Custom lumber-drying operation will increase kiln capacity to 300,000 board feet.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia —- Which are the two most beautiful words in the English language? ‘Simple’ and ‘accurate’ are top contenders, especially when tied to an industrial solution. (Yes, the ‘summer afternoon’ duo that Henry James cited works too.)
When owners Avtar Sundher and Gord Sundher, who are brothers, established Sunco Industries, Inc. in 2004, they did so by acquiring property and equipment from another business.
“When we purchased the property, there was some Brunner-Hildebrand [equipment] on it – and the drying was excellent,” said, Avtar Sundher. Two Brunner-Hildebrand conventional drying kilns had been installed in 2001 or 2002.
Not only did the inherited kilns incorporate simplicity in their operation, which includes Brunner-Hildebrand in-kiln moisture measurement technology. They also demonstrated themselves to be exceptionally accurate.
Sundher explained that he is not the sort of business owner to coast along without testing the mettle of equipment. So he took time to compare the legacy kilns to others on the market.
By 2005, Sunco was ready to add more board-foot capacity. A third conventional kiln from Brunner-Hildebrand was selected. Brunner-Hildebrand, which is headquartered in Hannover, Germany, has a North American office in Nashville, Tenn.
“We worked with both Nashville and Hannover” on the installation, said Sundher. A local contractor Robco Inc. assisted with the installation.
“Robco installed the steam and electrical [systems],” said Sundher. The kilns are all heated with natural gas from the grid because it is actually the most economical source of fuel. Sunco, a family-owned business, is itself built on a foundation where simplicity and accuracy are the main components. “We offer lumber drying services to our customers,” said Sundher. “We don’t own any of the lumber.”
Moreover, Sunco does not move any of the lumber. Customers drop off and pick up their own loads. “They bring it to our site and take it away,” said Sundher.
Running with two employees, contractors, and one of the owners, Sunco takes a lean and streamlined approach to its focused business model. Douglas fir and cedar – including cedar shingles – predominate among the species of wood dried for customers. Hemlock and plywood are also frequently dried. All drying also meets phytosanitary standards required by Canada.
The drying kiln operation takes place on 1.8 acres of the four-acre site Avtar and Gord own. The remainder of the acreage is leased out.
The Brunner-Hildebrand kilns are loaded with a Hyster 150 series forklift (15,000-pound). Delmhorst handheld moisture meters are used to manually check the wood.
The Delmhorst meters are also legacy equipment. And they share the welcome features of the Brunner-Hildebrand dry kilns, said Sundher. “They are built well, good quality and accurate,” he explained.
Reliability is important, said Sundher. He considers both the Brunner-Hildebrand kilns and the Delmhorst meters to be dependable. So much so, that before the end of 2013, Sunco will add drying capacity with the purchase of two more conventional kilns from Brunner-Hildebrand.
Capacity will nearly double, as Sunco increases capacity from existing 170,000 board feet to 300,000 board feet. To date, Sunco Industries has been growing largely through quality kiln drying. And the logistics of scheduling have been relatively easy to develop.
The additional kiln capacity will be supported by a soon-to-be launched website and scheduling queue that ensures expeditious turnaround continues even with a greater volume of lumber. Our employees and contractors are also ready for the challenge.
The Internet outreach to prospective customers will enable Sunco to make full use of its kilns during every interval. “Right now, it’s sort of the summer solstice,” said Sundher, speaking to us in early June. The pace of industry slows a bit as many companies and their employees relish the long hours of summer and the focus is less on business.
Sunco Industries is located just 70 km east of Vancouver, British Columbia. The well-known Canadian city is the hub of a metropolitan area of more than two million residents.
With the Brunner-Hildebrand kilns, there is very little difference in drying time across the year. “Drying time over a 10 to 12 day dry may vary by a day” from season to season, said Sundher.
“[Species are] typically dried to 19% or below,” said Sundher. The exception is the cedar shingles. Such shingles are dried until the moisture content is 8% or less.
The lumber that emerges from the Brunner-Hildebrand kilns at Sunco reaches many sectors. But much of it goes to furniture manufacturing and home construction.
