Aging Like A Fine. . .Sawmill?
Article by Jessica Johnson, Senior Editor, Timber Processing April 2023
Often I wonder what the future holds. I close my eyes and try to think 10, 15, 20 years down the line—30 years seems like a lifetime. Right now, in this moment, I’m a young mom, with young kids. I am in the thick of long nights at the ballpark and practicing spelling words in the car. It’s hard to think about that in 30 years, my perfect little boys will be older than I am currently. Likely they will have families of their own and little ones of their own who for some astonishing reason can drink three gallons of milk per week without a care in the world.
When I gaze into my crystal ball it is hard to see what is coming down the line. Does the sawmill of the future have digital twins for every machine, like Tesla cars? That sure would make for an interesting maintenance call wouldn’t it.
“Yes, hello, please go pull the headrig for Johnson Lumber in Ruston, La. It’s throwing a code and we aren’t sure why. The robots are spinning on their wheels in circles here.”
Or is the sawmill of the future about not just automation in grading and breakdown, but complete automation, like a small army of robots pulling lumber? Is it like “The Jetsons” but with 2x4s and a robot voice trying to learn how to say “kiln” properly?
One thing I know for certain is that like my children aging, what comes in the immediate next might not be revolutionary: A “mature” industry such as lumber manufacturing many times measures progress in constant innovations rather than leaps and bounds yet remains continually moving forward technologically.
The army of robot operators might be on the horizon, all you need to do is look up the video of welding robots BID Group uses to machine parts to know what innovations they are likely concocting. In the immediate future, we as an industry only need to look at mills like this issue’s cover, Sierra-Pacific in Noti, Ore., to see that keeping up with the times is not only possible but profitable—Jetsons-esque robots optional; complete rebuild optional. Old dogs can be taught new tricks. You don’t have to toss the baby out with the bath water.
Greenfield mills sure are sexy: all bright shiny paint and the latest and greatest machines. Of course, they all run like well-oiled Ferraris, or at least most do…eventually.
But there’s just something about the resilience of a facility that we can all admire, the vintage Porsche 911 that has seen some things, and well you know what I mean. The engine purrs with a good overhaul every so often. And you gotta change the tires.
The mill in Noti has seen ownership changes over its 50-year history and of course machinery changes, but what has remained is the core—a good timber basket, a focus on quality, a niche market in green lumber, and a willingness to try new things. Isn’t that what we all hope for the future? Remaining true to who we are while staying willing to try new things? If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.
The stacker project at Noti is a great example of what I mean: two longtime industry suppliers provide solid and productive innovations that provide benefits to production, working conditions and customer satisfaction. No robots needed.
Hampton Lumber Names Schillinger New CEO
Hampton Lumber has announced that Randy Schillinger will join Hampton Lumber & Family Forests as its new CEO, effective June 26, 2023, taking over for Steve Zika who has served as CEO of Hampton since 2003 and announced his retirement earlier this year. Schillinger has over 25 years of experience in the Pacific Northwest wood products industry. He began his career with…
Combilift Launches New Product At Ligna
As leading forklift manufacturer Combilift continues its 25 years in business celebrations with the launch of another new model truck, this time at Ligna, the international timber and woodworking show, held in Hanover. The new Combi-CB70E is a further addition to Combilift’s ever growing range of electric models which offers powerful performance, extensive…
Housing Starts Increase In April
Housing starts across the U.S. increased in April 2.2% to 1.4 million according the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, New Residential Construction report released May 17. Notably, this is 22.3% lower than April 2022’s 1.8 million. Single-family home construction increased 1.6% to its highest level so far in 2023. Starts of apartment…
Timber Processing Combs The Ligna Fair Aisles
The Timber Processing magazine team reports an active first half of the week for sawmill machinery exhibitors at the week-long Ligna international wood processing fair held in Hannover, Germany. Bandmills were not in short supply, including this EWD bandmill system in the middle of Sawmill Hall. Timber Processing magazines were practically flying off the shelf at the Timber Processing…
Lumbering Along With James Oliver Dunn
Article by Dan Shell, Senior Editor, Timber Processing May 2023 – Some of my very first memories are playing around my grandmother’s house located on a county road in Brushy Creek, Ala., which is a suburb of East Chapman, Ala. (that’s a joke)…
Conifex Announces McLellan As President, COO
Conifex Timber Inc. has announced that Andrew McLellan has been promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer. As President, McLellan will lead Conifex’s business units and pursue value-added opportunities in fiber procurement, lumber manufacturing and marketing, green power generation, and other complementary businesses. Andrew retains responsibility for forest…
Find Us On Social
The monthly Timber Processing Industry Newsletter reaches over 4,000 mill owners and supervisors.
Timber Processing is delivered 10 times per year to subscribers who represent sawmill ownership, management and supervisory personnel and corporate executives. Subscriptions are FREE to qualified individuals.
Complete the online form so we can direct you to the appropriate Sales Representative.