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Improved Lumber Flow at White River

It's been a busy time at Domtar's White River mill, with the addition of a cogeneration facility and the installation of new MSR equipment.

By Dave Lammers

The Domtar Wood Products sawmill in White River, Ontario is barking up all the right trees these days. In fact, the first cogeneration plant to be built at a Domtar sawmill is using bark to power parts of the dimensional lumber manufacturing plant. For years, a huge stockpile of bark has marked the entrance to the mill site in White River, located 320 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie. Now the bark, which in the past had to be landfilled at no small cost to the mill, is being consumed by a cogeneration plant with a power capacity of 7.5 megawatts. "It burns all the bark and wood waste and in turn provides our plant with all the steam to dry our lumber and to heat our plant," says mill general manager Mel Jones. "That steam also creates electricity from the cogeneration plant for Ontario Hydro." The $13million plant, financed, built and operated by Alberta based Drayton Valley Power, has been operational since January 1999. The 5,000squarefoot facility is coupled to the mill and has 17 employees. Drayton Valley leases the property for the plant from Domtar and in return Domtar has a 20year contract to supply bark to Drayton with the benefit of not having to dispose of its wood waste. "It's an avoided cost," says Jones. "The cost associated to the cogen is less than landfilling the bark waste. They're consuming all of our waste.

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A $13 million cogen plant, built and operated by Drayton Valley Power, has been operational at the White River mill since early 1999. Domtar has a long term contract to supply bark to the plant, with the benefit of not having to dispose of its wood waste. Improvements inside the mill itself include the addition of a CAE/Newnes Machine Stress Rated unit. MSR volumes now represent 30 per cent of total production.

There is no excess wood waste from this mill anymore." Also relatively new at the White River sawmill is a Machine Stress Rated unit for specialty lumber used in truss and joist construction, installed in the spring of 1998. MSR volumes now represent 30 per cent of total mill production. The mill installed a CAE/Newnes XLG MSR unit and is producing designated grades from a low of 1,650 to premium grades of 2,100 and 2,400. The high speed Newnes MSR unit has turned out to be a perfect fit for the mill, which has surpassed its original goal of 25 per cent MSR production. "We've exceeded the expectations of recovery with the machine, the yield of MSR out of our product," says Jones. "We chose that unit because of our planer configuration. We had a relatively short distance between the planer out feed and the grader's landing table, so we were space confined. The other units on the market wouldn't fit in the space that we had. It's what we call close coupled to the planer. "The XLG is actually pulling a gap between the boards coming out of our planer, so it's running faster than our planer." The 16foot Newnes unit includes a conveyor attached for spray painting and product identification.

After going through the machine, the lumber drops on to a landing table where the wood starts transferring at a 90degree angle. "We felt the Newnes machine was user friendly, the controls, the calibration," says Jones. "The unit has to be calibrated every quarter shift. It's user friendly so our planer setup person can easily do that in a few minutes." The mill uses a high percentage of black spruce trees for its MSR production, the best type of lumber for specialty applications because of the wood's high density. The mill also uses jack pine and white spruce. The Newnes machine measures the density or strength of each board using an Xray light source to ensure high quality. Jones says the mill can't produce enough specialty lumber and will manufacture 35 million board feet this year alone, with sales primarily in the southeastern United States. White River's total production for 1999 is estimated to be 130 million board feet. In terms of wood supply, Domtar is entering a new five-year licence in the region for 400,000 cubic metres annually. The mill is consuming more than 600,000 cubic metres a year, with 200,000 cubic metres coming from licences in other areas. In March 1999, the mill also started producing shorter rough green lumber, including four, five, six and seven foot pieces which are sent to value-added plants to be resawed for furniture and pallet stock.

The mill was able to improve its rate of recovery by 10 per cent and it was all done with a capital investment of under $100,000. The plant had to install a second dropout conveyor coming out of the green trimmer and two more drop saws to allow shorter cuts. The existing trimmer optimizer was capable of identifying the shorter lengths. The product is transferred on a conveyor to the planning mill floor where it is manually pulled off the line and sorted. The operation created three new fulltime jobs bringing the total workforce to 180. In January 1999, the sawmill added a third shift mill_profile_2.jpg (10365 bytes)and switched workers from two 10 hour shifts to three eight hour shifts. "We were able to increase our daily production by 25 per cent with the same size of work force," says Jones. With each shift previously running 50 hours a week, employees worked 40 hours with extra workers required on the fifth day for some positions, he says. "There were extra people for the two 10 hour shifts. We just flowed those people into the third eight hour shift." The mill also introduced a once a year annual vacation shutdown in summer. Jones says both the third shift and the summer shutdown have improved efficiency and freed up time for necessary maintenance. Another relatively new product being manufactured at the mill is scant, 1 1 /4 "x 2 1 /2 " decking material produced from a fibre source consisting of about 70 per cent jack pine and 30 per cent white and black spruce. The 1 1 /2 " x 2 1 /2 " product is used for decking and is available in eight foot lengths. Getting into new products has delivered results to the bottom line. "Markets have been extremely good for us, so the plant has been very profitable," says Jones. The mill opened in 1977 but has actually only been turning a profit since 1992. Domtar purchased the mill from then Abitibi Price in 1985 and immediately revamped the log handling area.

In 1994, Domtar launched a Recovery Improvement Program at White River installing a fully optimized, double length infeed system on its saw line; a 16foot Newnes trimmer scanning optimizer; a Newnes 10saw optimizing trimmer with a three stage positioning infeed fence and smart gate outfeed; and a Newnes 32bin Jbar sorting system that handles 125 pieces per minute. It also installed a Newnes highspeed crib stacker and a 15ton overhead crane for crib stacking from Oakville's Mannesmann Demag Corp., log sorting bins by Paul Dallaire Welding and an Optimil high speed, forehead, small log sawing line with double length infeed which operates at 450 feet per minute. In addition to bringing its more recent equipment additions up to speed, the mill has also been working on gaining further efficiencies from existing equipment. "It's been a year of fine tuning the process, rather than turning it inside out," says Jones. "Fine tuning what we had in place." In a more creative way, Domtar's White River mill is making improvements by adopting what is called the Kaizen improvement process. "It's basically a continuous improvement process where we identify teams in the work force. Those teams are given a particular mandate and they're given training to address the root cause of any concerns or problems throughout the mill," says Jones. "They come up with solutions: the rewards are the satisfaction of improving the process." The mill has also demonstrated success ful employee involvement in the area of health and safety and boasts a record approaching two years accident free. "We're very proud of that in this type of industry," says Jones. "If there's a health and safety concern anywhere in the plant, the employee can take action himself, repair it or address it. Or go directly to the supervisor." It's a cooperative approach adopted in a small community which depends entirely on Domtar for its survival.

The company draws almost exclusively on people living in the community, including a female work force totaling 32 per cent of the 180 employees. Add to that woodlands workers and about 300 of the 1,000 people living in White River depend on the mill to support their families. Far from sitting still, mill manager Jones has plans to improve optimization recovery in a few more areas. In keeping with a company wide recovery improvement plan, White River has a three-year strategic plan including plans for an optimized chipper edger, a third sawing line for smaller wood and possibly optimized slashers and highspeed debarkers. That should keep many people happy in White River.


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