Quebec sawmill Bois CFMTaking on gnarly logs —with technology

Quebec sawmill Bois CFM has been able to improve its recovery by 25 per cent with a new highly automated and optimized processing line, allowing the mill to work better with some gnarly logs.

By Tony Kryzanowski

AQuebec sawmill producing pallet material has installed a new highly automated and optimized processing line supplied by USNR—and it’s been a big step forward, equipment-wise, for the company.

Bois CFM expects to increase recovery by 25 per cent, giving it the ability to produce their pallet material from 25 per cent less wood fibre compared to their 40-year-old, completely manual system which had no optimization. The new system also requires less labour.

The technology installed at this sawmill could potentially revolutionize the pallet material manufacturing industry and also solve problems for many other sawmills.

Some Canadian sawmills face a situation of owning a wood supply of less than perfectly shaped logs, and less commercial wood species sometimes left to rot simply because of low recovery potential and how difficult they are to process economically. The technology deployed at Bois CFM may be exactly what these sawmills need when faced with this type of wood basket.

Quebec sawmill Bois CFMIn an era where many sawmills and loggers claim that the ‘easy wood’ is becoming harder and harder to find and with log profiles getting smaller, finding a technology that has the ability to make more with less while expanding the range of wood species that sawmills can economically process into solid wood commodities is worth a look.

So many times—particularly in today’s boreal forest—the high value softwood is harvested while the hardwood is left standing for lack of a market or an economical way to process that wood into solid wood products. Technology may be catching up to the evolving needs of the forest industry, though, if the advanced technology available through USNR and deployed at the Bois CFM sawmill in Quebec is any indication.

Bois CFM, located in Sainte-Florence, Quebec is owned by the Coopérative forestière de La Matapédia. They have been in business producing pallet material since 1994 and produce green, rough sawn pallet components from lower value wood species like aspen, larch, and birch measuring 40” to 54” in lengths with differing thicknesses and widths. In other words, they produce the components that are manufactured into pallets by their customers.

Wood pallets are commonly used as the foundation for stacking and transporting goods and have become an industry standard worldwide because they are inexpensive, and easy to use with a forklift.

Talk to anyone in the Canadian forest industry, and they will tell you that the three species being processed at Bois CFM are among the most problematic to process, although high volumes of these species exist in many parts of Canada.

Bois CFM consumes about 100,000 cubic metres per year, mostly from about 150 suppliers from the region known as the Gaspésie. The pallet component mill is an important industry in that area of Quebec.

About 85 per cent of their products are exported to the United States and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, business was increasing significantly, but their manual manufacturing process was stressed.

Quebec sawmill Bois CFMThe end dog carriage system provided by USNR has allowed Bois CFM to recover 25 percent more wood fibre from their logs. Supplementing the end dog system is a new scanning system to make the most from their aspen, larch and birch logs.

“The market from 1994 to today is completely different,” says Simon Roy, General Manager of Bois CFM and the Cooperative. “For several years, the habits of consumers have changed and the demand for pallets has increased due to the large number of goods that are shipped all over the planet.”

The company says that it wanted to continue to be a strong player in this industry, but their old equipment and manual system had a hard time keeping up with customer demand, and the recovery factor per log was also impacting their future competitiveness.

Faced with a situation of increasing customer demand for pallets as well as greater difficulty attracting workers to their highly manual system using older technology, something had to change—and change it did.

“It made sense to invest in the new highly automated system to move our production to the next level,” says Roy.

They shopped around and eventually settled on the USNR system based on the expected improved material yield and return on investment. USNR also had many examples of where this technology had been deployed in other sawmills,

The new mill consists of a completely new primary and secondary processing line. It starts with an optimized end dogger carriage system on the front end with LASAR² scanning, followed by a quad arbor saw box and vertical sawing arbor (VSA) gang.

The LASAR² sensors are positioned to capture the complete profile of the log. They are mounted at both sides of the carriage to scan the front and back sides of the log as it is rotated and prior to it being dogged.

Sideboards are routed to a new optimized edger system consisting of USNR’s Maximizer infeed to a Saw Boss edger box equipped with BioLuma 2900 LV sensors. The system features BioVision lumber grading with Deep Learning technology to further improve the decision making process.

The mill’s trimmer is also equipped with USNR optimization and BioLuma 2900 LV sensors for geometric and vision scanning along with Deep Learning technology.

This new line is having an incredible impact on recovery at Bois CFM considering the challenging species they process.

Aspen, for example, is described as having difficult log characteristics such as gnarly shapes, many knots, extreme sweep and other defects. Sometimes there are three different sweep curves in one log. One of the main challenges at the Bois CFM sawmill was processing aspen logs with multiple defects like knots, pith, splits, sap stain, bark pockets, rot, grub holes and insect holes.

