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.
Article by Jessica Johnson, Senior Editor, Timber Processing January/February 2024
Some of the smartest men and women in the industry have graced the pages of this magazine—and have won the award of Timber Processing Person of the Year. They’ve all been incredibly worthy of this recognition for innovation, commitment and love of the industry they serve. Perhaps none have been quite as innovative as the introverted sawmiller from Georgia named Levi Anderson Pollard, V, whose name is on two of the patents that changed the way the sawmilling world manufactures and dries lumber (and on so many other patents as well).
Walter Jarck, whose career in the forest products industry spanned 65 years and ranged from logging machinery to engineered wood products, died January 3, surrounded by his children, in North Wilkesboro, NC. He was 92.
Carbotech Group has acquired Sawquip, a manufacturing company specializing in the design and manufacture of sawmill equipment for the primary and secondary breakdown of logs into lumber. This acquisition allows Carbotech Group to add on a new field of expertise, providing customers with innovative new solutions for lumber production. Sawquip’s innovative products include log turners and optimized log infeeds, chipping canters, twin and quad circular saw modules, as well as optimized gangs for controlled shape sawing, among others.
Rob Freres, president of Oregon-based Freres Engineered Wood, a manufacturer of lumber, veneer, plywood and mass timber, has thrown in his support for a lawsuit filed by the Oregon Trucking Assn. and three Oregon-based trucking companies against the state of Oregon for overcharging truckers under the weight-mile tax.
Austria-based Hasslacher group is acquiring a stake in Element5, a mass timber producer specializing in the design, manufacture and assembly of modern engineered timber buildings. Based near Toronto, Can., Element5 employs more than 100 and produces cross-laminated timber and glued laminated timber for the North American market.
Atlas Holdings has entered into an agreement to sell RedBuilt, LLC to Hampton Lumber Mills, Inc. Atlas formed RedBuilt with the acquisition of the commercial division of Trus Joist from Weyerhaeuser Co. in 2009. Over the next 14 years, the company became an industry leader in the engineering, design and manufacturing of proprietary wood-based structural solutions serving the low-rise commercial construction market. The transaction is anticipated to close in the first quarter of 2024.
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