By Jim Stirling
Tit-for-tat tariffs, sub-plots and even some negotiations highlighted the 2018 mid-summer scenario surrounding the efforts to reach a new North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada. Awaiting in the wings is the emergence of a new softwood lumber agreement between Canada and the U.S.
It all seems a very long way away from the small, predominantly First Nation community of Moricetown alongside the Bulkley River in west central British Columbia. But it’s not. It would be hard to find a more forest-dependent community than Moricetown.
Kyahwood Forest Products Ltd., is by far the largest employer in the area, about 30 kilometres west of Smithers. Kyahwood is wholly owned by the Witset Nation and manufactures finger jointed stud lumber, the majority of which is exported to the U.S.
“Right now we have 58 people working at Kyahwood and three salaried staff. About 98 per cent of those people are aboriginal,” points out Marie Boivin, senior office manager for Kyahwood and co-manager of the company with Stan Morris Jr.
Most of Kyahwood’s 58 employees are breadwinners for their families, significantly underpinning the economic security of Moricetown and its surrounding areas.
The U.S. lumber market has been buoyant, but it is beginning to show signs of stabilizing. The strong market has so far helped Kyahwood survive the imposition by the U.S. International Trade Commission of duties on Canadian softwood lumber imports. The U.S. alleges the imports are materially hurting U.S. lumber companies despite U.S. production breaking records. Appeals have been launched by Canada, but the duties continue to be levied. The duties affect every Canadian forest company exporting softwood lumber into U.S. markets.
Smaller companies—like Kyahwood—have a proportionately tougher time handling the U.S. imposed duties.
“For our classification as a finger jointing plant, we face countervailing duties of about 14 per cent and anti-dumping duties of about six per cent (in round numbers),” said Boivin. “It’s been a challenge. The duties take away the cash flows we need.”
Kyahwood has proven itself a survivor. Not that it’s always been easy. It’s endured changes in ownership, periods of closure and a punitive U.S. lumber market before. The manufacturing facility has also undergone significant improvements to reduce costs while improving productivity, grading accuracy and recovery. Kyahwood Forest Products became an entity in 1995. It was part of a joint venture with then-Northwood Pulp & Timber, and it manufactured finger jointed lumber and other remanufactured wood products.
Canfor Corp., acquired Northwood, but continued the joint venture agreement with Kyahwood until 2007. Since then, the Witset Nation has owned and operated Kyahwood Forest Products. Canfor, however, continues to play an essential role in Kyahwood’s operation. The feedstock for Kyahwood’s finger joint operation still comes from Canfor’s planer operation in Houston, about 95 kilometres to the southeast. A sales and marketing agreement with Canfor for Kyahwood’s products has proved beneficial to both parties.
Trim ends for Kyahwood come from Canfor Houston’s planer in lengths from seven inches to 24 inches. They are loaded onto trucks aided by moving floors for the highway journey to Moricetown.
Kyahwood’s infeed system unscrambles and singulates the blocks into lugs for progress through the process. A scanning system helps determine trimming requirements, explained Kyahwood’s Boivin, and there’s a DelTech pocket edger for those blocks requiring it. The blocks are assigned to one of the operation’s 13 storage bins.
Most of the blocks will be finger jointed into 2 X 4 and 2 X 6 studs in lengths up to 12 feet, she continued. Some 2 X 3 product is also manufactured for use as trailer stock. The manufacturing plant has the flexibility to remanufacture blocks with imperfections into shorter lengths and/or higher grades. “Nothing goes to waste here,” she added.
The finger jointing readying process continues with cutting fingers into both sides of each block prior to applying glue and pressing together. Kyahwood’s finger jointing machine was manufactured by Western Pneumatics in Eugene, Oregon, which also supplied the operation’s table downstream, where boards are precision end trimmed to desired specifications.
They don’t usually run the finger joint machine at maximum lug per minutes speed, pointed out Boivin. “We tend toward the slow and steady approach to keep offgrade reduced.” The manufacturing plant’s workers are also rotated between machine centres to reduce negative repetition issues.
The glue is allowed to set for about 24 hours before the product is wrapped, labelled and shipped outside. Kyahwood’s finger jointed studs are desirable for their dimensional stability and straightness. In 2017, Kyahwood sent nearly 13.5 million board feet of product to market. “In 2018, the company had shipped 7 million board feet by the end of June,” notes Boivin.
Continuing with its green waste-not approach to business, Kyahwood tries to ensure everything produced in or by the plant finds a market. The plant’s residuals are trucked back to Houston, where they are used by the Pinnacle Pellet manufacturing plant located there. The Witset Nation has a 10 per cent ownership stake in the Houston pellet plant and Canfor is also a partner in the operation.
Some of the sawdust generated at Kyahwood is used to heat the plant, while its economy grade lumber finds a home in China.
Kyahwood is a relatively small plant, but its accomplishments are large. It’s exporting a valuable wood product to the U.S. manufactured from a residual material; it provides essential jobs and industrial experience to a predominantly aboriginal community—and the company provides benefits to the province in the process and an object lesson in wood fibre utilization.
On the Cover:
It can take loggers time to get used to a new location when they move their equipment—new terrain, different timber, and perhaps different weather conditions. But Swiss logger Beni Brunner had to get used to a whole new country and continent when he set up logging operations in the B.C. Interior with his Valentini remote control tower yarder. Read all about Brunner’s B.C. experiences beginning on page 10 of this issue. (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald)
The robots are coming—to home building
A forest industry advisor recently warned wood producers that the robots are coming to American home building.
Logging in B.C., Swiss style
Swiss logger Beni Brunner has set up a remote control tower yarder operation in the B.C. Interior, and the equipment is working well in some very challenging conditions.
B.C.’s Kyahwood Forest Products has a green waste-not approach to business: it uses trim ends for its feedstock, the plant’s residuals are used for manufacturing wood pellets, and some of the sawdust generated at Kyahwood is used to heat the mill.
Forest planning tools can generate big $ savings
Alberta’s Millar Western Forest Products says there is the potential to save millions of dollars in its woodland operations with new forest planning tools.
Hobby sawmill takes off
What started as a hobby sawmill operation for retired teachers June and Larry Scouten has grown into a successful business—and they can now point to hundreds of fences, decks and docks in Ontario that Scouten White Cedar has been part of creating.
New and Noted at Portland’s Timber Processing & Energy Expo
We take a look at what was New and Noted at the recent Timber Processing & Energy Expo (TP&EE) in Portland, Oregon.
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.
The Last Word
The forest industry faces some tough sledding with multiple challenges ahead, says Jim Stirling.