In recent years the operation of sawmills has changed significantly, replacing the manual labor of earlier generations with modern technology – evident at the new state-of-the-art lumber mill in Newton.
The more than 120 employees who work at the mill are demonstrating a new set of skills as Biewer Sawmill-Newton LLC prepares for its ribbon-cutting on Tuesday.
Plant manager Jason Otto said there is little hands-on-the-lumber work done by employees now. The biggest change is optimization and scanning – with everything automated using computers.
“Where people use to have to handle each board, look at it, and grade it, now the machinery does it,” Otto said. “The equipment essentially runs itself, with the operators more focused on fixing things when the machinery detects a skew that is not just right.”
Otto said employees are stationed at machine centers – to make sure the machines are operating at all times. Once a skew or perimeter is detected the machine will stop. The operator fixes the problem and restarts the machinery. Other occupations at the plant include maintenance personnel, fork truck drivers, crane operators, log scalers, kiln and truck loaders, plus office personnel and shipping department personnel.