Quebec sawmill Bois CFMBy using advanced Deep Learning technology, the Bois CFM breakdown system is able to place wood defects in strategic locations in pallet components.

“The fact that they use vision at both the edger and trimmer is extremely beneficial,” says Martin Vaillancourt, Account Manager with USNR. “It allows the system to get the highest value from every piece by accurately finding defects and using each board to its best suited purpose within the pallet based on its grade.”

Deep Learning also helps the system decide where to put the waste within pallet components. It is a subset of Machine Learning where neural networks learn from large amounts of data similar to how humans learn from experience. The result is faster start-ups and increasingly accurate grading solutions.

The end dogger carriage holds the log in place at each end so there are no physical restrictions limiting rotation compared to a conventional log turner. The system provides full rotation, skew and tilt on every log, resulting in more control, better accuracy and more recovery.

USNR explains that conventional carriages have limitations, describing them as basically a manual operation with the operator controlling the carriage speed. The end dogger is automatic. It loads the log automatically and sends it through the saws with no back and forth. The end dog approach is similar to processing softwood, where the operator doesn’t have much influence on recovery but it is left up to modern and advanced scanning and processing technology to optimize that recovery. USNR describes its end dog carriage as a complete high tech solution when combined with modern PLC controls, advance scanning, optimization and automated grading.

The Bois CFM application of this system was the first time that USNR applied this end dogging carriage in a pallet mill and the company understands its potential within a much wider range of the wood product industry.

“We believe that the end dogger system has a bright future in hardwood processing,” say Vaillancourt. “It could replace up to half of the existing conventional log carriages in these types of applications.”

He adds that for sawmills processing small to medium diameter hardwood logs that want to increase piece count, this system will do it and achieve higher recovery at the same time.

In addition to USNR, Quebec-based Machinage Piché was also involved with the Bois CFM mill project. Machinage Piché supplied the mill outfeed starting with the accumulation decks and the double unscramblers, as well as the complete trim and sort line, lug loader, fence, fully adjustable trimmer, cut-in-two sorter and two stackers with integrated notchers. The company also integrated the new in-line spray system.

The new production line was installed at Bois CFM in summer 2019 and was in start-up mode by fall. They were able to continue to operate their old line at a different location while installation of the new line occurred, and after two weeks of commissioning, all the employees were moved to the new operation.

The company acknowledges that it took considerable training for staff to make the transition to the new production line, but USNR was helpful.

“USNR has a training program for all the optimizers that we bought,” Roy says. “Our technicians spent many days training in USNR’s facilities. It was a very good start-up and we were provided with good after-sales service from a very competent team at USNR.”

What the company appreciates is the flexibility of the system which has also allowed them to expand their product line.

“This new mill has the flexibility to adapt quickly on demand,” Roy says. “Just a couple of clicks on the optimizer and it is done.”

The new mill requires fewer workers which the company says is an important factor now and into the future.

“And don’t forget that we need less fibre to produce our products,” Roy concludes.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal

January/February 2021

On the Cover:
Logging contractor Tyler Backer of Pro Link Logging has seen a technological revolution within British Columbia’s forest industry, and says he’s always got an eye open for new harvesting equipment developments and techniques that might enhance Pro Link Logging’s efficiency. Read all about his logging approach—and the equipment he executes that approach with, such as this Hitachi 260 processor —beginning on page 18 of this issue (photo courtesy of Pro Link Logging).

B.C. partnership steps up to the plate in training equipment operators
The City of Quesnel, B.C. and partners are looking to step up to the plate to train logging equipment operators on harvesting methods new to most B.C. loggers.

Virtual convention coming up
The BC Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention is going virtual for 2021, and we talk with COFI CEO Susan Yurkovich about the compelling speakers and the important issues in forestry that will be discussed at the convention in April—and what new U.S. President Joe Biden might mean for the industry.

Dealing with changing logging logistics
Logging contractor Tyler Backer is dealing with changing logging logistics in the B.C. Interior these days, such as working in steeper ground—but he has the dedicated people and tough iron to successfully take it all on.

Landrich 2.0 is launched
The Landrich harvester 2.0 version has been launched by New Brunswick’s A. Landry Fabrication, and the new machine features a number of improvements suggested by very loyal customers of the original Landrich harvester.

Enhancing pellet production—and quality—at Pinnacle
Pinnacle Renewable Energy recently completed a $30 million investment package in B.C.’s Cariboo region designed to enhance pellet production efficiency—and product quality.

Big recovery boost for Quebec mill with upgrade
The Bois CFM Inc. sawmill in Sainte-Florence, Quebec recently installed a new optimized primary and secondary line from USNR to meet growing customer demand, that will move its production to the next level.

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 (CWFC), FPInnovations and the Faculty of Forestry of University of B.C.

 The Last Word
Jim Stirling takes a look ahead for the forest industry, beyond the recent elections, and COVID-19.


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