A new chapter has started at the much-storied Georgia-Pacific (GP) Pineland Lumber sawmill, located in east Texas near the town of Jasper, population 899, that includes installation of a new, state-of-the-art sawmill line.
This has allowed the sawmill to increase product volume throughput by as much as 20 per cent while also delivering a higher degree of product flexibility.
Today, Pineland Lumber would be best described as a modern, high-volume, dimension lumber mill. It is capable of producing anything from as small as a 1 X 4 in 8’ lengths to as large as a 2 X 12 in 20’ lengths.The $120 million (U.S.) investment in new technology includes equipment provided almost entirely by BID Group. Canadian-based BID continues to be a key equipment and service supplier to GP as it modernizes a number of its sawmills in the American South. GP owns 12 sawmills in the United States.
Based on investments and performance in other GP sawmills, BID’s technology has often met and exceeded expectations, making it a good choice for the Pineland Lumber upgrade.
And with similar technology operating in several sawmills, it provides GP with the ability to accelerate employee training once new facilities come on line. That was the case once the new sawmill line at Pineland Lumber started up in May 2023. The new planer mill started up in January 2023.
BID Group’s Integrated Solutions Team provided the design, engineering, fabrication, and installations services for this turnkey project. Components included equipment, software, automations systems and AI-enabled optimization.
As just one example of how much more advanced the new sawmill line is compared to their old stud mill line, a significant amount of the jobs on that original line involved manual interaction. That number has been reduced considerably on the new line.
Even with greater automation, the mill continues to employ 310 workers from this community and surrounding area which has relied for over a century on good paying jobs at the sawmill.
If you live in or near Pineland, Texas, where the sawmill is actually located, there is a high probability that your parents, grandparents, and maybe even great grandparents worked directly or indirectly for the sawmill. It has been part of the community since 1910.
While Texas is not well known for its wood products manufacturing industry, there is a substantial resource of southern yellow pine (SYP) growing in the eastern third of the state. Pineland and the sawmill is located in the middle of that forest.
The sawmill has gone through a number of iterations over its lifetime, at one point producing plywood and then particleboard and even toilet seats. The current plant produces high volumes of dimension lumber.
Total production volume at the sawmill is now rated at 450 million board feet annually, compared to 380 million board feet previously. This volume is the equivalent of enough dimension lumber to build 30,000 homes.
GP has modernized Pineland Lumber from front to back.
On the front end, log handling has been improved, where they can now handle the same volume of tree length log deliveries in five days versus six, or up to 300 trucks per day versus 250. The amount of time that trucks spend on site has dropped by 40 per cent.
Previously, the two production lines operated independently. Logs were supplied to the stud mill by wheel loaders while logs to supply the large log line used an overhead crane. The overhead crane has since been retired with mobile pieces of wheeled equipment, like Komatsu 600 series wheel loaders, deployed to unload trucks, build decks and feed logs into the mill. The wood yard and associated new log runs were rebuilt by GP using local contractors. Log processing between the two lines has been integrated so that logs can be shared between them, to send the right log to the right processing line.
The new sawmill line is focused on processing smaller diameter logs to complement the existing large log line that was installed in 2001. The new line will produce lumber up to 2 X 6 as long as 16’ in length. Optimization begins right at the infeed.
“Traditionally, logs are debarked, scanned and then bucked,” Comeaux says. “On our new asset, we actually scan transversely, and then buck (using a moving quad saw system) and debark using Comact equipment.”
Logs then proceed to three sort decks, two with logs slated for the small log line and one for the large log line, sorted based on diameter. Logs are then singulated and gapped using wave feeders, with logs on the new line processed through a Comact single arbor gang with an optimized length infeed (OLI) breakdown unit and profiling heads. Up to four side boards are recovered with the remainder processed through a TBL3 curved sawing gang.
Boards are fed through a Comact trimmer and lug loader, leading to the MoCo stacker equipped with automatic strapping in preparation for kiln drying.
A new USNR continuous dry kiln (CDK) has been added in response to higher lumber production, providing an additional 40 million board feet of drying capacity. And finally, new computer-based Comact GradExpert lumber grading capacity as well as a new high-speed Miller planer have been installed in the planer mill. This upgrade is also providing value to the older sawmill line as it can split a 2 X 8 into two 2 X 4’s as markets demand. Comact and Miller are both BID Group brands.
Project construction began in May 2021. One of its most challenging aspects was that the new sawmill line was under construction even as the existing sawmill line continued to operate. Both lines have an ‘S’ design, so the upshot is that today, producing lumber at the sawmill looks a lot like a highway interchange, with products from each line flowing over and above each other to a central collection point at the MoCo stackers.
“Building a sawmill within a sawmill presented many challenges. However, our contractors and employees were successful in completing this project safely and efficiently,” says Comeaux. “It was challenging and definitely involved a lot of planning. In addition to mill construction, we managed multiple changes to include our walkways, parking and storage areas.”
The new sawmill line processes logs primarily 16” in diameter and under while the existing line, featuring an Optimil twin-band primary breakdown unit followed by a Newnes-McGehee Gen 1 curved sawing gang, processes logs up to 22” in diameter.
Prior to the CDK kiln installation, Pineland Lumber had seven batch dry kilns. Five used steam and two were direct-fired with fuel and heat provided by burning dry shavings. Pineland Lumber had an overall drying capacity of 410 million board feet. Now, one direct-fired batch kiln has been demolished and replaced with the continuous drive kiln, which adds 40 million feet, taking drying capacity to 450 million board feet annually.
“We also get quality benefits with the CDK versus the batch system,” Comeaux says.
The planer mill features a new Comact GradExpert computerized lumber grade reader that complements an existing Autolog computerized grade reader on the existing line. The new Miller high-speed planer also complements an existing planer attached to the original sawmill line and has machine stress rating (MSR) capability, as well as an automatic dual line shaft trimmer that can merchandize lumber to specific lengths based on price and demand. For example, Pineland Lumber can pull studs specifically from this trim line. This replaces the old stud mill planer where grading, planing and trimming had many manual functions.
“In addition to volume and cost, the investment also provides us with mix enrichment flexibility,” says Comeaux. “For example, we can convert a 2 X 8 board that is 16’ long into multiple dimensions, including four 8’ studs. This investment moves us to a more efficient planer mill operation with two planer lines, and a much better work life balance for our employees.”
Down the line from the planer mill, two new MoCo package makers and two Signode strappers have been added, capable of also producing quarter and half packs based on customer requests.
In addition to the equipment that BID has under their umbrella—such as MoCo, Comact, Miller, and DelTech—the company also has strategic partners. These include B.C.-based companies, such as BM&M Screening Solutions, and more North America-wide firms such as Rockwell Automation, Timken, and industrial robotics company, Yaskawa.
With this new investment and state-of-the-art equipment, Pineland Lumber employees feel more confident about the future. Given that the new sawmill line replaces technology from 1965, and with its automation capabilities, it is also a better fit for today’s workforce.