Greater Vancouver and the Fraser River Valley Regional Districts are served by Sunco Industries. The 850-mile-long Fraser River, which rises in the Rocky Mountains, moves south and west to its endpoint (mouth) just south of Vancouver. That endpoint is the Strait of Georgia.
When Avtar and Gord Sundher were considering the type of wood products business they would establish, they focused first on milling. “We were initially doing some milling on the site,” said Sundher. But the brothers decided the custom lumber drying was a better fit.
“My brother Gord had been working in lumber,” said Sundher. And by sometimes helping Gord, Avtar had acquired hands-on experience. For the most part, however, his work had been the wood products industry.
Avtar has immersed himself in wood products. At the same time, he retains his position with the Ministry of the Environment in British Columbia. Avtar is the head of the government and compliance section.
With his commitment to the environment extending beyond Sunco Industries, Avtar was very interested in the Hildebrand GreenKilns® line offered by Brunner-Hildebrand. Indeed, he did not just settle on Brunner-Hildebrand for the kilns that will be added later this year. “I did shop other suppliers,” said Sundher. Things change and he aims to adopt the best technology available for Sunco.
Brunner-Hildebrand introduced its Hildebrand GreenKilns line in 2011. The kilns are designed to be more environmentally friendly than ever by reducing the carbon dioxide emitted as a byproduct of heating the kilns.
In fact, the GreenKilns cut emissions because they recapture and reuse reservoir heat. Consequently, less energy is required overall to heat the kilns. Every bit of fuel saved by getting the most from all heat generated translates into a lowering of carbon emissions.
Conventional kilns from Brunner-Hildebrand can be tailored to the needs of a customer. For instance, a customer can choose a package kiln to be loaded with a forklift or a track kiln to be loaded with a kiln cart. Similarly, door design – side-to-side, top folding – can be configured to best suit a customer’s operation. Options for computer controls and the High Vac® technology for some climate zones are available as well.
All kilns from Brunner-Hildebrand incorporate insulated aluminum or stainless steel components and reversible heating and ventilation technology. Irrespective of the configuration or model of kiln, the goals are the same: highest quality product, great performance and top efficiency in energy use.
Brunner-Hildebrand has recorded more than 15,000 kiln installations since 1950. It offers a full range of sizes and applications in conventional dry kilns – and in small and large vacuum kilns. Specialty dry kilns for products of secondary wood manufacturing are among its many offerings, too.
Sunco Industries belongs to the Canadian Mill Services Association (CMSA), which is headquartered in New Westminster, B.C. Since its inception in 1994, CMSA (www.canserve.org) has promulgated core values of respect, knowledge, integrity and innovation. The CMSA sets and monitors phytosanitary standards. And it provides grade stamping and certification services.
Sundher earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Simon Fraser University. What motivated him to study chemistry? “I like cooking and subsequently eating,” he said. “It was a lot like cooking.”
That said, Avtar explained that he does not cook much – if at all – now. He is much too busy.
As Sunco Industries approaches its 10-year anniversary, Sundher is very happy with the path he has chosen. “I like being in a family business,” he said. “I like the personal service we provide to customers.”
It is “continuous improvement” that makes it possible to “provide quality” to customers, said Avtar. With the unwavering commitment to quality, Sunco Industries has a good partner in Brunner-Hildebrand, a company with the same philosophy.
“We’re very happy with the quality of wood coming out [of the Brunner-Hildebrand] kilns,” said Sundher. And the customers of Sunco Industries are happy, he explained.
The true test of any product, including custom-dried lumber, is the reception it receives from those who purchase it. Given the customer-to-customer recommendations so important to the growth of Sunco, there is ample validation of the good words circulating about the drying services the company offers. It’s a genuine cycle of simplicity and accuracy, and a poetic one.
When he takes time away from his work, Sundher has two passions. One is spending time with his family. The other is traveling. Two years ago, the family took a Mediterranean cruise. Last year, the family travelled first across Canada to the East and they returned via the United States, travelling to the West.