Kiln Upgrades Boost Anthony Timberlands: Hardwood Operations at Arkansas Company Reap Benefits of Unitemp Dry Kilns

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Anthony Timberlands – Hardwood Operations Upgrade with Unitemp Dry Kilns

BEARDEN, Arkansas — When something works, you don’t mess it up by changing it. And when your equipment does the job, you don’t replace it with something else.
So when Anthony Timberlands in southern Arkansas had to replace their dry kilns, they went back to the same company that had provided excellent kilns and outstanding service in the past: Unitemp Dry Kilns.
Anthony Timberlands’ headquarters is located in Bearden, Arkansas, only three miles from the original site where Garland Anthony opened his first mill in 1907. From that location, the company operates other facilities in Arkansas – pine mills in Bearden and Malvern, a hardwood mill in Beirne and other facilities in Arkadelphia, Hope and Sheridan.
The plants are west of the Mississippi River with direct access to the interstate highway system via Interstate 30 and major rail lines, which makes Anthony Timberlands a convenient and competitive supplier of pine and hardwood for the region.
The pine mills, which cut more than 275 million board feet annually combined, produce 5/4 radius decking, dimension lumber and export grade Southern yellow pine. Most of the company’s pine production is sold to large treaters, distribution centers and ‘big box’ home improvement stores.
The company operates a treating plant — Anthony Wood Treating Inc. — in Hope, which is about 30 miles southwest of Beirne. The plant has the capacity to treat 70 million board feet annually with MCA wood preservative.
At Anthony Hardwood Composites, located in Sheridan, the company uses laminating methods and fasteners to produce engineered industrial mats that enable heavy equipment to operate on unstable or soft soil conditions.
Mike McQueen, vice president for hardwood operations, supervises hardwood production and sales at the company’s mill in Beirne, which is about 85 miles southwest of Little Rock and 60 miles northeast of Texarkana, Texas. The plant employs 125 people and has the capacity to produce nearly 50 million board feet annually.
The company’s hardwood mill produces mainly 4/4 lumber, mostly from red oak and white oak, plus a small volume of ash. Lumber is sold kiln-dried except for pallet cants, crossties, switch ties and timbers. The company’s principal market is the flooring industry with other markets in moulding, cabinets, furniture, S4S lumber, pallets and railties.
The Beirne facility is within reach of the fertile bottomlands of the Little Missouri, Ouachita and Saline rivers. Since the highest grade logs come from these river bottoms, which can only be logged during late summer and fall, the Beirne mill regularly stores more than 10 million feet of hardwood logs on its concrete log yard as well as at satellite log storage facilities in Rockport and East Camden.
Anthony Timberlands added new dry kilns from Unitemp Dry Kilns several years ago and replaced other kilns with Unitemp dry kilns until they had a total of 14. In 2005 the company tore down eight masonry kilns at the Beirne mill and replaced them with new Unitemp dry kilns as well.
“All eight of our masonry kilns were demolished and replaced with 14 new 100,000 board-foot capacity Unitemp Dry Kilns,” Mike said. “Seven of them are side loaders and seven are track kilns. This gives us a total kiln capacity of 1,400,000 board feet at the Beirne facility. Unitemp also installed an extension to the existing pre-dryer, giving it a total capacity of 2,500,000 board feet. Completed in 2005, this is believed to be the largest warehouse type pre-drier in existence.”
The company’s decision to stay with Unitemp Dry Kilns during this process was a foregone conclusion that had everything to do with Anthony Timberlands’ previous relationship with the company, said Mike.
“Our previous history with Unitemp included converting older steam fired kilns to natural gas at the Beirne plant,” he said. “We also constructed new kilns and converted steam to natural gas fired kilns in a plant that we had in Winnfield, Louisiana, as well as at a leased drying facility in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Unitemp had proven to be innovative, efficient, and timely in kiln conversion and construction as well as having a reasonably priced product.”
When it came time to replace the masonry kilns, Mike said, the process went quickly.
“The eight masonry kilns were track kilns which were demolished down to the concrete and tracks and replaced by seven new Unitemp kilns,” he said. “Demolition was completed in two months. The seven new kilns were completed in two stages—first three kilns and then four more kilns—with staggered start-up dates four months apart. The seven side loading kilns were new construction from the ground up. At the end of the project, we had fourteen total kilns each with 100,000 board foot capacity, for a total of 1,400,000 board foot capacity.”
