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Changing With The Times

The McChesney Sawmill Division of E.B. Eddy focusses on better recovery and adding value to improve its bottom line.

By Reg Barclay
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

E.B. Eddy Forest Products Ltd. has a proud heritage dating back 147 years, with its first pulp and paper mill in Hull, Quebec. Known initially as a pulp and paper producer, the company recently expanded into lumber production to better utilize its timber resource. Today, annual soft-wood lumber production is 420 million board feet from six sawmills - four owned, a subsidiary, and another operated under contract.

This past July, consolidation caught up with E.B. Eddy, as Domtar Inc. bought the company for cash and shares. For the time being, this heritage company will retain its identity as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Domtar. The combined softwood lumber production puts Domtar among the top five producers in Canada. According to Craig McManus, E.B. Eddy's vice-president of forestry and wood products, sawmilling is a good fit, as Domtar production, virtually all of it in Quebec, is predominantly studs, while E.B. Eddy production in Ontario is random-length.

E.B. Eddy is proud of its forestry record, according to McManus, with four sustainable forest licences in the Sudbury-Timmins-Chapleau area. This year the company will celebrate planting 100 million seedlings. While forestry is still a priority, the company has paid more attention to its sawmill side recently, to improve recovery and productivity, and to add value. The McChesney sawmill division at Timmins is a good example of the company's innovative strategies to achieve objectives for growth and profit. The Timmins mill, acquired by E.B. Eddy in 1974, is an old mill built some 80 years ago, on the banks of the Mattagami River near the Timmins town centre. It was designed as a single-line mill for medium and large logs. Equipment was manually operated and out-dated, so a decision was made in 1994 to invest in new equipment. Since then about $14 million has been invested in optimizing equipment and a new dryer.

E.B. Eddy McChesney mill

Since 1994, the E.B. Eddy McChesney mill in Timmons, Ontario has invested $14 million in new equipment.

A small log line is essential for optimum utilization of the timber resource, but could not be added to the McChesney mill, since the area for expansion was restricted. In 1988, a contract was arranged with a small log mill, Gogama Forest Products, a subsidiary of Day Construction, located halfway between Sudbury and Timmins in the heart of the E.B. Eddy forest licenses. An agreement was struck to pay the mill on the basis of lumber production in board feet, and oven-dried chip production in cubic metres.

First off, however, harvesting practices had to be changed. Instead of logs delivered in tree lengths and in mixed species, to be sorted at the mill, logs were cut at forest roadside to 8'and 16' lengths and sorted by species and diameter - with small logs routed to Gogama and larger logs headed for McChesney.

Gogama Forest Products was a stud mill when it was acquired by Day Construction. Since then, the mill has seen many changes, all designed by Hollins Industries International Inc. from 100 Mile House, BC. According to Shawn Day, general manager, the mill now produces eight products: 1X4s and 2X3s in 7'and 8'lengths, 2X4s in 6', 7'and 8' lengths, and 2X6s in 8' lengths, thus improving recovery and adding value from an average log diameter of 5.25". Current annual production is 50 million board feet.

The log storage area is, by necessity, extensive, as logging is suspended in the wet season, from April to June. The species mix is 75 per cent spruce and 25 per cent jackpine.

At the mill infeed there are three 18" Cambio debarkers, one for 8' and two for 16' lengths. After debarking, 16' logs are cut to 8' lengths, and all logs are automatically scanned and sorted into bins. The sort is based on the product sizes that can be recovered from a diameter grouping. For example, one sort will yield one 2X4, another two 2X3s and so on.

Logs are batch-fed by species and by sort to the breakdown unit, a Finnish-made HewSaw with four chipping heads to square the log, and a horizontal double arbor to break down the cant. As the log approaches the HewSaw, the computer-controlled prefeed rolls press down to turn the log, so that it is sawn "horns up". The computer-controlled HewSaw setup is quickly changed for each batch; this is a fast and accurate machine, processing logs at 450 to 500 lineal feet per minute. The mill can process 16,000 8' pieces in a nine-hour shift.

The HewSaw is not only fast, recovery is also excellent. The product pattern is planned from the centre out, rather than outside-in. According to Day, recovery at the mill was initially 165 board feet/cubic metre and is now 225 board feet/cubic metre. Day noted that such progress is due not only to equipment, but also to a hardworking and skilled staff. Higher recoveries are possible, and further mill changes, such as adding bin sorts and an optimized trim saw, are being evaluated.

