Michigan Mill Upgrades, Optimizes Edger

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Devereaux Sawmill Continues Improvements with Valley Machine Edger, USNR Optimization

PEWAMO, Michigan — Optimizing an operating saw mill is a lot like refurbishing an inhabited house. Deciding where to start poses a challenge.
Tackling the whole thing at one time would be nice, but it is typically impractical for a couple of reasons. Cost is one. Continuity is another. Taking a mill out of service is a lot like shutting down access to a home. It’s do-able, but it’s an expensive option.
So how does a mill start down the path to full optimization? Which machine center gets the technology first?
For Devereaux Sawmill Inc., there was a definite preference, said Todd Smith, the general manager and purchasing agent.
“We had been talking about an optimized edger, but it was easier to start with the head rig,” said Todd. Consequently, the head rig was optimized three years ago.
In December 2005, the company turned to optimizing the edger. Devereaux took advantage of down time during the Christmas holiday to install the new edger. By January, the new Valley Machine Works lineal edger with USNR 3D scanning and optimization was up and running.
The edger is important to the high quality and high production that defines the Devereaux Sawmill, which dates back to 1967. “Our focus is basically manufacturing the best hardwood lumber we can,” said Todd.
Todd’s uncle, Bruce Devereaux, is the president of Devereaux Sawmill. Bruce’s sons, Brandon and Craig, serve as vice presidents. Craig specializes in sales; Brandon specializes in timber procurement and heads Forest and Land Management, LLC, an affiliated company that provides raw material to the mill.
“About half (of lumber dried and sold) comes from timber we harvest in the state of Michigan,” said Todd. “The remainder is from other mills.” Relationships with other mills ensure quality purchases, said Todd. A few species, such as walnut, cherry and hickory, are sometimes bought outside the Wolverine State.
Between 50 and 60 full-time employees keep the mill running smoothly, usually working only one shift. The mill and storage areas span about 35 acres, which are subdivided by a country road. The mill occupies about 80 percent of the space. Designed to facilitate the flow of manufacturing, mill layout exemplifies the thoughtful methods of the Devereaux Sawmill leadership team.
Incoming logs are sorted and stored in open-walled sheds fitted with a custom, shop-built sprinkler system. Keeping the logs wet helps preserve them and prevent checking or cracking, noted Todd.
An HMC Corp. rosserhead debarker, which has seen many years of service, is used to debark the logs, and the bark is sold to a landscaping company.
The head rig consists of a Mc­Donough 6-foot double-cut bandmill paired with a Cleereman carriage; they are set at a 17-degree slant. The head rig is optimized with INOVEC® 3-D scanning technology. A McDonough 5-foot band resaw follows. It is operated by two people. “One operator just (visually) picks faces to optimize yield,” said Todd.
The Valley Machine Works lineal edger with USNR 3D scanning and optimization follows the resaw. “We supplied most of the labor” to install the edger, said Todd. “Valley sent a very competent leader.” The supplier was “very good to work with,” he added.
Getting the edger into the existing mill took some doing because it was a tight fit. In fact, the new machine was lowered through an opening in the roof of the building.
On the day that Todd discussed the upgrade with TimberLine, he had just been talking with his boss about the new edger and optimization system. “Bruce Dever­eaux said this is the best investment we made yet,” explained Todd.
Quality begins with predictability, noted Todd. “It’s just consistent every day in how it edges. It edges the same way in the morning as it does in the afternoon. It edges the same on Friday as it does on Monday.”
“USNR’s edger optimizer factors in a shrink factor (for) material that’s going to the planer,” he added. “It can gain you footage. It does all those things and it does them faster than seems humanly possible.”
Two grading stations follow in sequence after the edger. One handles only material coming from the edger. The other is reserved for material coming in from other mills.
From the juncture of the grading stations, all the equipment that follows — except the rip saw and the planer — is from Morris Industries Corp. The Morris equipment includes a double-end trimmer, an end-waxing table, and a 60-bin industrial sorter.
Sorting is done to NHLA grades and to proprietary grades set by Devereaux Sawmill. The Morris Industries sorter does more than speed production. Because green lumber can be tallied as it is
graded, the sorter allows for better forecasting of lumber availability and procurement needs.
The company has 15 dry kilns in its lumber drying operations. They dry close to 100% of the lumber. Twelve of the kilns are from KDS and the other three, older kilns will be converted to KDS (Kiln Drying Systems & Components) by the end of summer. The kilns have a combined capacity of 800,000 board feet. Each month Devereaux Sawmill is able to dry 1.4 million board feet of lumber.
The small volume of lumber that does not go directly into the kilns is put in T-sheds for air drying; it is primarily red oak and white oak. If necessary, burlap covers shield the lumber from exposure to potentially degrading environmental conditions.
The kilns are heated with a Biomass Combustion Systems Inc. 350-horsepower biomass burner. It burns primarily green sawdust with shavings added to the fuel mix when necessary. The sawdust collection system was supplied by Precision Sheet Metal.
Excess sawdust is sold bulk to a local dairy farm. A Morbark 58-inch chipper processes slabs and trim ends, and the chips are sold to landscapers and paper companies.
About 90% of the lumber is planed with a Newman S-382 planer that has been in use for a long time. A bypass is built into the mill chain for skipping the planer.
The grading stations have controlled lighting. Seven graders grade from the end at an elevated angle. The grade mark reader and scanning system is a product of Cypress Technologies; it scans and reads fluorescent marks that indicate grade, color and remanufacturing requirements.
