Johnson Lumber Company’s Investment in a CBI Track Grinder Offers Many Bonuses

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Alan Johnson, owner of Johnson Lumber Company, has recently purchased CBI’s Magnum Force Series 6800T Track Grinder. Within eight months he has seen his mulching production increase by 30% and he has significantly cut many overhead costs involved in his operations.

Easton, Maryland—Alan Johnson, owner of Johnson Lumber Company, purchased a Magnum Force Series 6800T Track Grinder from Continental Biomass Industries, Inc. (CBI) in December 2009. Already he has noticed a considerable measure of success. His company, which began in 1958, has always produced crane mats, pallet and grade lumber, and mulch. But his mulching operation was solely dependent upon outsourcing. Now with his own grinder, he’s gained control of his production and his volume output has increased nearly 30% over the last eight months.
“The new grinder has enabled us to grind when we want it and how we want it,” explained Alan. “Before we were always waiting for someone else to log, to grind, and to transport…It put us behind all the time because we couldn’t control when we would get the product from the stand.”
According to Alan, when the logs arrived they were collected and stored in big hills which sat awaiting the availability of a grinder service. Once at work, the grinding process took four to five days to complete with men often working on the weekends. With this old method of producing mulch, Alan explained that the costs were highly inflated and constantly increasing. Now Alan has a system that enables him to compete profitably and productively in the market. By simply providing his new grinder, a Barko loader, and a service truck, he subcontracts with two area companies, Elben Logging, which logs and grinds for him, and Mid-Atlantic Transport, which hauls chips from the field to the plant and then drives the long hauls for Alan’s other products.
“These guys (John Elbin and Webb Dublin) are great to work with,” Alan stated. “The system works well. We pay Elbin by the ton to grind on site. This keeps his crew busy…That way I always have the grinder operating. (Because we’re) paying by the ton no one gets hurt and there’s no down time to pay for. If there’s nothing to grind then John logs trees, while Webb hauls the mulch back to the plant for us.”
Johnson Lumber Company is producing approximately 175 to 200 tons per day or from 10 to 12 trailer loads per day. Once the product is brought to the mill for processing, it is re-ground with a 1600 Morbark Tub Grinder equipped with a 950 Cat. They pile the material as high as possible and continuously water it to keep the heat down. The material sits for approximately four to six months during the winter and by early March the re-ground process begins. The material is re-ground a total of three times before the customer purchases it. Alan has four mulch yards at his plant and one employee who works between the yards to rotate the product year round.
Johnson Lumber Company has been around since 1958 when Alan’s dad, Fred, and “grand-pop,” Dudley, were veneer loggers. Around 1964, the family bought a small sawmill to increase their capacity and by 1969 they purchased a pre-existing sawmill and, according to Alan, the business kept “growing and growing from there.” Alan has worked in the industry since he was 13 years old. At first it began simply by picking up sticks and cleaning the shop. He graduated from high school in 1979, graduated from lumber grading school, and then went full-time at the mill. His sister, Donna, is a partner with him in the business and works in the office, overseeing accounts payable and the payroll. Fred, although retired, is still active and comes to work everyday. Alan said that his dad watches over the loggers for him. Alan’s mother, Francis, retired five years ago but fills in at the office when employees are away. The company has a total of 46 employees.
From its humble beginnings the mill has grown to approximately 125 acres. The former mills were abandoned and a brand new facility was built in 1999. Within the facility are three separate head rigs, including two quarterly carriages that cut 16-foot lengths with a gang, and a linear positional carriage with full-blown scanner system that cuts up to 32 inches. A Cooper scragg mill processes the smaller logs, and a Crosby gang with two Cook Saw board edgers are located on each side of the big rig. Two HMC debarkers are located outdoors as well as four Peterbilt trucks.
Crane mats are 30% of the Johnson Lumber business. Alan works with only hardwood, including red and white oak, poplar, soft maple, gum, ash, hickory and some beech. Eighty percent of their timber comes from the woods which they contract out to logging companies and another 20% comes from loggers bringing wood to them. Depending on the stand, they cut 18-inch diameters and up. For a clear cut stand size doesn’t matter.
