Read of the Day: Idaho sawmill hopes new technology ups efficiency

Idaho sawmill hopes new technology ups efficiency

BILL ROBERTS, The Idaho Statesman
Friday, November 9, 2012
  • Alan Dehlin obtains information from computerized equipment to help guide the cutting of logs at Evergreen Forest Products’ mill southwest of New Meadows, Idaho on Oct. 23, 2012.  At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money.   LOCAL TV OUT (KTVB 7) Photo: The Idaho Statesman, Chris Butler / AP
    Alan Dehlin obtains information from computerized equipment to help guide the cutting of logs at Evergreen Forest Products’ mill southwest of New Meadows, Idaho on Oct. 23, 2012. At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money. LOCAL TV OUT (KTVB 7) Photo: The Idaho Statesman, Chris Butler / AP

NEW MEADOWS, Idaho (AP) — With the gradual turnaround in the housing market, a family-run lumber company in Adams County is about to put down $1.5 million on high-tech equipment to get more out of its logs.

At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money.

And Rodney Krogh, Evergreen’s president, won’t have to wait long for a financial return. “The payback will be within a year on grade alone,” he said.

Scanners and other automated equipment have become practically a necessity in Idaho sawmills like Evergreen’s, which cut soft woods such as Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. In a shrinking field of sawmills — some didn’t survive the recession — competition demands getting the most financial return from each log.

“(It) means mills have to purchase fewer logs,” said Steve Shook, a University of Idaho marketing professor who specializes in the wood-products industry.

Adding new equipment isn’t always easy. Mills have struggled with trying to marry high-tech equipment with old machinery, Shook said. And finding financing can be difficult.

Krogh says Evergreen will install its scanner early next year. Today, workers eyeball the wood to grade it for specific types of cuts. They lift a board to figure out whether it would make a 2-by-8 or a more profitable 2-by-6, for example.

Even the best eyes can’t see what the scanner sees, Krogh said.

New manufacturing technology often means hiring fewer workers, in lumber mills and other industries. But Krogh says he won’t lay anyone off.

“I won’t lose the guy,” Krogh said. “He won’t be lifting these big boards all day long.”

___

Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Idaho-sawmill-hopes-new-technology-ups-efficiency-4024239.php#ixzz2BqwfCLMm

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