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Saws Designed to Save Labor and Improve Efficiency: L-M Equipment (Canada) Stays on Top Of Technology and Trends with New Manufacturing Capabilities
LM-Equipment (Canada) offers cross-cut package saws that increase production of material while reducing labor. New technology involves bar codes, remote control operation and improved measuring systems.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 4/1/2011
SURREY, British Columbia—L-M Equipment Co. Ltd. (Canada) has moved only a couple of times in its 50-plus years of manufacturing machinery for the forest products industry, but president and owner Rick Weihs believed a move at this stage was in order.
“We needed a larger facility, and I wanted to have my own facility,” said Rick.
The company relocated in mid-December from Burnaby, British Columbia, which is just south of Vancouver. It is now in a new site about 30 minutes further south to Surrey, which is only about 10 minutes from the Washington border. It is operating in a new, modern building on a site Rick originally purchased as a real estate investment. The company’s new facility contains 15,000 square feet and includes a shop that is 200 feet long.
The move nearly doubled its space since the former plant, where the company operated for 37 years, was 8,000 square feet of leased space. It is only the company’s third move since L-M began doing business in 1957.
L-M Equipment is a leading manufacturer of cross-cut package saws that are used to cut lumber, cants and other wood products to length. Instead of a worker using a trim saw or cut-off saw to cut a board, cant, or other material to length one at a time, a cross-cut package saw uses a bar saw and saw chain to cut an entire package or bundle of material to precision length. The efficiency and savings are readily apparent. The machines greatly increase production of material while reducing labor.
The company also manufactures other machinery for the forest products industry and recently has been delving into the machinery arena for material handling associated with pallets.
Rick is pleased with the new home for the company, which typically employs 8-15 people. “The building is more modern,” he said. “It gives us double the shop space we had before. We only had one overhead crane before; now we have three.”
Along with the new building, Rick also made investments in new machinery and equipment. He put in three new 5-ton overhead cranes, new welding machines, compressor, dust collection system and a forklift. Additional equipment was relocated from the old plant. The plant is equipped with radial arm drill presses, machining lathes, milling machines, and state-of-the-art technology.
“The move went fairly smoothly,” said Rick. “We moved everything in about a week.”
Rick’s father bought the company in 1980, and Rick, who began working for his father as a steel fabricator in the early 1990s, purchased half of it from him in 1996 and the other half in 2003.
L-M Equipment has supplied cross-cut package saws and other machines to pallet manufacturing companies, lumber remanufacturers, and other businesses in the forest products industry. In the pallet industry, about half its customers use the company’s cross-cut package saws to cut cants to length, and about half use the machines to cut rough lumber to length, Rick estimated.
The Pacific Northwest is a region known for its big timber, and sawmills and lumber remanufacturers require heavy-duty equipment that is a match for it. L-M prides itself in manufacturing heavy-duty, high-quality machinery and equipment that has proven over and over again that it can stand up to punishing demands of the lumber industry.
In fact, the company’s motto is, ‘Built to provide service, not require it.’
For example, hollow section structural tubing is known for its strength, and L-M relies on heavy-duty 10x4 ¼-inch wall tubing in its machinery.
“Our automation has improved greatly,” Rick said, speaking about developments and improvements in the company’s machines in recent years. The company’s Verticut P4 package saw provides computerized cutting, he noted. “The computer actually senses how fast and how slow it should be cutting to optimize the speed of the cut.” Another development in recent years is bar code technology that allows the operator to scan the bar code, which is linked to a particular cut pattern, and use a wireless remote system to operate the machine automatically.
The company’s length measuring system is another relatively new development. “It does not use an encoder,” said Rick. “It has no moving parts,” no chains that can become slack, no gears or sprockets, no rack and pinion. “It maintains its accuracy very, very consistently.” The length measuring technology is accurate within 1/10,000 of an inch, he said.
The biggest advantage of cross-cut package saws is the labor savings, said Rick. The Verticut P4 systems can cut three packages of 8-foot 2x4 back to standard building stud length in 13 minutes, he said.
In fact, the Verticut P4 is the company’s highest production cross-cut package saw. It is a fully automated system with FACT (Fast Advanced Cutting Technology). It provides a precision end trimming cutting tolerance of +- 1/32-inch with a lumber finish as good or better than conventional trim saws.
The Verticut P4 offers wireless remote starting, and the operator does not have to manually position the material for the initial first cut.
Two packages can be placed on the carriage at once and the machine programmed for cutting. A depth control cutting feature automatically stops the saw before it cuts through the bottom few boards.
The patent-pending FACT substantially reduces cutting time. The saw automatically advances to the package faster than cutting speed. When the saw gets to within 2 inches of the package, it automatically slows to the proper speed for cutting. This is even more beneficial for lumber packages less than 48 inches tall.
Other features include a programmable touch screen for easy operation and inline double-end bumpers.