Johnson Lumber builds several different sized mats, ranging from 6-inches to 12-inches thick, 2-inches to 6-inches in width, and 4-feet to 32-feet in length. His crane mats are used for running natural gas pipelines or transmission lines for electricity. Their biggest user runs the mats throughout the entire state of Maryland. Other mats are used for construction purposes such as temporary bridge work or for work on environmental wetlands.
“My mat business has grown because it’s consistent work,” Alan stated. “Being able to cut large timber for my mats puts us at the cutting edge. I can make up to a 46-inch mat. Many sawmills can’t do that. I also make nice looking mats, not trashy mats. When you put a good product out there it speaks for itself.”
Fifty percent of Alan’s business also comes from a variety of pallet lumber and grade lumber. Grade lumber is used for flooring, housing markets, caskets, industrial timbers for railroad construction, and for large packaging in the transporting of large equipment overseas. And finally, 20% is from his mulch business. He sells his mulch wholesale to landscapers and to garden centers throughout Maryland and to a few customers in Delaware. In the future, he plans on producing colored mulch and hopes to expand his customer base into the western shore of Delaware, where colored mulch is in demand.
“We’ve been in business for so long that we don’t have to market our products,” Alan explained. “We do use our website, but business is mostly done by word of mouth. We try to do a good product and guarantee our drop times. We do have more control because we own our own mill…Fulfilling our orders is important to our business.”
When Alan was considering his purchase of CBI’s 6800T model he talked to many loggers who were pleased with their machines. Alan, who buys all his machines brand new, almost bought a used 6800T model because of its rave reviews. However, he did discover the last remaining brand-new 6800T in CBI’s showroom and immediately purchased it.
“It’s the best move I’ve ever made,” Alan commented. “It’s a great machine. I bought the last one with the updated clutch. I can take my grinder out into the stand with no problems. It’s very easy to use and to transport.”
Alan worked with Aaron Benway, CBI’s Northeast regional sales manager, and also got to meet with CBI’s owner, Anders Ragnarsson. CBI was started in Newton Junction, New Hampshire in 1988. Anders, a former native of Sweden, sought to engineer the most durable and efficient grinder on the market. The CBI Grizzly Mill with its patented, extremely rugged offset-helix rotor was one of the first of CBI’s inventions to perform so strong in the market in terms of throughput. In the last 20 years this type of technology has become the baseline for CBI’s product lines, including the Magnum Force 6800T which Alan now owns. CBI, considered as one of the industry leaders in the United States and internationally, is on the forefront of developing better ways to utilize global resources and bio-fuel energy methods.
One of the main reasons that Alan chose the 6800T model was because the machine weighs less than 80,000 pounds; therefore, he can tow it with standard permits within the state of Maryland. According to Maryland standards, the gross total weight of the truck, trailer, and machine cannot exceed 120,000 pounds; otherwise, it is considered a “superload.”
“There are an increasing number of states where total gross weight is an issue,” Aaron stated. “Competitive machines cannot be equipped with a 1000HP diesel engine and still maintain the overall weight in order to achieve this.”
According to Aaron of CBI, another highlighted feature of the 6800T is its upturn rotor that rotates at a higher rpm. This produces a more uniform-finished product and maximizes productivity better than most other machines in the industry. The machine is fashioned with high-strength steel forging which enables it to rotate the hammer mill faster and to maintain a balanced rotor. The 6800T’s hog box with its unique clamshell opening has been engineered to provide more room behind the screens for increased throughput and ease of maintenance. With a simple push of a button the hog box opens in seconds to allow operators full access to the rotor and quick-change screens. The predecessor to the The 6800T was introduced in 2007; the newest model 6800BT was recently released. The 6800BT has been enhanced and re-designed based upon CBI’s observations and customer feedback.
