Kenora Forest Products has seen a series of upgrades in the last several years, with a strong focus on recovery.
By Dave Lammers
A stud mill in northwestern Ontario that once looked like it might be boarded up permanently has been upgraded in the last three years with the goal of producing some of the best lumber around. Kenora Forest Products Ltd-purchased in 1994 by Winnipeg, Manitoba based Prendiville Industries-has invested a total of $14 million in its sawmill and planer mill. Since the facility reopened six years ago, there have been at least six major improvement projects, including the installation of a value-added fencing plant. "Recovery, recovery, recovery," has been the focus of the improvements, says mill manager Rod McKay. In addition, Prendiville Industries Ltd has worked to ensure the mill-closed for six years previous to its purchase from Boise Cascade-has a competitive cost structure in place to face the inevitable down markets in lumber prices. In the past year alone, the mill's production has increased by 22 per cent and recovery, previously around 200 board feet per cubic metre, has climbed to more than 300 board feet.
The most recent improvement came this past May when the company remodeled its log deck and installed a MaxiTour wave feeder. Previous to that, the operation relied on a log unscrambler with a side lift that brought logs up 12 feet-resulting in many eight-foot logs falling off the lift. "It was just a nightmare," recalls McKay. The MaxiTour unit resulted in an immediate eight to 10 percent improvement in production, stopping logs from falling away from the head rig. "We actually pushed the start button and it was in full production-there were very few startup issues," says maintenance superintendent Glen Gardner. Gardner adds that he likes the simplicity of the machine, including the fact that it has an electric crank instead of hydraulics.
In addition, a new log reentry and exit system was installed, as well as a new log feed system to feed the head rig and a modified infeed to allow more logs to be piled. The log decks were also raised to allow cleanup underneath. The mill also installed true shape scanning and optimization on the head rig, choosing the Autolog system.
A narrower sharp chain was installed to offset the chain in order to achieve better solutions through true shape. The upgrade tied in with a downstream project where a curve sawing gang edger was installed to capitalize on crooked pine. McKay says the Autolog system is easy to use and, while there are some limitations deep in the program, the simplicity of the system makes it a good tradeoff. The curve sawing gang edger, installed in November 1999, is a double arbor, eight inch gang, produced by Comact, with a lateral positioning infeed capable of .100 kerf. "We had converted the old gang edger to thin saws and a good guide system, but we just wanted to keep going," says McKay. The company selected the Comact system because of the machine's curve sawing capability. "It curve saws anything it can see over a one per cent improvement in value," says McKay.
The edger also features shifting clusters to produce 4x4, 6x8 and 7x9 railroad ties-a market that Kenora Forest Products is exploring for the future. The system also has a 10foot capability allowing the company to expand into the nine and 10foot stud market. "It's probably been one of the best machines we've put in. It's very rare that we'll have a jam-up or an extra saw change," says Gardner. In September 1998, the company installed an optimized trimmer sorter line by Carbotech, capable of handling 150 pieces per minute. The goal at that time, says McKay, was to ensure there was sufficient capacity on the back end of the mill before expanding the front end.
The Carbotech unit features 26 bins, value-added drop out, in line PET trimmer, a PosiX board positioner and Autolog one-inch density scanning. "We looked at all the systems and decided on the Carbotech system. We liked the high-speed trimmer that Carbotech has- all electric and no hydraulics. On the bin side, we wanted to have high, narrow bins with soft discharge for very short lumber. We go right down to a 1x3 four foot. It was important to have a good system to discharge those to the stacker." The system's diverter gates use rotary activators instead of cylinders, which are more likely to break down, adds McKay. It also features a pusher lug sorter system where the chain rests on the lumber rather than being suspended in a chain run. "All your wear is on the lumber, which is minimal on rough lumber and does not affect the final product.
One of the biggest improvements at the mill was made two years ago when a High Tech optimized two saw board edger was installed, with a top remand head and strip saver with a capacity of 40 pieces per minute. Previously, the operation produced one-inch lumber using a handfed board edger with laser lines. Now, the edger remands lumber back to one inch. "That's been a great piece of equipment," says McKay. "We doubled the improvement in recovery that we had projected because of the inefficiencies of hand feeding."
High Tech also designed a strip saver for the mill as a two-board solution, allowing lumber to be taken back through the trimmer sorter line as another edge piece to the board edger. Other improvements at the mill include refitting the sawmill with key knife systems, replacing chipping knives, as well as knives on the head rig and edger. Older mobile equipment in the yard has been replaced with two John Deere TC54 forklifts. And in the planer mill, a PLC Tong Lug Loader was added to feed the sorter trimmer line. The mill changed from boxcar loading to centre beam loading-bagging lumber and loading it outside the planer mill. With a focus on grading and trimming, the planer mill has seen an overall improvement in product quality.
The result has been improved value and more low-grade lumber from the sawmill going to the fence plant, another recent addition to the mill in January 2000. Recovery lumber that was previously sold as pallet stock now falls through a sorter onto a belt and is automatically fed into the fence plant. The plant features two Baker band saws that slice one and two-inch lumber into fence pickets, as well as two custom-made notching machines. "We're getting less recovery but more value," says McKay, adding all fence pickets are sold to integrated mill Prairie Forest Products in Neepawa, Manitoba.
The mill currently produces everything from 1x3 four foot to 2x6 eight foot, as well as some 4x4. The production target for this year is 55 million board feet. With all the changes afoot, the focus continues to be on versatility, including the ability to produce special products in the future such as railway ties and nine and 10foot studs. Logs are provided to Kenora Forest Products Ltd by private sources and its own timber-harvesting quota logged together with Abitibi Consolidated, which is certified in its woodlands through ISO 14001.
A challenge in the future will be managing the mill's US lumber quota in the light of its expanded operations. "As our production grows, we need to find innovative ways to work up against our quota," says McKay. McKay credits the mill's 80 employees and nine staff members for embracing change over the last few years. He also credits the employees for directing internal safety programs, which have led to the status of being a Safe Work Ontario certified mill with a no time accident record of over 500 days as of this past summer.
McKay adds that the company is dedicated to the environment through programs such as the future installation of chip bins to eliminate dust on the site in an effort to preserve the mill's pristine surroundings. "We're on a very beautiful location here on Lake of the Woods and that's one of the things we treasure and want to look after here on the site. That's important to us."
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