Devereaux Sawmill added a Mereen-Johnson Machine Co. ripsaw and a light curtain scanner about 18 months ago. The ripsaw has enabled the company to provide value-added lumber remanufacturing services, such as ripping lumber to width. Straight line ripped-1E (SLR1E) lumber is a specialty offering.
Sorting to meet precise customer requirements is a service that Devereaux Sawmill takes seriously. A new building for kiln-dried lumber holds as many as 110 sorting carts.
Bandsaw blades are re-sharpened in house; circular saw blades are maintained under a contract with North American Products Corp. in nearby Jasper, Ind. The company buys circular saw blade from Simmons Engineering Corp.
Devereaux Sawmill is certified by the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. (NHLA) to heat-treat lumber products. Besides membership in the NHLA, the mill belongs to the American Forest and Paper Association, Hardwood Manufacturers Association, Indiana Hardwood Lumberman’s Association, American Hardwood Export Council and the Michigan Association of Timbermen (MAT).
Devereaux Sawmill recently won an Excellence in Manufacturing award from the MAT. In presenting the award, MAT cited the manner in which Devereaux Sawmill lives up to its slogan, which is, ‘Committed to our customers, resources and our future since 1967.’
Reflecting on the reward, Todd said the recognition highlights the long-standing philosophy of Devereaux “to try to do everything better than we’re doing it now, to improve the way we’re handling the resource.” The company’s commitment to manufacturing high quality lumber begins “with having the most respect for the resource we’re dealing with,” he said.
The company is striving to use as much of the log as possible. The mill-wide optimization has enabled the company to increase yield, reducing waste and maximizing the use of the forest resources.
Valley Machine Works and USNR worked together to integrate the machine and control system. The Valley Machine edger is a top-arbor machine that can be configured for a two-saw or three-saw set-up. The infeed tables can be fully automated or run semi-manually.
USNR acquired the Perceptron Inc. forest products division in 2002. With the acquisition, USNR strengthened the sawmill control and optimization products it offers.
USNR Smart TriCam® scanning technology produces among the highest density scan data in the industry. Its capabilities can be amplified by the USNR Mill-Wide™ Information System, which can be used as a planning and forecasting tool.
USNR, which has facilities in Arkansas, Florida, Michigan and Washington and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec, has a global reach that extends to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and many other countries.
Devereaux Sawmill has an equally long reach. The company’s lumber is sold and distributed throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Its lumber is used to make flooring, cabinets, furniture and millwork, as well as other goods.
One International tractor hauls to local customers, but the majority of trucking is contracted. Some lumber is shipped in North America by rail, and the link is made via Grand Rapids, Mich., which is 30 miles west of Pewamo.
The Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad line spurred the development of Pewamo, Mich. in 1857; it was removed 11 years ago. The town is named after an Indian chief who hunted with one of the early settlers. Devereaux Sawmill is the largest employer in Pewamo, which has a population of about 560 and is in a thriving agricultural area.
Devereaux Sawmill launched a custom hardwood flooring venture about two years ago. For now, the flooring represents a very small component of the company’s business. “We’re testing the waters a little,” said Todd. “It’s really high-end, pretty much hand-picked stock.”
Among the specialty flooring products are rift and quartered cherry, white oak and red oak. Flooring made of curly white maple and curly cherry fetches premium prices.
Todd had an early introduction to the wood products industry, working for his uncle part-time prior to going to college. “I’ve worked as a laborer here — in high school, piling logs,” he explained. He joined Devereaux six years ago after working for about six years as an engineer. Todd earned a degree in plastics engineering form Ferris State University.
Bruce’s father, James Devereaux, started the mill in 1967. James brought abundant experience to the enterprise, having partnered with his two brothers in 1947 to own and operate Oakley Hardwoods in Oakley, Mich. Bruce took over operation of Devereaux Sawmill in 1978.
Under the leadership of Bruce, Craig and Brandon, Devereaux Sawmill has seen many changes as it keeps pace with the global marketplace. The essentials of quality, attention to detail, customer service, innovation and adoption of useful technology endure as guiding points for the father and sons.
Attention to detail shows up in all aspects of the business. It encompasses even logs that are sorted on arrival to be sold to veneer manufacturers. The veneer logs are stored in a cooler at a temperature of 40 degrees until shipment.
All the sawmill operations are under one roof, which speeds handling. Faster throughput results in the brightest possible appearance of lumber.
Apitong sticks, which are grooved to prevent stick shadow, are being phased in across the mill. They have the resilience required to hold stacked lumber flatter.
End-waxing using a product from Anchorseal is done board by board; individual sealing each board ensures better, uniform adherence.
The Forest and Land Management affiliate of Devereaux Sawmill works closely with landowners to select mature trees that are at an optimal age for harvesting and processing into lumber. It offers select cutting of as few as two trees per acre. All logging is done by fully licensed subcontractors.
Todd is happy with the decision he made to join the wood products industry. “I enjoy everything about it,” he said. “The people are fantastic.
Devereaux Sawmill is a great place to work, said Todd, because of the mindset of the entire team. “We have some really good guys that go above and beyond” to do what it takes to get the job done well, he explained.
When he takes time away from work, Todd enjoys hunting and fishing. “I’m an outdoorsman,” he said. But his highest priority is his family. “I’ve got young kids,” he explained.