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Jack Be Quick

Jackpine Forest Products built a new engineered wood products plant in a very quick four months and is now turning out 75 million board feet of product.

By Jim Stirling

The place positively gleams, spacious and shiny clean. And it should- Jackpine Engineered Wood Products is only as old as the new millennium. The plant's machines define automated efficiency, each centre obediently delivering lumber products to the next.

People tend to the process at Jackpine, busy with purpose. Gian Singh Sandhu looks at the operation and smiles at what he sees.

Gian Singh Sandhu (middle) has a "use all wood" philosophy with Jackpine Forest Products. "When wood enters our plant, we have to use it all and add value to every piece. That's our basic mission ." Jackpine's new engineered wood operation targets the upper end of the value-added markets with a joist and rafter division, specialty finger jointing line and an edge glued panel side.

Back in his muddy 4x4 for the short trip back to Jackpine Forest Products, Sandhu remarks, almost offhandedly: "With good people working together you can produce miracles ."

The Jackpine Group's version of that has resulted in two value added lumber product plants in Williams Lake, British Columbia. They employ more than 200 people and represent a $14 million capital investment. Jackpine's conviction and guiding philosophy centres on value and recovery, and empowerment to its people to get the job done.

Sandhu is president and CEO of Jackpine Forest Products, a company he founded 13 years ago.

The incentive for the new plant was the growing awareness of value added wood product manufacturing and government policies that made getting into the business feasible.

"We proposed that if we could get a timber sale licence, it would make it possible to commit to building a new plant here," recalls Sandhu. The plan was to concentrate on producing high line products like door and window components.

"As we evaluated our lumber supply sources, we found we could not extract the required percentages of high line material ." Jackpine then adopted a "users of all" management policy. "When wood enters our plant, we have to use it all and add value to every piece and that's our basic mission," says Sandhu.

"We've never looked back. I think what made it viable was and is criteria under timber sale licences. A good percentage, still less than 25 per cent, gives us some security with the majors for getting the grade and quality we have to have to enhance the value.

"Our relationship continues to be good with the primary producers. We trade our logs, they guarantee us the value in lumber. It's been the cornerstone of our success ." Jackpine Forest Products produces an impressive 151 million board feet of product annually on a two-shifts-a-day basis. Lodgepole pine lumber is the dominant species utilized, with small quantities of Douglas fir.

The plant is tightly wedged into 10 acres of land once occupied by an old sawmill. It constitutes a constant logistical challenge accommodating rail and truck movements. People wonder how the operation gets so much product in and out every day, says Sandhu.

Raw material arrives rough in 2x4 to 2x12 and in metric sizes. Number three grade dominates (no economy) with two and better and some MSR product. The plant has four product centres and they each have to justify their existence daily. That's accomplished by examining markets before a cut is made. It's what sets Jackpine apart.

For example, with a 2x6, 16 foot #3 product, they look at where the highest value, best recovery market is for that day, Sandhu explains. "We have an in-house cutting program that looks at scenarios in conjunction with our marketing people. Our computing system does recovery analyses. There's no set 'Cut Program'. It changes every shift, every day. We plug in the numbers first in all four divisions ."

The first of the four is a profile/planer line that rips and trims to enhance value for a range of products including bed frame stock. A finger jointing/chop line concentrates on studs and Mabashira grade for Japan. Any clears are diverted to door and window stock. The third division produces about 100,000 board feet a day of pallet components for the California market and there's a notching line for in-house low grade. The remaining division converts grade two and better and MSR into truss components in whatever size customers require.

Jackpine operates two 150,000 board feet steam injected dry kilns originally from Coe for reducing moisture content to about 10 per cent in high grade panel, furniture and door and window stock. Sandhu emphasizes the team approach with the operation. "Our supervisors have to understand value and we put a lot of effort into training them ." Supervisors in the divisions meet with Sandhu each morning to discuss the previous day's activities and the plans for upcoming shifts.

Jackpine Engineered Wood Products is a recent expansion and produces about 75 million board feet of product annually on a single daily shift basis. The plant was just a hole in the ground August 12, 1999. A remarkable 120 days later a 67,000 square foot plant was operating. It targets the upper ends of the value-added markets with a joist and rafter division, specialty finger jointing line and an edge glued panel side. The term "specialty" qualifying the finger jointing is well chosen. Sandhu was successful in identifying and satisfying a marketing niche in the US for flange material up to 60feetsixinch lengths.

The joint and rafter division begins with a computerized, three section, 120 foot infeed system loaded by forklift. Lumber is grade two and better and MSR, but it is pre-graded again when it comes off the tilt hoist onto the first landing table. "It still needs to be looked at for defects and the flange material can only take certain size knots," explains Sandhu. Moisture content is also critical and monitored online.

Outgrade blocks under two feet long are sent to sister operation Jackpine Forest Products for determining an end use. "We're getting the best value out of the material and we target our buying to those values," says Sandhu.

The Western Pneumatic finger jointing machine can accommodate lumber from six feet to 20 feet long. It inscribes a one and an eighth inch long joint, favourable in roof and floor markets.

Western Pneumatic crowder rolls prepare the glued lumber for passage through a Radio Frequency Systems curing machine designed to Jackpine's specs. Temperatures must be a minimum 190 degrees and stringent quality control testing ensures the integrity of the wood, adds Sandhu.

Lengths are controlled by a Western Pneumatic flying cut off saw. The stacking system is a collaboration between an in-house concept and design and SKS Engineering of Vancouver. DelTech of Prince George designed a tension testing machine to handle the 60 foot long pieces.

A moulder cleans up glue and can rip to customer requirements. The trimming system can handle from eight foot lengths to 60 feet 6 inches.

Products are packaged through an automatic lumber press and wrapped. Forklifts have been adapted to handle the 60 foot long packages. Products from the line are exported mainly to the US and into Japan. "Versatility is what we work for," says Sandhu. "Say what you want and we'll make it ."

Product enters the edge glued panel side along an in-house designed and engineered infeed. A Taiwanese Cemco moulder can produce a four sided or grooved product. It's quality-rather than speed-that is the factor here, notes Sandhu, and a rip saw machine produces a good face for edge gluing.

Pride of place on the line is a cold edge glue press from AtInnova Oy in Harma, Finland. Sandhu visited the factory and scouted out the machine in other European plants. Jackpine's machine is the first installation in Western Canada.

The machine enhances recovery and quality-and that's talking Sandhu's language. The automated, continuous flow machine claims an 18 to 20 per cent improvement in recovery.

Quality is enhanced along a patented glue line that avoids the spillage associated with clamping systems and contributes to glue savings. The glue line can operate pressing each piece at a super-swift 300 metres/min.

An inline flying cut off saw matches widths to markets, a five saw trimming system and an automatic stacker leading to the sanders are all encompassed in the one 65 foot long machine system. The Simco sanding system is designed with moulder heads.

The product is packaged and shipped to distributors. Home Depot is one of Jackpine's customers.

Quality value added lumber products is Jackpine's mantra and Sandhu is convinced achieving that is all about people. "You can spend the money, but you need people to invest the mental resources into the business. They make the products ."

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This page last modified on Tuesday, February 17, 2004