“Our owner, Anders Ragnarsson, is the driving force behind the product design,” Aaron stated. “He refuses to accept anything less than our ability to produce the best grinder on the market…Our company motto is ‘CBI out chips, out grinds, out shreds, and outlasts the competition.’”
According to Aaron, approximately 100 CBI 6800s to date have been built and are operating in the field. Many of them have been purchased by CBI customers as their second 6800. And CBI has recently introduced several new products besides the Magnum Force Series 6800BT, including the Magnum Force Series 5400T, the CBI ChipMax 484, and the CBI Log & Stump Screw attachment.
Alan found working with CBI welcoming, friendly, and “easy going.” “They (CBI) were very good to me and very good at giving me time during their busy schedules,” Alan remarked. “I even got to meet the company owner. That was amazing to me because most owners wouldn’t give anyone the time of day, but not CBI’s owner. He was present and available. I was impressed by that.”
According to Aaron, CBI and Johnson Lumber Company enjoy a terrific working relationship and mutual respect for each other. Aaron enjoyed partnering with Alan to find a solution to his grinding needs and is pleased that CBI was able to deliver the machine that has fulfilled Alan’s expectations.
“Alan Johnson employs old-school business ethics of honesty, integrity, and respect, which I feel leads to a positive industry relationship,” Aaron stated.

Green Clean Heat is CBI’s Innovative Venture into the Nation’s Green Market
By Maya L. Brewer
Green Clean Heat, LLC is CBI’s most recent venture into the logging industry’s “green” market. CBI’s founder and owner, Anders Ragnarsson, recognized the impending dilemmas of global warming, the high cost of oil, and the United States’ dependency upon foreign oil. His desire was to create a better market for making woodchips. Located in Newton Junction, New Hampshire, GCH is creating a niche in the logging industry for low quality fiber materials.
“With sawmills increasingly disappearing, we wanted to create a new avenue in the logging industry,” remarked Harry Smith, GCH’s general manager. “There’s a much higher cost to produce pellets…Pellets are no longer feasible because of the amount of processing that’s required and the high costs. We’re a lower cost alternative.”
According to Harry, GCH produces “totally integrated, highly efficient wood-fired heating systems.” These systems are more “robust” and use low quality wood that’s derived directly from the forest. While other systems require a specialized chip/pellet for their heating systems, GCH’s systems can take anything from sticks, twigs, larger wood chunks, anything right from the forest with very little plugging problems. GCH’s mission is to manufacture a heating system that offers less emissions, higher efficiency, and a lower over-all cost than comparable systems.
This start-up company is backed by CBI. When Anders, a former native of Sweden, envisioned GCH he researched for potential systems from all over the world. According to Smith, Europe is much further advanced in their development of green-biomass energy. Anders picked the best technology he could find. For their initial boiler they used a European-designed boiler with a burner and matching control device from Finland. Over time they modified the system to meet American requirements. They’ve released their own domestic boiler, which was designed, manufactured, and built in the United States. GCH only manufactures hot water heating systems which range from 1.7 million BTUs up to 10 million BTUs. The units run up to 80% efficiency. Perspective customers are schools, municipalities, hospitals, colleges, box stores, and district heating systems.
Currently, GCH has one boiler-burner system that’s been in use for this past year at a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. A second system is in the process of implementation and three prospective buyers are in the works.
According to Harry, Anders has purposefully been “holding back the wings” on GCH’s marketing to make sure that they have the best, highest quality product on the market. “We want to make sure that we get everything right before we release our systems on the market,” stated Harry.
In May 2010, GCH was awarded a grant from Green Launching Pad, a partnership between the state of New Hampshire and the University of New Hampshire. The award, based on New Hampshire’s Climate Change Action Plan, honored GCH because of its efforts to promote products and services that directly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. According to Harry, this was the highest award bestowed. Green Launching Pad awards grants to help “jump start” companies that are working toward producing high-quality, highly-efficient sources of energy conservation.
For more information on Green Clean Heat and its innovative boiler/burner systems contact Harry Smith, General Manager for GCH, at (603) 257-1310 or by email at