Hankins Lumber Optimizes Grenada Mill

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Mississippi sawmill benefits from Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan™3-D system at head rig

GRENADA, Mississippi ­­— Hankins Lumber Co. decided in early 2003 that improvements to the sawmill head rig and carriage were needed because that part of the mill had no scanning equipment or optimization technology.
Al Hankins, CEO and president of Hankins Lumber, undertook significant research. Ultimately, he chose the Yield­Master StereoScan™ 3-D system from Inovec Inc., which is headquartered in Eugene, Ore.
Al’s decision was based on a study of the Inovec system at other mills, experience with a similar Inovec system at a previously owned mill, and the experience that mill manager Jody King had with an Inovec system at a former employer.
At the same time that Hankins Lumber added the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan system, it replaced the carriage. The mill put in a newly remanufactured carriage from Cox Brothers in New Hope, Ark., replacing a rack and pinion carriage that had seen many years of service. The new carriage from Cox Brothers is a 42-inch left-hand, heavy-duty, three block model with linear positions on the knees.
The Hankins Lumber sawmill manufactures Southern pine dimension lumber from 2×4 to 2×12 and 1-inch material. The mill, running one shift, saws exclusively pine, including loblolly, longleaf and shortleaf.
The Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan optimization system utilizes LMI Dyna­Vision™L-4 laser scanners to obtain a complete picture of the contours of the log. As the carriage travels toward the saw, the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan captures a thorough view of the log with the aid of the laser technology. Laser lines projected onto the front and top of the log are viewed from two angles at a speed of 60 times per second with CCD cameras.
The laser lines drawn across the log are analogized, and the Inovec Yield­Master StereoScan produces a digitized image of the log. The system determines the optimum sawing solution for the opening face and positions the log for the first cut. Each face is scanned, and the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan analyzes the log for the next position.
When Jody spoke with TimberLine in early February, he already had good numbers that demonstrate the benefits of the Inovec technology. The Inovec Yield­Master StereoScan has enabled the company to increase production and yield. “So far, it’s picked our log count up 20 percent,” said Jody. “It’s picked up our yield five to six percent.”
With the log count up, more raw material can be moved through the mill per unit of time. “We’re running about 800 logs a day on the machine,” said Jody, which is up from about 650 logs previously. In addition to the increase in log count, the mill has experienced improved recovery.
For all the capabilities of the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan as well as the benefits it has already provided, the one thing that continues to grab everyone’s attention is the improved recovery, said Jody. The flitches coming off the head rig look superb. “It makes beautiful faces,” he said.
The ability of the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan to analyze the log and determine the optimum opening face — and subsequent faces — to cut significantly improves grade recovery and yield and saves time, labor and money.
Although Hankins Lumber relies on its Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan to optimize for best grade, the sawyer can use the system to maximize yield, for cutting specialty products or a combination of objectives.
Everyone at Hankins Lumber who was involved in the process of adding the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan has been impressed with it. The praise the system gets from Chris Larson and Bobby Miller illustrates the point, explained Jody.
Chris, who handles PLC and computer support for Hankins Lumber, was involved in the electric aspects of the installation. Bobby, who is responsible for plant maintenance, was in charge of the fine-tuning hydraulic line setting and more. They both give the Inovec YieldMaster StereoScan high marks. “They both like it,” said Jody. “It’s a lot easier on everybody.”
The greatest test comes from the day-to-day users, and the reaction of the sawyers has been enormously positive. “They love it,” said Jody. “It’s so much easier now.” They just put the log on the carriage and hit a button, he said.
Inovec technician Avery Herrick visited Hankins Lumber to install the equipment and get the system on line. “He stayed with us three or four days,” said Jody. “When he left, we knew how to set the equipment and get results.”
Avery is scheduled to return to Hankins Lumber in early March for another visit, just to answer any questions and help in any way he can, said Jody. Knowing that Inovec stands beside its equipment with that kind of service means a lot, he said.
The Grenada mill requires about 70 truckloads of logs daily. “Our timber is supplied through bid sales, negotiated contracts, and ‘gate wood’ as well,” said Jody. Log procurement is under the supervision of vice president Lee Hankins (Al’s brother) and procurement manager Lowell Gibson. Hankins Lumber contracts for harvesting when it buys standing timber.
“We have the most up-to-date equipment on the market,” said Jody. Optimizing technology is used to enhance every step in the lumber manufacturing process. Much of the principal mill equipment was installed in 1999 in a major renovation project, including CAE Newnes machinery.
Logs are debarked on two 30-inch Cambio debarkers before they move to the carriage and head rig for primary breakdown. The CAE Newnes equipment includes a double length infeed system with chip heads and twin band breakdown. A McGehee curve gang saw follows,
along with a linear optimizer with robo guides board edger. The material is then routed to a Morris Industrial Corp. trimmer equipped with a Softac optimizer. The lumber goes to a Morris sorter and then to an inline USNR automatic stickplacer stacker or an offline Morris stacker. All production is dried in the company’s three high temp kilns with Wellons controls. (Bark is processed by one of two hogs and used along with sawdust as boiler fuel for the company’s kilns.) After the lumber is dry, it is taken to the planer mill.
A new planer mill was constructed in 1997 with CAE Newnes equipment. The process begins with a CAE Newnes continuous tilt hoist and stick reclaim system. Lumber is then processed through an MDI metal detector and a Coastal planer machine. After exiting the planer, the lumber is graded. The company uses a Lucidyne grade mark reader and a Claussen all mark stamper. (The grading agency for Hankins Lumber is the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau.) The lumber is then sent through a CAE Newnes trimmer and 54-bin J-bar sorting system followed by an inline and offline CAE Newnes stacking system. All transfer decks in the planer mill are supplied with variable frequency drives to make transition and lumber flow more consistent throughout the process. The finished lumber is strapped with an AMCA strapping machine and moved to a storage shed where it awaits shipment to customers as far north as Cincinnati.
One-inch lumber goes to the company’s nearby planer mill in Elliott for finishing, precision end trimming, and to be remanufactured into specialty products, such as tongue and groove.
Grenada, headquarters for Hankins Lumber Co., is a town of about 12,500. It is the seat of Grenada County in north-central Mississippi. Conveniently located along Interstate 55, Grenada is 94 miles southeast of Memphis, Tenn. Elliott, the site of the planer mill, is fewer than five miles southeast of Grenada.
Hankins Lumber Co. has its roots in Hankins Lumber Sales, a company that Burton Hankins and his brother, Bewel, formed in 1950 to truck lumber. A few years later, the brothers bought a planer mill in Winona, and in 1957 they built the planer mill at Elliott. By the early 1960s, they had added a sawmill and dry kilns.
Bewel died in 1971, and Burton continued to provide the leadership for the company, which was incorporated in 1972 as Hankins Lumber Co. Inc. It was under Burton’s leadership that the company constructed the new planer mill in 1997 and the major sawmill renovation in 1999.
In early 2001, on a return trip from inspecting head rig and sorting equipment in Texas, Burton suffered an untimely death in Glenwood Springs, Ark. His two sons, Al and Lee, are continuing with Burton’s ideas of operating a state-of-the-art sawmill.
In addition to making the recent upgrades to the sawmill, Hankins Lumber has been adding storage space for finished lumber inventory. During the last two years, new storage sheds totaling more than 63,000 square feet have been built. The expansion of covered space gives Hankins Lumber better control over its inventory.
For all the improvements that Hankins Lumber Co. has made in recent years, there will be more to come — as solid business strategy demands, said Al. “To remain competitive in this industry, we must continue to improve our operation efficiencies as we did with this Inovec system.”