By S. J. Trotton
Acommitment to staying innovative and cutting edge through continuous improvements has been the key to continued business success for Vancouver Island company Coastland Wood Industries—and recent capital investments reinforce that solid approach.
When Coastland started their Nanaimo veneer manufacturing facility, access to and a need for second and third production lines likely seemed improbable at the time. However, the addition of capital improvements over the years, which includes adding lathes made by manufacturers like Meinan, a Japanese manufacturer known for its meticulous engineering, and Coe Manufacturing, now USNR, a company known as one of the world’s largest suppliers of equipment and technologies for the wood processing industry, have been an important part of their innovative success.
The company built the Nanaimo facility in 1988, launching production with a single COE lathe line and single log deck. A second COE lathe line and second manufacturing line were added in 2000, and in 2013, they installed a third lathe line.
“We inherently recognize how important it is to utilize the most efficient equipment as well as maintain optimum production levels,” explains Doug Pauze, Coastland’s senior vice-president, operations.
“We have been fortunate to have owners who trust our judgement when it comes to the innovative expansion ideas we may want to explore.”
A privately-owned company that is ranked as one of the largest dedicated veneer facilities in North America, Coastland consumes just over 900,000 cubic metres of fibre per year. The company is comprised of operations located throughout Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland which include two log sorting facilities, a drying facility near Vancouver and its veneer plant in Nanaimo.
Logs utilized by the company are supplied by Crown licensees, private landowners and First Nations including Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN). The company says it prides itself in the relationship it has with its suppliers.
“All of our suppliers and all of our stakeholders are considered important Coastland partners who contribute greatly to our overall success,” says Pauze.
At their Nanaimo facility, Coastland utilizes Douglas fir for manufacturing veneer for the plywood/LVL industry. The mill’s veneer production process starts with sorting, cutting and debarking raw logs. This is followed by peeling the veneer to the desired thickness for processing through one of three veneer lathes. The veneer is then clipped to produce sheets while larger defects are removed and chipped. The veneer is then stacked into units within the multiple stacking systems based on the moisture of each sheet. Veneer quality production decisions are always made automatically on a sheet-by-sheet basis, by scanning and grading systems that carefully monitor the process.
The site’s veneer production facilities have been continually modernized, with ongoing production improvements ranging from small changes such as trying different knives for the peeling process to bigger improvements such as the introduction of entirely new systems. Last year, both Coastland’s Nanaimo veneer plant and the Annacis Drying Facility incorporated new strapping systems. Originating from Italy, these new systems are a first-of-its kind system for the North American market, produced by Itipack Systems, that automatically places both top and bottom dunnage and requires just one operator.
“We went with Itipack because their custom-built systems are known for reducing companies’ downtime and improving overall safety and efficiency,” explains Pauze. “Our packaging has been consistent, and we have been able to effectively keep material moving on our production lines without waiting for the strapper.”
The year before that, Coastland was busy at their Nanaimo plant installing a new scanning system for their No. 1 veneer line. The Nv4g scanning system features a catch-up tray and clipper controls as well as a Ventek MPDS diverter. A fourth generation scanning system, the Ventek NV4g uses machine-vision technology that incorporates the use of a specialized color camera and true-color LED lighting, so operators can see a clear separation between wood defects and consumer-quality wood. The system also features what are called neuro-network classification algorithms that allow for more accurate and reliable green veneer clipping solutions. Pauze explains Ventek scanning systems had been used at Coastland for many years, “so it was a natural that we checked out the newest Ventek equipment that was proven to be the best available equipment for our needs at the time. The scanning system allows us to optimize our grade recovery to the fullest extent.
“Both of these investments have allowed us to continue to increase our operational efficiencies as well as continue to focus on cost reductions and fibre recoveries. We definitely met every goal that we were trying to achieve—and then some—so can certainly call this one of the best investments we’ve made in a long time.”
Fibre recovery has always been a priority for Coastland and a key motivator behind the company’s continuous improvement projects that are frequently focused on equipment upgrades. Coastland is able to use almost 100 per cent of the fibre that comes through its mill—something that Pauze says is incredibly important in today’s market.
“As fibre costs continue to rise, it becomes even more important to make sure you maximize your fibre recovery.”
Ensuring Coastland always achieves its commitment to recovery, the company started its most recent upgrade project last winter when the process for a complete retrofit of its log deck line began. According to the company, it was one of the costliest capital projects Coastland had undertaken since the turn of the century. By late June, the latest installation was completed, and the commissioning phase began shortly after that.
This new system utilizes Springer equipment and although not fully up to full production just yet, it is already showing weekly signs of increased productivity results with less downtime and maintenance requirements overall.
“Currently, the system is up to about 70 per cent of its capacity and already proving to be more efficient than the two current lines we operate,” says Pauze.
The new log deck line features a complete mechanical, scanning, and controls solution by Springer-Microtec. Multiple scanning systems are utilized to measure incoming log volumes, perform bucking optimization, and analyze block quality. Designed by Microtec, a company known internationally for their wood scanning and optimization solutions, the new scanning systems installed at Coastland help operators determine whether each log should be chipped or peeled based on their determined grades and quality, explains Pauze.
In the next couple of years Pauze anticipates continual process advancements to keep in front of technology and improve its efficiencies. He says Coastland is always watching out for high-tech solutions for maximizing results.
When defining why Coastland considers their commitment to continuous improvement so important, Pauze has this to say: “Technology is improving and changing the moment that you upgrade your facility. Continuous improvement is a culture that every company should focus on to help give you an advantage, whether through productivity increases or manufacturing cost reductions.
“If you don’t strive to continuously improve your processes, you get left behind.”
On the Cover:
A commitment to staying innovative and cutting edge through continuous improvements has been the key to continued business success for Vancouver Island company Coastland Wood Industries—and recent capital investments reinforce that solid approach (Photo courtesy of Coastland Wood Industries).
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