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Supply Chain Integration: Baker Answers Raw Material Shortage in the Pallet Industry
Supply Chain Integration: Industry pioneer, Ed Baker, revamps his sawmill adding a Baker Tri-Scragg while launching his first logging crew to ensure lumber supply for his pallet operation. At the same time, he is buying timber and doing stand improvement to manage the forests for the future. Is this the way forward for others to model?

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2014

                Never afraid to innovate and tackle tough challenges, Ed Baker, owner of Baker Products and his team at Baker Enterprises have taken a huge leap forward in improving its raw material procurement strategy. It started with going back to the drawing board and rethinking everything from timber harvesting and procurement to sawing and wood processing. Many years ago Ed was a pioneer in the field of thin kerf bandsaws. Today, he hopes to change how timber is managed as well as redesign his showcase operation in Ellington, Mo.

                And if this strategy works, it could be a road sign to the future for other large pallet companies that want to explore more vertical integration. The fact of the matter is that lumber is scarce, and it is likely to remain a concern until logging and sawmill infrastructure improve.

                Large companies that have the resources may have to develop their own sawmill and logging capabilities to ensure at least part of their production. This process shouldn’t be taken lightly or done without a full examination of the costs and challenges that lie ahead. But Ed is betting big on this gamble that the future belongs to those who put in the right equipment and infrastructure now to allow for growth because lumber will be the bottleneck of the future for most operations.

                Ed explained, “I am going to more than double sawing capacity, which will allow me to add a second shift and double production in my pallet operation. Instead of being at the whims of the market and getting the remnants

of what others can provide, I intend to actively go out and acquire timber to feed our mill.”

                Let’s start at the end of the process and work backward. Baker Enterprises, the pallet company and sawmill located in southeastern Missouri, is in the process of installing a Baker Products Circular Tri-Scragg sawmill to replace its current line.


New Baker Tri-Scragg System

                Baker products has sold this tri-scragg system designed for production in many installations across the country. It is best suited for processing tree-length logs, but it will also be capable of handling smaller material, including shorter logs taken from Ed’s timberlands.

                Currently, Baker Enterprises processes cants into boards using a Baker multi-head cut-off saw and five head band resaw line. The existing cut-up line will remain in place to process cants. But Baker Enterprises is adding a whole new scragg system around it to provide wider versatility in what it can process.

                The design project was led by Clay Hedrick, a veteran sales consultant for Baker Products. Hedrick said, “The system is designed to be versatile and allow us to process whatever we have access to including tree length, short logs, cants, and lumber.”

                The beginning of the line has a tree length log cut up system. This system can cut and kick out any logs big enough for ties and grade. The small diameters then flow inside to be processed. Also, a small infeed deck has been incorporated to receive scragg blocks as short as 43" or so. The reason for this is to allow farmers and people with small wood lots to thin and remove undesirable trees, thereby improving their timber.

                As the blocks flow through the mill, they first go through two circle saws, then that two sided piece flows through a horizontal band, making two three-sided pieces. The two slabs flow through a vertical band edger, making them into small three-sided pieces. All material then flows through a band double end trim. Automatic transfers then convey material to one of two resaw lines.

                Hedrick stated, “Our thought with having two lines, one a nine-head resaw and the other a five-head resaw is to do as much single pass processing as possible.”

                One line is a nine-head Model C Baker Resaw while the other is a five-head Model C Resaw. In addition, the plan calls for leaving the existing Multi-Head cut-off saw in place to process cants that are bought on the outside. Hedrick commented, “We can bring cants in and cut those to length, and they will be added to the same transfer and run through the same resaws.”

                All the waste, including slabs, shim cuts and end trims, will be coming out the side to the main waste conveyor that feeds into a new Montgomery hog. This material is ground up and then sold to Kingsford Charcoal.

                Finished cut boards come out to a transfer line, where an unscrambler feeds into a Baker side winder deduster. Boards will be removed by hand stackers while stringers will travel down the conveyor to be notched in a Baker X2 Double Notcher.

                The entire line requires between 10-12 workers and can process 35-60,000 board feet in a shift.

                Most of this system is similar to what Baker Products, the machinery manufacturing division, has sold other companies plus a few small tweaks. The band edger was built a bit different to see if a new design will be more operator friendly. Traditionally, the units are built to run flat side up. But this system will run flat side down and uses a roller feed to push material to the edge. Also, the two resaw lines will feature 36" wheels instead of the conventional 28" design. The idea is to see if the company can achieve better bandsaw blade life.

                Mike McNail, CEO of Baker Enterprises and Baker Products, stated, “Our pallet facility has been operating over 30 years, our machinery company over 26 years. Our success in the manufacturing of our equipment has been by trial & error in our own pallet operation. It has allowed us to put equipment through the paces before a customer ever sees it. Some of the changes to this system will surely be a benefit to our end customer.”


