At West Fraser’s modern Quesnel sawmill, sophisticated computer technology has turned the legacy of the worst mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia’s history into commercially viable lumber, a feat that is keeping the forest industry competitive despite its reliance on twisted, cracked and dead pine trees.

“Technology is what has allowed us to survive. This is what has given B.C. mills the advantage,” said mill manager D’Arcy Henderson, describing how the Quesnel mill, the world’s largest in terms of annual lumber volume, has managed to stay not only in business but profitable despite a diet of logs that a decade ago would have been left in the bush to rot.

Henderson is standing inside the mill’s computer control room, which has more in common with an office in downtown Vancouver than what you might imagine as the inside of a B.C. sawmill. Desks, office chairs and computer monitors fill the workplace. All of them belong to one man, quality control expert Dave Munro. He explained how technology has transformed what was once considered a labor-intensive job.

“There’s zero manual decision-making inside the mill, other than whether to throw a broken piece into the chipper,” said Munro. “We realize our No. 1 cost is logs, so the best thing for us to do is to maximize what we can get out of those logs.”

Computerizing every decision in the mill by the use of scanning technology is how the transformation has been accomplished.

From The Vancouver Sun: