Company Continues to Improve Stud Mills with INOVEC Optimization Systems
LIVINGSTON, Montana — Scott Stern, the sawmill supervisor for the Livingston division of RY Timber, is looking forward to some big changes at his mill come September. The mill will optimize its head rig system with the INOVEC LogMaster system with StereoScan™ 3-D scanning. The company also plans to optimize its cant edger with the INOVEC CantMaster system.
When TimberLine talked with Scott in early July, he was working closely with INOVEC engineers on the planned improvements. Designers from INOVEC were spending time on-site at the Livingston division of RY Timber to get things ready for the installation of scanning and optimization equipment, a usual protocol. The head rig to be optimized is a Maxi Mill end-dogging quad mill.
R-Y Timber operates two high speed stud mills that cut pine, fir and spruce. The company runs about 60% Douglas fir logs and 40% lodgepole pine; it also processes some Engelmann spruce. The two softwood mills manufacture studs and other lumber products for the building industry, producing about 165 million board feet annually and employing about 200 workers.
“We manufacture framing lumber, two by fours and two by six, and studs, from four feet to nine feet,” said Scott. The 4-foot to 7-foot 2x4s are used for web stock and fingerjointing, he explained, while the 8-foot to 9-foot 2x4s are used for wall studs in home construction.
Makers of wooden instruments, particularly violins and piano sounding boards, covet the Engelmann spruce for its resonant qualities. So there is competition for the species among buyers.
Livingston is just 35 miles from the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park while Townsend is located some 65 miles northwest of its companion mill. Besides the mills, RY Timber has offices in Boise, Idaho. Sales are made primarily through brokers. “We’ve sold studs to every state in the union except Alaska and Hawaii,” said Scott.
Ron Yanke, who founded RY Timber in 1984, died in February. Today, a corporation representing members of the Yanke family holds the company in trust.
When RY Timber was started 20 years ago, it had a presence in California. Ron later liquidated the facilities in the Golden State, said Scott, because southwest Montana proved to be a better location for operations. For one thing, southwest Montana, where the Livingston and Townsend mills are located, contains large tracts of standing timber in the Rocky Mountains.
While Scott awaits the implementation of the scanning and optimizing equipment at the Livingston Division of RY Timber, he has already had ample opportunity to see its capabilities at the Townsend division of RY Timber. Thanks to his frequent interaction with the Townsend division, Scott has also has a good idea of the results he can expect to see with the INOVEC optimization and scanning technology.
At the Townsend mill, the INOVEC YieldMaster StereoScan has optimized the head rig, which consists of a Diamond bandmill with custom-made carriage. The mill’s Timber Machine Technologies (TMT) board edger is also optimized with the INOVEC WaneMaster system.
(The infeed to the TMT edger is optimized with a TMT system; TMT, which is headquartered in Tualatin, Ore., is known for its high-speed optimized edgers as well as its curve sawing gangs.)
Talking with the sawyers at the Townsend division of RY Timber, Scott has heard about the results obtained with the INOVEC YieldMaster and StereoScan. “We’re getting good cutting,” he said.
Moreover, the INOVEC equipment is easy to use. “It’s very user-friendly,” said Scott. “They just load the logs onto the machine.”
The mills at Livingston and Townsend are quite similar, said Scott, although until September, the Townsend mill will be ahead in terms of technology. That is, of course, because of the INOVEC and TMT equipment already deployed there.
The Townsend mill added the INOVEC WaneMaster edger optimizer to its TMT edger in 2002. The high speed edger uses two moveable saws, fixed width solutions, trailing edge positioning, and scans wane up or down; it processes about 40 pieces per minute.
The edger is unique in that it uses a double fetcher infeed. In order to maximize speed, two sets of positioners on the top and bottom move back and forth to bring flitches to the table. As soon as one set of positioners has brought a flitch to the table, the other set has begun moving a new flitch. Commonly, infeeds have one set of positioners to bring the piece to the table, and they move back to pick up a new flitch. With dual positioners, there is less waiting time, which increases production speed.
The INOVEC WaneMaster uses LMI DynaVision transverse scanning to accurately measure each flitch. This was the first INOVEC WaneMaster installed with the new VisualPoint control system. VisualPoint uses ControlLogix to communicate from the machine to the optimizer, comprehensively monitor the machine and to notify the operator of any problems. VisualPoint also uses a HMI interface with touch-screen monitor making it simple and user friendly for the operator.
At the head rig, the INOVEC StereoScan 3-D scanning system has significantly improved volume. The StereoScan system accurately measures the contour of a log with laser scanners from LMI DynaVision to produce a digital picture of the log. The laser beams projected on the log are viewed with digital cameras while the carriage travels toward the saw. The data is analyzed by the INOVEC YieldMaster optimizer to select the best opening face to recover maximum grade.