The I-Cut model 30-HM, which can also be used to cut I-joists, structural components, studs, pallet stock, fencing and other wood products, incorporates some of the company’s newest technology and design features. It has the capability to cut material in bundles 48 inches high, 52 inches wide, and of any length. Standard features include a flexible design to accommodate custom lengths, multiple package loading for increased production, a precision linear bearing guide system for longevity and accuracy, positive package hold-down mechanism with built-in saw guard, and more. Options include laser light, electronic length measuring, FACT, automatic cutting cycle, fully automated plc controls, and more.
The company also manufactures its HMPC-7-24 traveling arch saw and portable yard saws for cross-cutting bundles of material.
L-M manufactures a bump rollcase with strapping system, a state-of-the-art system designed to square and strap lumber packages with the option of attaching dunnage crossers. Other products in the L-M family include a heavy-duty, high-speed trim saw for cutting cants and flitches up to 6x12, a chain saw log splitter, and a heavy-duty vertical resaw. The company also manufactures and refurbishes saw bars and is a distributor of Carlton saw chain.
The company has taken on a few projects related to materials handling in the pallet industry and even in new industries. For example, it developed a cross-cut package saw system for cutting plastic pipe and already has sold several that cut pipe up to 60 inches in diameter. They are complete turn-key systems using similar bar saw technology and equipped with a pneumatically-operated hold-down clamp.
Besides doing substantial business in the U.S. and Canada, L-M Equipment has customers in a number of foreign countries. The company recently installed a new P4 system for a business in Australia and has another customer in Australia, both pallet manufacturing businesses. It also has customers in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Chile, Belize, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Kingdom.
The newest Australian customer experienced “significant improvements in production” with the new L-M machine, reported Rick. “He’s definitely been able to grow and produce more pallets with less labor.” The new L-M system replaced a shop-built package saw.
The company has been manufacturing package saws since 1988. Prior to that, its principal line of equipment was machinery for cutting wood shakes and shingles for roofing.
The company recently manufactured design-build pallet handling equipment, including pallet dispensers, for breweries. “That’s a big jump,” said Rick.
“We’re constantly looking for new technology and ways to apply it to our equipment,” added Glen MacIntyre, a mechanical designer for the company.
There is not much room for improvement with respect to bar saws themselves, Glen observed. “It’s the ancillary equipment around it,” he said, such as the positioning system, where improvements continue to be made.
The company’s I-Cut system originally was intended as a low-end system, said Glenn. However, with its excellent cutting accuracy and smooth lumber finish, “we had to bring it up a level or two.”
“We really started looking at new technologies” with the I-Cut, he said, such as new oiler systems, linear bearings, and other advances. The company also moved to a submersed hydraulic pump for the I-Cut, which reduced noise levels.
Depending on the system, the I-Cut can work with two bundles of lumber at once – one package is being cut and the other is being prepared. A forklift operator can remove material and replace it with another bundle while the operator continues a cutting process. The company also has developed a new method of catching the dunnage that is placed on the package saw to stage a package of lumber or other material. “The carriage will remove the dunnage so you don’t have to go up there and get it every time,” said Glenn.
The kerf opener on the Verticut features a package lift, he noted. Once the saw reaches the bottom of the cut, it lifts half the bundle away in an arc movement to extract the saw back. The automated system also has two sensors to monitor the amperage of the saw. If it senses the saw pinching, it will back the saw up slightly and then enter the cut again in order to break the friction between the saw and the material. If the sensors detect binding, it will speed the cut to power through.
“We’ve advanced ourselves quite a bit into material handling systems,” added Glen. The work for the brewery industry actually was under a contract with a robotics manufacturer, he said. The system is controlled remotely from another location via the Internet. “That’s quite an exciting area for us,” he said.
The company also has been exploring the feasibility of developing material handling equipment and systems for the pallet industry, notably pallet recycling operations, said Glenn.
Historically, the company has supplied material handling equipment for sawmill and lumber remanufacturing operations, but it moved away from that market. “We’re working more in that area” again, said Glen, such as transfer systems for lumber.
“We did a project like that three years ago,” Glenn said, for a plywood mill.
L-M Equipment developed equipment for handling wet veneer.
The company has developed a low-cost strapping system for lumber remanufacturing operations. The straps are put on at several points prior to cutting, and the system incorporates a single bump system to square up the bundle, said Glenn. “Strapping is a one-man operation.”
The company does not operate according to the adage, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ noted Glen. Quite the opposite. “I just consider everything broke from the beginning. We’re always looking for ways to improve.” That’s the way of industry, he noted. If it wasn’t, people would still be driving the Ford Model T.
“A lot of our advances lately have been improving the functionality of the equipment, which leads to better longevity,” said Glenn.
The company does all manufacturing in-house, which streamlines production and ensures strong quality control. Manufacturing and selling directly to customers enables the company to keep its pricing competitive.
L-M’s shop staff is made of certified tradesmen who have gone through extensive training and apprenticeship programs.
The company offers complete supervised installation, start-up assistance, and operator training for all equipment. Service technicians are available to respond to customers.
Most components are locally available in any major city. The company also stocks parts for all machines so customers do not have to wait for parts.
L-M Equipment has a website at www.lmsaws.com. The company may be reached at (800) 455-8807 as well as (604) 576-0088 or via e-mail at email@example.com.