Turnkey Operation

                A smooth install starts with proper planning. Baker designs its equipment to be easy to install and get up and running. Hedrick explained, “We test all of our new equipment before we send it out of our shop to ensure that customers have no unpleasant surprises when the machinery arrives.”

                The plan at Baker Enterprises is to install the new scragg mill over a long weekend so that the operation doesn’t miss much production time at all. McNail said, “We plan to take off on a Wednesday afternoon and be up and running with the new line Monday morning.”

                Since the machines come ready with electric hookups, all you have to do is drop them in place. McNail stated, “As long as we have our electric and dust collection ready, there is very little we have to do to get the equipment ready when it hits the floor.”


Logging Crews Provide Dependable Timber Supply

                One of the most interesting aspects of this new plan is that Baker Enterprises is going beyond just running a sawmill and pallet operation. It is adding one logging crew to harvest timber off land owned by Ed Baker. This crew is managed by Bryan Martin and Shawn Wenger. The duo are capable of harvesting about 20,000 board feet per day.

                Ed Baker recently purchased a Timber Pro TL 735B harvester with a Log Max head as well as a Rottne F 15 forwarder. Both machines were purchased from Steve Ory, owner of Pioneer Equipment Co. in Rhinelander, WI.

                Ed commented, “Steve Ory of Pioneer Equipment up in Wisconsin, was a logger for 30 years. I like dealing with him because he is so knowledgeable.” Ory came to Missouri and walked the land that Baker intended to log guiding him in the right piece of equipment to buy.

                Ed said that he started out to buy a wheeled harvester, but after walking the land Ory convinced him to buy a tracked harvester because it will operate better on steeper ground. Also, Ory suggested that cut-to-length logging is the way to go because it reduces waste. Ed explained, “As soon as the tree is down, it is cut to the length you want, plus or minus an inch or less. The old way of logging tends to damage existing timber and can hurt the ground as well.”

                Instead of having one big biomass staging area where tress are delimbed and stacked, Ed wanted slash scattered throughout the stand. Ed added, “These machines are more yield efficient. They glean more usable material from the woods even though they are not quite as productive as a clam bunk skidder.”

                Currently, Baker Enterprises is in crisis mode looking for lumber, just like almost everybody else in the country. Baker is using mills to saw logs into lumber. One is located near the logging site and the other operates at the Baker facility in Ellington. The crews are using a Baker Model 3665D Portable Sawmill. The mill located near the logging site is processing 7’ logs into three-sided pieces. These pieces go to the pallet facility and are processed with the Multi-Select cutoff saw and resaw line. Ed stated, “There is very little waste in how we do this logging and sawmilling process in the woods.”

                The sawmill located at the Baker facility in Ellington is processing the higher grade logs into grade lumber and pallet squares. McNail commented, “The two sawmills that we have put into operation have been a big help in supplying material for our pallet mill.”


Building a Sustainable Future

                Beyond just logging land for volume, Ed has taken a long-term approach with the plan to do timber stand improvement on the land his crews log. Ed explained, “You hardly damage any timber with the operation......The purchase of this machinery allows me to garden the forest for the future.”

                Instead of cutting for grade and removing all the valuable trees first, he cuts some grade material while leaving some good trees to grow and replenish the forest. He personally went through and marked each stand to indicate which trees to remove and keep. The idea is to provide enough space for the good trees to thrive and spread their superior genetics throughout the forest. This particular 340 acre tract is also being managed as habitat for deer and other wildlife. Ed’s ultimate goal is to turn it into a hunting preserve that will attract tourism and other business. Since my visit, Ed has planted 40,000 trees of various species as a reforestation project on this 340 acre tract.

                 A professional forester from the Missouri Department of Conservation walked the land as we toured the operation. He said that he wished all the forest landowners in the state took such an approach. This forester call the Baker land one of the best examples of well managed forests that he had seen in the state.

                None of this came cheap for Baker. He has invested over a million dollars in his approach. But he feels it will be worthwhile in the long run and it all depends on how you look at what truly costs money and will produce a greater return in the future.

                Besides the hunting preserve, Ed recently built a lodge that is absolutely gorgeous inside. Full of unusual animals from all over the world, the lodge is designed to serve Baker customers as well as others that want to rent it for various purposes. The lodge, capable of sleeping 10 people, comes with 7 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.


Adapting to Thrive

                A big part of the goal of this entire effort is to boost production and enable growth at Baker’s pallet operation. The facility doesn’t really need to add nailing capacity, although it will likely add a second shift. Baker Enterprises has relied on Viking Turbo machines for years and has found that they work well and are reliable. The new sawmill will give Baker room to grow its’ lumber and pallet operations

                Since Ed started in the forest products industry many years ago, he has adapted to challenges and helped change the industry in the process. Some say he is taking a big risk with his new logging crew, timber management philosophies and revamped sawmill. Others just wonder if he is blazing a trail for the rest of us to follow.

                For more information on machinery from Baker Products, visit www.bakerproducts.net or call 800-548-6914.

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Baker Answers Raw Material Supply Challenge