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One Saw Yields Big Benefit For Stimson Lumber Sawmill
L-M Equipment (U. S.) Verticut 2000 System Helps Alleviate Bottleneck

By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 3/1/2003

FOREST GROVE, Oregon Ė With roots in the Northwest dating back to the mid-1800s, Stimson Lumber Company is one of the oldest, continuously operating forest products companies in the U. S. The privately held firm, headquartered in Portland, Ore., has facilities throughout the Northwest with timberland and mills in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon.

Stimsonís Resource Group manages more than 400,000 acres of company-owned timberland while its mills produce everything from Glulam beams, plywood, common dimension lumber, and specialty products such as hardboard panels, sidings and millwork. The company markets its products throughout North America and select markets worldwide.

As a timber industry stalwart, Stimson has a long, honored commitment to sustainable forestry. Stimsonís business principles "have been developed to help integrate the economic production of wood products with the conservation of other forest resources," according to company literature. Stimson promotes "forestry practices that are both economically and environmentally responsible."

Promoting forestry practices that are both economically and environmentally responsible means more than just paying attention to the big issues that are on everyoneís radar screens. While addressing those big issues on a day-to-day basis, Stimson engineers also are working constantly to fine tune mill operations. The results often are significant improvements in a millís financial performance and also important gains in conservation.

For example, Stimson recently installed an L-M Equipment Co. Inc. package saw at its dimension lumber mill near Forest Grove, Ore. The L-M package saw has had a significant positive impact on the plantís on-going efforts to optimize production and also provides environmental benefits by allowing for better tally on a daily basis out of the mill, according to Mitch Cramer, finish end superintendent.

The Forest Grove mill regularly supplies packaged lumber to large lumber retailers. However, the dimensions and quantities they order may change from day to day or even hourly. In the past, lumber to fill these orders was produced in ordinary mill operations. It was inefficient, however, because each piece had to be cut to length and handled individually as it was processed, sorted, and assembled into a package ready for the millís strapping machine. Piece-by-piece production and handling has inherent inefficiencies built into it, Mitch noted, and slows production and consumes valuable mill resources.

Stimsonís plant engineers decided that much of the lumber designated for these large customers should be processed through the mill in full lengths, then assembled into packages and strapped. The bundles then could be cut to length with a package saw before final wrapping.

This relatively small change in the millís operations has improved production substantially. "The installation of the L-M package saw has brought us tremendous benefits in enhancing our tally," said Mitch. "Weíve been able to raise our production significantly as a result."

Stimson chose an L-M Verticut 2000, a package saw designed for high-volume mills like Forest Grove. The saw features three guillotine hydraulic stops set at 8 feet, 10 feet, and 12 feet from the saw line. Once a package is in place, squeeze arms grasp the unit and force it firmly to the stops. The entire bundle of lumber is then sawn to length in a single cutting operation, and the resulting two packages head to the wrapping station.

The Verticut 2000 is one of the flagship systems in L-Mís family of package saws, noted general manager Keith Hewitt.

L-M has adopted a modular approach to designing and building its line of package saws, Keith added, which is a new innovation in package saw systems. In the past, if a mill was equipped with a package saw, growth or change might require replacing the system later. By contrast, said Keith, L-Mís new modular concept allows a mill to invest in a package saw based on current requirements, then change its configuration in the future according to growing production, change in product mix, or other factors.

The L-M Verticut 2000 at Stimsonís Forest Grove mill allows packs of long lumber to be accumulated and stacked in bundles ranging from a full 16 layer package to half-packs. When the package reaches the strapping machine, the operator decides the length it will be cut based on orders in place at the time. The bundle is strapped according to the desired finished product and then moved on to the package saw for cutting. A bundle of 24-foot lumber, for example, can yield several combinations, including lumber cut to 8, 10, 12, 14 or 16 foot lengths. The single cut of the L-M package saw eliminates many time-consuming, costly steps that would be involved in processing each piece of lumber individually.

Production from the L-M Verticut 2000 varies according to the millís output needs. The package saw generally is used to process 100-120 full units per day, according to Mitch, producing 200-220 packages of lumber.

The installation of the L-M package saw was a significant change in the millís operation, and some of the staff viewed it with reservations. However, the willingness of L-M Equipment representatives to work closely with everyone involved was a big factor how well the system was brought on line and has performed, said Mitch.

