red cedar for a growing market, with a mill that features a fair bit of home-made equipment, and lots of ingenuity.
Liking the Log Max/Doosan combo
New Brunswick harvesting contractor Remi Doucet is a fan of the Doosan/Log Max harvesting combination, and recently upgraded his equipment with a new Log Max 7000 head.
BUILDER of business relationships
B.C. logger Shane Garner says a successful harvesting contracting operation is all about business relationships, from his employees to his John Deere-heavy logging equipment fleet.
A life in logging: from horses—to Tigercats
Long time logger Alan Costain may have started with yarding horses, but these days the horsepower in Costain Lumbering is of a very different sort, with equipment such as a Tigercat 822.
The frontier community of Colville Lake, 50 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, has acquired a new portable sawmill which will produce building materials to help address the community’s need for improved housing.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions.
The Last Word
The Fort McMurray fire of earlier this year could have ripple effect on the cost of insurance for the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.