Unitemp Dry Kilns worked closely with Anthony Timberlands throughout the project, Mike said.
“They were involved starting with the planning of the kiln footprint,” he said. “That included daily monitoring of the construction process and working with the utility, electrical and kiln control people. Unitemp had to work with our in-house staff and the construction companies — foundation, piping, erection, and electrical contractors — to ensure that the physical sizes of the buildings and the location of the buildings would fit into the existing plant schematic. It was Unitemp’s responsibility to work with the aforementioned contractors on a daily basis to ensure that construction proceeded properly and on schedule.”
The decision to use a combination of some side loading kilns and some track kilns had to do with the existing equipment at the Beirne facility.
“We had concrete foundations and kiln tracks that supported a dry breakdown and integrated transfer car closed loop system,” explained Mike. “There was no point in not utilizing the expensive concrete and tracks already in place. The side loaders were less expensive to build and work in conjunction with the track kilns. The side loading kilns are not connected to any portion of the downstream handling equipment; lumber is hauled to and away from the kilns to downstream processing equipment. The track kilns are part of a closed loop system where lumber is staged on the infeed kiln tracks. Here, the lumber is kiln dried, transferred to the dry breakdown, the lumber is then inspected and graded, sorted by grade, width and length, and then packaged for shipping before being moved from the system by a forklift.”
Since the new kilns have been installed, Mike said, they have required minimal maintenance and repairs.
“We haven’t had any problems outside of normal maintenance,” he said. “And Unitemp continues to supply us with parts and personnel when necessary.”
From Unitemp’s perspective, it was a unique and exciting project.
“Mike and his people were a pleasure to work for,” said Jerry Stroud, owner of Unitemp Dry Kilns. “They helped in every way possible during the construction of the kilns. They handled the demolition of the kilns and prepared the foundation for the install. We provided foundation requirements for the new kilns. Our field install crew erected the new kilns on site.”
There were several things that made installing the kilns for Anthony Timberlands a unique experience, according to Jerry.
“First, the new kilns needed to be located in the exact places as the old brick kilns since the rail system and foundations were already in place, and it would prove to be a very substantial savings to utilize these items,” he said. “Then, the loading and unloading areas were already established with roof covers and feeds to their processing system. The new kilns would need to function within this part of the system.”
In addition, the new kilns needed to be located in the same area and have the same drying capacity.
“Another part of this equation was some differences in elevation,” said Jerry. “The old kilns had a two foot difference in elevation from one end to the other. The new kilns had to be constructed in such a manner to allow for this elevation change.”
Overall, Jerry said, the project for Anthony Timberlands fit very well into Unitemp’s mission as a company, which is to meet the needs of customers in the best way it can while fulfilling their customers’ visions concerning their operations.
“This customer — Anthony Timberlands — had a vision that they felt would benefit their operation,” said Jerry. “Our job was to figure out how to get it out of the visionary stage and into the full production stage. We got busy and presented Mike with the preliminary plans to construct a new four kiln complex under one roof, utilizing all the space without affecting the other parts of the operation. The project was a success and brought the total kiln capacity of their operation up to 14 steam kilns — of which about half are hardwood track kilns and half are hardwood package kilns — with a drying capacity over 1.5 million board feet. We also added approximately 700,000 board feet capacity onto their existing pre-dryer to accommodate the extra production requirements for these new kilns and allow the mill to continue to be able to control their inventory and have all their timber in controlled environments to expedite drying and improve the quality of their product. Instead of stacking lumber outside and allowing it to air dry for long periods of time before it reaches the kiln for drying or spending long periods of time in the kilns, the pre-dryer reduces a lot of the moisture to expedite the drying in the kilns.”
The new kilns have had a profound effect on the company’s operations, according to Mike. “Having these dry kilns has allowed us to market more kiln dried (value added) lumber as a percentage of our total production,” said Mike. “It’s also allowed us to increase production, which has added employees and increased the sales price by adding more value to the finished product. We’ve been able to increase our customer base due to the additional volume of KD lumber. Plus, the lumber has fewer drying defects, with no discoloration to the lumber due to air drying.”