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Sawmill Maintenance

Proactive sawmill maintenance: an approach that pays off

In Canada, the sawmill industry is a key manufacturing sector in lumber production for Canadian use and export. It must constantly improve its competitiveness through operational control of its activities, especially by maximizing the availability of sawmill equipment and reducing costs.

Maintenance based on prognostic models has become a major tool for improving and maintaining equipment performance, and thereby improving a company’s overall equipment effectiveness.

The proactive (prognostic) maintenance approach involves a two-part process. First, it involves condition-based monitoring of the assets through a sensor network installed on critical components, such as vibration sensors, thermography, cutting quality, etc. Second, it involves developing algorithms for predicting component degradation based on the data collected. Prognostic maintenance, with its proactive approach, prevents unnecessary additional costs, unplanned and chronic breakages, as well as any unwanted events of corrective and reactive maintenance.


Sawmill MaintenanceDuring recent work at a member company, FPInnovations was asked to apply the proactive (prognostic) maintenance methodology to anticipate irregularities on a sawmill line. The goal was to measure deterioration in critical equipment’s components.

To reach operational performance objectives, the method is structured and sequenced in a time based way, through:

  • Sawing process surveillance to monitor and improve performance on the corresponding production line;
  • An indication of the performance level achieved during each activity in the sawing process across the entire line;
  • The development of diagnostic and prognostic failure models for each part (component) of critical equipment; and
  • The development of an appropriate maintenance plan to maintain the expected level of performance on the production line throughout its expected life cycle.

Some strategies have been developed to meet the definitions and achieve the main objective of proactive (prognostic) maintenance. These are:

  • Sawing process modeling
  • Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) rate calculation
  • Vibration data collection and analysis
  • Preventive and predictive maintenance plan development
  • Asset observation and documentation
  • An FMEA-type format design based on stakeholder and vendor’s expertise
  • Analysis and valuation of data generated by the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software

In the proactive (prognostic) maintenance domain, understanding trends in anomalies affecting equipment used during operations is important. The methodology therefore provides for the analysis of failures affecting certain equipment components by monitoring the outcome of their behaviour based on the various sources, including BPFI (Ball Pass Frequency of the Inner race), BPFO (Ball Pass Frequency of the Outer race), FTF (Fundamental Train Frequency) and BSF (Ball Spin Frequency).

Lastly, results are generated through failure modelling using machine learning techniques based on advanced statistical calculations.


In the example of the member mill whose capacity is of the order of 150,000 MFB annually, gains arising from the strategies recommended by modelling are also significant and beneficial for all operations. These gains can be summarized as follows:

  • Operational performance: potential average gains that may reach 2.50 percent per day and more
  • Lost opportunity costs and benefits: potential gains exceeding $70,000 annually with an annual return on investment of 1.5
  • Reduction of spare parts: potential gains of $75,000 annually and more.

Proactive (prognostic) maintenance can be an effective and lucrative approach for many mills in the wood processing or pulp and paper sectors.

For more information, please contact Khalil Elhadaoui, Senior Researcher, Primary Wood Manufacturing Group,
FPInnovations:¬†[email protected]

Sawmill MaintenanceStrategic forest fringe afforestation fruitful ground for Two Billion Tree Program


Strategic afforestation along the forest/agriculture fringe can play a leading role in helping the federal government achieve its goals under its Two Billion Tree Program. This program aims to contribute to natural climate solutions through carbon capture by incrementally growing trees to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The primary potential is definitely from Quebec through to British Columbia, although all provinces and territories have suitable forest fringe lands,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).

“That’s where 75 to 80 per cent of the moderate to high quality land exists that could be afforested, significantly contributing to a natural climate solution,” he adds.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) has prepared an afforestation site suitability guide and map that highlights prime areas adjacent to the forest fringe as well as clonal hardwood species proven to be suitable for each bio geo-climatic zone within this vast area. The afforestation site suitability classification quantifies forest production potential based on various characteristics such as soils, growing season moisture, heat degree days, sunlight hours and hardiness zones.

Up to $3.24 billion has been committed by the federal government to the Two Billion Tree Program that will operate for 10 years, from 2021 to 2031.

Afforestation within about 75 kilometres of the current forest fringe offers multiple benefits.

First, this is an area which historically had tree cover over millennia.

“At one time, a lot of the best agricultural land was either forested or partially forested,” says Sidders.

So it obviously has climate and soil conditions that could support plantations featuring fast-growing hybrid poplar or select aspen species or establishment of mixedwood plantations where white spruce or white pine is planted in the understorey, emulating a natural forest.

Second, this area adjacent to the current forest fringe typically has established roads and access to potential labour and services from communities within close proximity to the fringe, thus having a positive impact on plantation establishment and maintenance costs. There are workers available to manage plant material and plant crops while existing roads make the multiple entries required to establish the plantation and vegetation control follow-up over the first three to five years easier.

Third, there is an opportunity to plant native species on marginal/moderate lands with a history of forest cover to enhance habitat and biodiversity and to increase productivity by making extra resources and nutrients available to the soil, while having a positive impact on GHG reduction. Also, high quality seed sources and forest seedling nurseries for these sites are readily available given their distribution and location in close proximity along the forest fringe.

Derek Sidders says the goal is not to displace existing agriculture, activity but strategic placement of plantations in concert with agriculture along the entire forest fringe boundary. That’s because the forest fringe is a vast area that can easily support both activities. He adds that the additional new forests enhance the adjacent lands while also mitigating climate change.

Sidders says that if even a portion of the area near the forest fringe was re-established, this would significantly contribute to Canada achieving its GHG emissions reduction target of reducing GHG emissions by up to 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050.

There is not only plenty of opportunity to strategically re-establish forest cover along the existing forest fringe, but doing so also delivers other benefits like habitat enhancement, alternative fibre sources for industry (forest and energy), increased biodiversity and agricultural land protection from climate extremes.

Through afforestation management practices developed and verified by the CWFC over the past two decades, it is possible to increase production from smaller land bases.

In natural forests, native species average 1.7 cubic metres per hectare per year of fibre production. With afforestation featuring fast-growing hybrid and select hardwood clones, afforestation production can increase by 6 to 12 times that of the natural forest, delivering a significant fibre production and carbon sequestration enhancement.

Considering an accelerated and novel mixedwood plantation application, it is possible to achieve an increased production of 13 to 20 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes versus a natural forest per hectare per year over the first 30 years. Once the hardwoods mature, the enhancement is still an additional 6 to10 carbon dioxide equivalent tonnes for the following 30 years. The softwoods experience enhanced growth from the shelter and nutrients provided by the hardwood nurse species.

With the afforestation knowledge acquired through incremental gains along the forest fringe, there is an opportunity to use this knowledge as a long-term forest management strategy beyond 2050, creating uneven stands for such benefits as forest fire prevention and moisture and wind management.

For more information about afforestation of fast-growing hardwood or mixedwood stands, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected] or Tim Keddy at [email protected]