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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2011

October/November 2011

On the Cover:

British Columbia’s 450,000 kilometres of resource roads are under unprecedented pressures. In addition to being used by the forest industry, the roads are now the arteries for increased levels of exploration by the mining industry, and the oil and gas industry. Read about how the B.C. government is trying to streamline the plethora of different road rules, regulations and operational procedures on page 44 in this issue. (Photo by Jim Stirling)


The forest industry turnaround has started in one of B.C.’s most forest industry dependent-communities —Mackenzie—and in a very welcome move, people are being recalled back to work at the sawmill.

Deal with BC Hydro made bioenergy plant happen

Making the grade, lumber-wise

The recent installation of a completely computer-based grading machine in the planer mill at the Tolko High Level sawmill in Alberta shows that computerized grading systems can indeed make the grade.

Blazing a new business trail

Faced with the shutdown of the local sawmill, B.C. logger Ralph Stewart is blazing a new business trail these days, using B.C. government timber sales to keep his harvesting equipment busy.

Guest Column: Saving money with your fork lift equipment

Scott McLeod of Fleetman Consulting on how to save money through better management of fork lift equipment.

Steady sawmill hand

Thanks to regular equipment improvements and steady family hands running the company, Quebec’s Clermond Hamel sawmill has been able to survive the industry shakeout of the last few years, and is even expanding the business.

Getting Beyond Commodity OSB

Tolko’s Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan OSB operation is going beyond turning out commodity product, with the installation of new technology to create a more versatile forming line that is capable of producing other engineered wood products.

Towing timber

It may go back to days gone by, but forest company Conifex finds that moving logs by water is still a very efficient way to move timber, despite having to deal with the weather on Williston Lake in the B.C. Interior.

Taking forestry matters into their own hands

After years of forest industry frustration in northwestern B.C., the First Nations-owned Gitxsan Forest Enterprises Inc has taken matters into its own hands, and is actively managing, and harvesting, a forest licence the company purchased several years ago.

What’s in…The Edge!

Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry—now incorporated into Logging and Sawmilling Journal—are stories on Canadian Wood Fibre Centre /Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations research projects.

B.C. driving effort for safer resource roads

The B.C. government is trying to streamline the huge variety of different rules, regulations and operational procedures and in the process overhaul how the province’s resource roads can be more safely regulated.

Tech Update

Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the latest information on what’s new in lumber grade optimization equipment.

The Last Word

Tony Kryzanowski asks …Where is the wood lobby for Edmonton’s massive redevelopment plan?

Supplier Newsline


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There’s gold in them there hills

By Scott McLeod

Most lumber sawmills, reman mills or lumber container stuffing companies consider forklift equipment as “a necessary evil”.

Every dollar spent acquiring, maintaining or operating this equipment comes right off a company’s bottom line.

These days, every dollar of profit counts and so in the lumber business, regardless of your particular market niche, if you’re looking to make more money, reviewing your forklift equipment is a great place to start.

With forklifts, always remember, less is more.

So, how do you really know if you have too few, too many or just the right number of lift trucks?

Let’s take a look at the five most common “red flags” that should tell you something is wrong.

First, does your company have any idea what your fleet utilization percentage is by truck, by department and for the fleet as a whole? If not, it would be wise to take the time to figure this out. For years, many lumber companies have had an approach of just replacing one forklift with another forklift instead of going through a proper justification process. Remember, with each unnecessary forklift comes unnecessary costs by way of the lift truck itself, maintenance, the operator, operator training, fuel, insurance, potential liability and so on.

Second, what is the average age of your fleet and what percentage of your trucks are over five years old? Sometimes companies have too many units because their fleet is too old and they need a greater number of lift trucks if they are to avoid downtime issues due to a higher-than-average frequency of repairs. Other times, they have an excess of forklifts because the lift trucks are too old to keep up to production demands dictated by highly sophisticated sawmill machinery that has become exceedingly more productive these days. Whatever the reasons, an older fleet will often have excessive costs. It’s important to be on top of these costs to make sure pro-active decisions are made by choosing the right time to upgrade before operating costs, productivity or safety targets are compromised.

Third, how many different types of forklifts do you operate? By this I mean different specifications such as capacity, fuel type, mast, carriage, tires and so on. If every forklift is different, it usually means that each forklift is too specialized to work in other areas around the mill resulting in a limitation of how utilized this asset will become over time.

Fourth, does every forklift have a working hour meter? A working hour meter is one of the most critical parts on a forklift. It has to be functional 100 per cent of the time. Without a working hour meter, you can’t properly calculate equipment utilization, properly plan maintenance intervals or decide on when an asset should be retired. I’m always amazed at how many non-working hour meters exist today.

Fifth, is it obvious during the course of a day, that forklift operators are getting on and off the equipment multiple times leaving the truck to sit there idling endlessly leaving you with the false impression (based on hour meter readings) that the asset is fully utilized? Watch your work flow at different times of the day to see what is happening. Keeping your operators on the truck and moving as much as possible should be the goal with every lumber business that operates forklift equipment.

For whatever reason, forklift trucks seem to attract less attention and scrutiny than other types of heavier mobile equipment or production machinery. However, spending a little time in this area will convince you that “there’s gold in them there hills”.

Let’s look at a very simplistic example where a sawmill has just one under-utilized 25,000 lb. capacity surplus forklift in their fleet. By getting rid of this truck and all the related costs that go with it, and by finding creative ways to spread its work elsewhere, the company will likely save well over $250,000 in the next five years. Who wouldn’t be interested in that?

Take the time to investigate and explore your options in this area. You’ll be glad you did.


Scott McLeod is President of Fleetman Consulting Inc. He is available at (604) 614-3530 or via his website at Fleetman Consulting Inc., based in Surrey, B.C., is an independent forklift consulting company that specializes in forklift fleet management and forklift procurement, representing the interests of the end user.