L-M puts a strong focus on that kind of service to customers, said Keith. It starts with close coordination with customers throughout the decision-making process. "At L-M we have a philosophy that weíre not in business just to sell machines," he said. "We are in the business of building strong relationships that result in installations capable of providing efficient solutions for our customers."

L-M works closely with prospective customers to make sure a system meets the requirements of the companyís operations, Keith said. "We establish good customer liaison right from the original contact."

In Stimsonís case, floor space in the mill was an important consideration. Addressing the issue in the pre-design phase resulted in a smooth installation. "Space was our biggest challenge," Mitch acknowledged. "We were short coupled between the bundling operation and the package saw, but we were able to work that out by addressing potential problems before we began putting equipment in place. L-M was very approachable. The good communications and excellent support we received from them resulted in a very good installation."

The L-M Verticut 2000 has performed admirably, according to Mitch. "There were a lot of unknowns when we went into this," he said. "People were a little skeptical about how well this whole thing might work out. Anytime you start sawing finished lumber in half, thereís some reason to be concerned. Now that we have experienced the package saw in operation, that skepticism is gone. This has worked out to be a very real and visible benefit for us."

An important benefit of using the L-M Verticut 2000 has been its cutting accuracy. While acknowledging the learning curve involved in getting new equipment into full production, Mitch said that the package saw system was immediately cutting full packages of lumber to an accuracy of 1/16th-inch or better. "Accuracy has a lot to do with having your package oriented to the saw properly," he said. "Once we had that down, we found we could count on consistently high levels of accuracy."

One of the strengths of the L-M package saws is accuracy, noted Keith, and it is a result of strength in design and construction. There is no substitute for heavy-duty construction, he said. "The rigidity, the solidness of the equipment is critical .These machines have to stand up under a lot of stress. Building them to stand up to that stress pays off in long life and continuing accuracy."

Stimson has found the L-M Verticut 2000 easy to operate, according to Mitch, with straightforward controls. "An hour after we were ready to start things up, we were running at production levels."

Mitch singled out the two workers who operate the package saw on the companyís two shifts, Sheila Horsefell and Richard Nordby. They have played a key role in ensuring Stimsonís successful operation of the new package saw, he said. "The operators have come up with some very good ideas that have helped to fine tune the sawís operation. Their skills and willingness to provide input are a big reason this has worked out so well for us."

Capital investment in a package saw for a large sawmill like Forest Grove is small compared to other sawmill equipment and systems. Yet the package saw has made a big impact that has been felt throughout the mill.

"This has been a very positive project for us," said Mitch. "The first day we started up, we were at full production, and the impact on our mill was immediate. We do production quality control reports at the end of every shift, and itís easy to see that this saw has had a significant impact in enhancing our tally. There is no question that we have been able to improve our entire operation as a result of this installation."

MS System 2000 Is Modular Package Saw

L-M Equipment Co. Inc. has introduced a new, entry level package saw system that is similar in modular concept to the companyís advanced Verticut 2000 system.

In addition, L-M has adopted a modular approach to designing and manufacturing its line of package saw systems. "We have chosen to go totally modular in what we design," said general manager Keith Hewitt. "What that does for customers is that they can start out with a very inexpensive package saw and add to it any time in the future. They can expand it for increased production or accuracy as their requirements demand."

L-Mís new MS System 2000, its newest and boldest concept to date, will be introduced at the Wood Technology Clinic & Show in Portland, Ore. March 19-21. It has the capacity for a maximum package size of 48x52. The lumber package remains stationary, and the saw carriage moves. It features an on-board hydraulic system, and the saw bar is hydraulically powered through the cut. The new L-M package saw comes standard with a laser light saw line guide. The MS System 2000, with sawing accuracy of +/- 1/16-inch, is priced at $17,900.

With its modular design, optional features may be added at any time, such as infeed and outfeed deck module, digital length measurement, bump even-ending module, package side-squeeze arm modules, and more.

"If a customer decides later that production needs require upgrading to a Verticut 2000, this is where the new modular approach is pretty unique," explained Keith. The MS System 2000 can be lifted off the tracks and replaced with a Verticut 2000, he said. "The design approach is pretty unique."

L-M, has been in business since 1946 and offers a complete family of vertical package cutting saws. The current generation is the Verticut 2000, which has proven to be L-Mís most popular system for the pallet and sawmill industry.

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