Following breakdown, a grader directs lumber either to the chipper, edger or grade sort; 2X4 stud grade proceeds straight through to the stacker. Other sizes after edging are trimmed and then directed to one of seven bins by a PLC sorter prior to stacking. Lumber sizes of 2X4 and 2X6 in 8'lengths are sent to McChesney for drying and planing; other sizes are sent elsewhere, as directed by McChesney.

Spruce chips are shipped to the Donohue Inc. newsprint mill at Thorold, Ontario, through an agreement that provides timber in return. Pine chips go to the E.B. Eddy pulp mill at Espinola.

Shawn Day says: "Gogama Forest Products is very happy with the arrangement with McChesney and it is working well for both parties. We feel we must give E.B. Eddy the best return on their investment," and judging by the work attitude in the mill and changes made, Gogama Forest Products is doing just that.

At the McChesney mill in Timmins, large and medium-sized logs are delivered in 16' lengths and range in diameter from 6" to 28", averaging out at 9.5". Annual production is 68 million board feet, operating one green end shift. Species mix is 60 per cent spruce, with the balance made up mostly of jackpine and some balsam.

The mill is a combination of old and new, according to Pierre Bois, sawmill supervisor. Logs are delivered to a log deck by a Linden step feeder, where they are transferred to one of two debarkers: a 30" Kockums and an 18" Forano. After debarking, a scanner rough-sorts the logs by diameter into one of four log bins. Logs are then fed to the Optimil breakdown unit infeed.

There are two scanners: one to rotate the log 'horns up' and the second to set the saws - a four-chipper head unit to square the log and a twin band saw to break down the cant. The degree of wane on the cant can be controlled by simply punching in changes on the computer keyboard. This is important for recovery or for grade when cutting for Japan.

Following the breakdown unit, there is a double-arbor edger with scanner and two manual edgers for wider widths. The newly installed Newnes trim saws either optimize the grade through trimming or reject the piece for reprocessing. Lumber moves at 130 lugs per minute through the trimmer and is sorted automatically so that 2X4s and 2X6s drop into designated sling bins for various width and length combinations. When full, each bin is discharged onto a conveyor for the stacker, where stickers are inserted by hand. There is also a manual green sort for special sizes.

Stacked lumber is conveyed on rails to the new computer-controlled Salton dryer. Guy Fleury, finish superintendent, says that the dryer has variable-speed cross-shaft fans which can move 1,200 cubic feet of air per minute through stacked lumber. The 150'-long kiln holds 315,000 board feet per charge, and drying requires 21.5 hours. Heat is supplied by twin 15-million BTU gas-fired furnaces. Kiln capacity is 110 million board feet on the basis of 360 charges per year, which includes production from the Gogama small-log mill.

From the dryer, lumber is processed by a Newman 712 planer, at 1,000 lineal feet per minute for 2X4s. Lumber then proceeds through a new Newnes optimized trim saw and grading machine with a built-in moisture meter and automatic rotation. Number one and two grades go directly to the automatic stacker and are paper-wrapped. Downgrades and short lengths are hand-pulled. Mill output from 6", 8" and 10" widths is 60 per cent, 30 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, and 65 per cent of lengths are 16'.

Gaetan Malette, regional manager, says that marketing is an important element for McChesney. Currently, the market mix for McChesney is five per cent Japan, 30 per cent Canada, and 65 per cent US.

He says that development of the Japanese market is in its early stages, as sample shipments were delivered early this year. Malette is hopeful about building a long-term relationship with buyers in Japan through a newly appointed agent, Timber West, in Vancouver, for the Japanese like the tight grain of slow-growth whitewood from the E.B. Eddy forests.

Production of J-grade lumber was carefully approached. Widman & Associates of Vancouver were brought in to evaluate the quality of the wood and provide guidelines for the mill on sizes and grade quality. Malette points out that producing J-grade requires team work, from the woods to the dry kilns. For one thing, Japanese spec is heavy to 12' lengths and 2X4 widths, with spruce preferred.

Sample packages for Japan are shipped by truck to the E.B. Eddy Martel Division in Chapleau, where they are reloaded on a rail car destined for Vancouver, for further shipment by vessel. The company thus far is shipping 100,000 board feet of lumber every six weeks to Japan and hopes for more when the market strengthens.

According to Malette, the company is looking at other value-added markets, such as decking, squares for landscaping, and furniture. Diversification is necessary to realize mill potential and to avoid oversupplying the CLS market in Canada, as the quota restricts mill shipments above present levels. Mills like McChesney that have expanded are not given additional quota.

Meanwhile, E.B. Eddy has earned the respect and loyalty of its staff at Timmins for mill improvements and long-term strategies, which underscore a future for jobs in this small northern Ontario city.

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