Timber Processing’s March issue features Southern Lumber Company, which cleared a path to success even in a down market by doing what it does best—processing big logs. Built to support sawmills, mill towns sprang up only to fade away. Also, lumber market signs for 2014 look positive.
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Timber Processing magazine Associate Editor Jessica Johnson visits Southern Lumber Company, located in Hermanville, Mississippi. While many Southern independents are getting out of the mill business, Southern Lumber Co. is thriving. The Mississippi company, headquartered in Jackson, made a strategic decision in 2000 to focus on large dimension lumber—2x10 and 2x12 in 22, 24, 26 ft. lengths—and hasn’t looked back. In fact, during a time when many mills across the South were cutting back or closing, Southern Lumber was differentiating itself and improving the mill. One important improvement was in December 2007, when Southern Lumber installed a Yates-American A95 planer with bridge and infeed system. The project was finished in January 2008 and included installing a Baxley stacking system and Samuels banding system.
Timber Processing magazine Executive Editor DK Knight takes a look back at mill towns, how they came to be, and how they went away. Beginning around 1875, railroads began having a significant impact on the logging and lumber trade. Lumbermen were no longer dependent on watercourses for sawmill sites and log transport means. Expanding rapidly, railroads and rail-related equipment enabled lumbermen to get closer to their forest resources and spider-like tramlines increased output in logging camps. Moreover, railroads helped make remote mill towns less isolated and got sawn products to market faster and more effectively. Railroads also helped spawn an unprecedented east-to-west industrial building boom that brought mills and plants to areas largely undeveloped in the U.S. In regions characterized by vast forests, these mills—many very large—produced lumber, shingles, lath, staves, barrel heading, boxes, shook, veneer, timbers and crossties, and generated untold tons of waste.
Timber Processing magazine Managing Editor Dan Shell provides a recap and an outlook for current lumber markets. Following a fourth quarter of 2013 that saw U.S. housing starts zoom to their highest seasonally adjusted rate since the start of the Great Recession, lumber producers have enjoyed prices that began rising last summer and aside from a few hiccups have moved upward ever since through early February 2014. Going against the consensus of many analysts’ expectations for the year 2013—that lumber prices would soften and drop as the year went on as more sawmills restarted, added shifts or simply turned up the volume—lumber markets instead went the other direction in the fourth quarter 2013. Boosted by continuing growth in housing starts and sustained demand in offshore markets, North American lumber producers saw prices bottom out for the year 2013 at roughly the mid-year point.
(This article appeared in the USNR publication Millwide Insider and appears in this issue of Timber Processing magazine with permission from USNR) A recent inductee to USNR’s MyMill technology, Kalesnikoff Lumber is based at Thrums, near Castlegar, BC. The mill just completed a major capital improvement project that saw its mill invest in a new primary breakdown line incorporating a USNR quad arbor saw box, vertical double arbor gang, scanning, optimization and controls; modifications to its board edger line; and trim/sort line improvements. One of the improvements the mill targeted was the USNR MyMill mobile control for its new 70 bin sort line. Chris Kalesnikoff, operations manager, relates that the mill had previously utilized a largely manual lumber sorting process. He recognized the value of going to an automated system and quickly saw the benefit of the MyMill technology.
Sawdust Diaries is a column in Timber Processing magazine that appears in every other issue. Its author, Connie Grenz, has worked in the wood products industry for 34 years. In her March article, Grenz discusses fairness in employee wages. Grenz writes, “When relating with employees, our human capital, we know they need to be acting safely and have the appropriate tools and work environment in order to provide the service or product they are hired to do. There are many measurements for assessing how well your safety program is succeeding and you are tallying product value and quality continuously to ensure production goals are met. But in what way do you know that the pay you give your employees is a fair compensation for their job content? What made me want to tackle a review of the job content and end up with an evaluation of all the hourly positions had to do with the pay rate schedule that had evolved over time.”