Building a New Kiln Helps Build Stronger Customer Relationship

by | Sep 1, 2023 | 2023, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, Sawmill, September/October

It’s the start of a new era at family-owned Gilbert Smith Forest Products, a primarily Western Red Cedar specialty lumber producer located in Barriere, B.C., with the installation of a new Nyle-brand 80,000 board foot capacity, fully electric-powered, Heat-Pump based dehumidification (DH) dry kiln.

In business since 1955, Gilbert Smith can now offer its customers in-house, kiln-dried lumber for the first time. The result is higher value dry reman blanks that can quickly go into various customers’ pattern stock programs or dry surfaced products that Gilbert Smith can send directly into distribution. Less handling of the product compared to third-party drying has improved delivery times to the end users, resulting in an improved flow through the supply chain.

“With most of the remanufacturing plants that are purchasing our green, rough, reman blanks, if they have a kiln on site, they are paying workers to hand unwrap our green load and then hand-stick the lumber with multiple people,” says Steven Wourms, Quality Control Supervisor at the Gilbert Smith sawmill.

It’s a very slow process.

“So for us to be able to direct the product from our manufacturing line, automatically place it on sticks from the same stacker that does our finished products, and then load it into the kiln generates a lot of efficiency,” Wourms adds. “We de-stick and deliver it—and our valued-added customers produce their final products in a timely manner.”

The addition of this service has helped to build stronger relationships with customers, especially in these challenging markets.

It has also allowed Gilbert Smith to achieve a consistently high-quality finish on high-value cedar lumber decking and S4S lumber by having the ability to plane the lumber after drying rather than when it is green.

With the installation of the first fully-electric Nyle dry kiln in the B.C. Interior, the Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill can now dry Western Red Cedar down to between 12 to 14 per cent moisture content typically in 72 hours.

With the installation of the first fully electric Nyle dry kiln in the B.C. Interior, the Gilbert Smith sawmill can dry Western Red Cedar down to between 12 to 14 per cent moisture content (MC), typically in 72 hours. Nyle is based in Brewer, Maine, and offers a variety of lumber drying options.

“Nyle seems to be a fairly progressive company, which is how we view ourselves as well,” says Wourms. “We had some different ideas on operating the kiln and the energy monitoring system, and Nyle was excited to work with that. At the end of the day, we generally try to do things outside the box, and Nyle was very willing to work with us.” It was that willingness to respond to the sawmill’s philosophy and goals that made Nyle the preferred choice for this new venture.

For example, by making a few package size and construction adjustments, including a heated floor, the Gilbert Smith sawmill has helped to expand the dry kiln’s capacity.

“To be perfectly honest, we as a company ask a lot of our suppliers,” says Shelby Nickel, Operations Superintendent at the Gilbert Smith sawmill “And if a supplier is willing to step up to what we are asking of them, that’s who we will go with.”

The sawmill also wanted to work with a company with an eco-friendly attitude, specifically with the goal of minimizing energy consumption while using a clean form of energy, in this case, hydro power. They have developed an energy monitoring system with independently controlled heat and heat pump/DH units that allows them to manage energy consumption and demand so it is used efficiently when the kiln is in operation. Gilbert Smith promotes this environmental benefit through its ECODRY Lumber label designation on all its dry products.

The dry kiln is automated, stepping through its schedule and shutting down once the cycle is complete. The sawmill’s kiln operators can log into the kiln control system remotely using a cell phone, and they do so multiple times each day to ensure that the drying system is stepping through its schedule properly. They also conduct a manual MC check every 18 hours to ensure everything is performing as scheduled. The checks show that the kiln is hitting its mark every time. University of British Columbia Wood Products Processing student Colin Hillmer led the kiln implementation and drying schedule development. Various drying trials were carried out to achieve Gilbert Smith’s desired MC, drying time, and energy consumption costs for each product dried in the kiln.

“It is a user-friendly system,” Nickel says, “and as far as expectations, I think it has exceeded the expectations that we initially had. Drying costs, for example, are less than what we expected, and we are able to fit 100,000 board feet into it, which is more than we anticipated.”

He adds that as far as after-sales support, “Nyle has been fantastic,” he said. Any issues they have had have been relatively minor, and the kiln is gentle on the wood, he added.

Tony Kryzanowski



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