The INOVEC StereoScan scanning system uses LMI DynaVision™ L-4 laser scanners to capture the data required to make a digital picture of the log. As the carriage travels toward the saw, the INOVEC StereoScan 3-D system provides a thorough look at the log. Laser lines projected onto the front and top of the log are viewed from two angles at 60 times per second with CCD cameras. The virtual curtain of laser lines draws across the log and the way they are translated into information can be analogized. Imagine wrapping the log in a thin substance that hardens and can be easily pulled away like a thin cast to reveal every ripple and knob. That is what the digitized picture looks like to the computer software that analyzes it.
The INOVEC YieldMaster head rig and carriage optimizer uses the digital picture and analysis to position the log quickly for maximum recovery. Because the INOVEC StereoScan system works so fast, each sawn face can be scanned and the next position for the log reassessed in real-time without the need to stop the carriage and turn the log in order to decide the next cut.
At the beginning of this year, INOVEC announced that it had installed the 100th StereoScan 3-D Scanning System. The company, which sells its products worldwide, put that system in place at B.Y. Lumber Co. in White Plains, N.Y. INOVEC’s first StereoScan systems were sold in 1999. More than 115 systems are now in place at mills around the world.
Talking with his colleagues at the Townsend Division, Scott said he knows they are seeing improvements in both grade recovery and production speed with the INOVEC system. “It’s increased both,” he said. “They’re actually getting a few more logs sawn per minute.”
Scott also likes the simplicity of the INOVEC technology. “It’s easy to load,” he said. The system runs virtually automatically although the sawyer can override it if he chooses.
Scott said his colleagues at Townsend also have been very pleased with the service provided by INOVEC. “The backup has been good from INOVEC,” he said, and INOVEC’s staff has always been readily available to respond to phone calls for assistance.
In fact, INOVEC’s responsiveness and service figured into the decision RY Timber made to stay with INOVEC as it updates the technology at its Livingston division. “They’ve been very helpful,” said Scott, describing his interaction with engineers from INOVEC who are visiting the Livingston mill to work on the installation.
As part of the improvements at the Livingston division, a TMT infeed will be added to the existing Schurman cant edger. The edger also will be optimized with the INOVEC CantMaster system.
“Three years ago, we optimized our board edger here with INOVEC-TMT,” said Scott. The experience with the TMT optimized board edger at the Townsend mill makes him eager for the TMT optimized infeed to be added to the cant edger at Livingston.
RY Timber’s procurement team buys standing timber and land and contracts with independent loggers for cutting. The company has experienced, professional foresters on its staff who can consult with landowners on forest management decisions, and it has earned a solid reputation for land management and environmental forestry. Depending on the terrain and the landowner, logging methods may involve conventional tractors, skyline equipment or even helicopters. The company also employs a licensed scaler who supervises all log measurements. RY Timber buys ‘gate wood’ from logging contractors, too.
RY Timber obtains logs from a region that includes parts of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. The company prefers logs in 9-foot multiples since they are bucked to 9-foot blocks; it takes logs up to 36 feet long.
Logs are debarked on one of two Cambio debarkers in Townsend and one in Livingston. Then they are bucked on circular cut-off saws with mechanical stops on what is essentially a shop-built chain.
The Livingston division of RY Timber has a Cleaver-Brooks gas-fired kiln with two tracks for kiln-drying lumber in the winter. Lumber normally is air-dried in the warm months.
In addition to its commitment to technology – like INOVEC — to improve recovery from wood resources, RY Timber is also committed to its employees. On-going employee training is an important aspect of the company’s operations.
Just as companies like RY Timber have improved their mills in order to recover more usable lumber from the log, INOVEC continues to improve its optimization technology. INOVEC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of InVision Technologies Inc., sees optimization as a tool that is fully realized when it assists an experienced operator of machinery. Depending on the type of optimizing systems installed, INOVEC technology can enable a mill to produce 15%-20% more lumber from the log.
A native of Missoula, Mont., Scott has always enjoyed being close to Yellowstone and having easy access to great places to hunt and fish. He earned a degree in biology at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash. During his college years, he began working in sawmills to earn money for school and supplement his football scholarship.
Scott has been with RY Timber since 1996, but he has been working in sawmills since 1971. “I started pulling green chain in Idaho,” he said. For his entire career, he has been on the sawmill side of the wood products industry – he worked a couple of weeks with a logging crew.
“The work was more steady in the mill,” said Scott. In Montana and neighboring states, loggers working in the high Rockies are brought to a halt by snow from November until February. Scott decided that mills would provide steadier employment. “It just evolved into a good living,” he said.
Joining the wood products industry also gave Scott the opportunity to stay in a region of the nation known for its beautiful landscapes.
Occasionally, Scott gets to make some use of his biology degree at work, identifying species of trees and so on. Being in the wood products industry provides many opportunities to continue learning in new areas, he noted. “Dealing with new technologies,” said Scott, is fascinating.