Patent-pending CrossCut technology from Baxley Equipment boosts yield in high-volume mill.
HOOD RIVER, Oregon – What if is the place an innovation begins. Let’s get it done is how that innovation is realized. The new CrossCut edger technology from Baxley Equipment serves as a great example of the way imagination and focus fuel invention.
It began this way: Bill Wilkins, co-owner (with his brother Brad Wilkins) of Mount Hood Forest Products, LLC, looked at the potential yield that was being lost because long boards with some skew were being edged without first being crosscut. What if optimization could be deployed, as it already was throughout his mill, before edging? If a long board – say 20-foot – has any sweep or taper, it’s likely to yield more volume and recovery by first being cut in two and then, each piece edged separately.
Bill knew he had a good idea. Next, he wanted to find a way to achieve a result. He began talking with the folks at Baxley Equipment about his concept, which has since become a reality. In fact, it is now patent-pending technology that can inform an edger – a Baxley edger or another edger brand that is fitted with the Baxley technology – where to make a yield-enhancing crosscut prior to edging.
With the optimized edger technology system from Baxley Equipment, a long board can be scanned and its sweep and taper evaluated before it heads to the edger. For instance, one 20-foot board with sweep might be capable of yielding two 2x4x10’ boards, instead of just one 2x4x14’ board. That’s a gain of six feet in the yield column.
Or, for example, the Baxley edger optimization technology might dictate a crosscut that yields a 2x6x10’ and a 2x4x10’ board from a 20-foot board that has taper. When cut in two prior to edging, the technology allows for two boards with different dimensions to be produced. As a result, there is even more gain in yield.
Bill took his concept to Baxley Equipment, which is located in Hot Springs, Ark., partly because he knew Baxley well, having relied on the company for mill equipment across many years. Results came quickly. At present Bill (named as William T. Wilkins and first inventor) and his co-inventors at Baxley Equipment – Chris Raybon, Russell Kennedy, and Pat Conry – have a patent pending on the design of Baxley CrossCut Edger technology. Mount Hood Forest Products (MHFP) is just one of several linked companies in which Bill takes a leadership role. Among the companies, the oldest root dates to the year 1962 and the place of Carson, Wash. where Bill’s father, who is also named Bill Wilkins, started the existing cluster of businesses with a logging operation
At Carson, a veneer mill was added in 1966; and a sawmill was built in 1972. Bill joined the business in 1976.
Today, the Carson lineage is known as WKO (for Wilkins, Kaiser & Olsen Inc.). High Cascade Forest, LLC, which is also located in Carson, is the sales agent for MHFP and WKO. The senior Bill Wilkins, who is 77 years old, is still active in the business.
The town of Carson lies some 40 miles east of Portland, Ore. MHFP is located approximately 12 miles south of Hood River, Ore.
The mill at MHFP installed its Baxley CrossCut Edger system in July 2012. By September, the mill at Carson will deploy the same system.
MHFP produces 100 percent green Douglas fir lumber. Carson produces 100 percent dry Douglas fir, white fir, ponderosa pine and hemlock. Both mills handle large timber and as a result, they are both excellent candidates for optimized crosscutting prior to edging.
“[We] sawmill guys all have different concepts about how we run our mills,” said Bill, emphasizing he does not aim to tell others how to operate their mills. Yet he added that the increase in recovery of product with crosscutting prior to edging makes the alignment one worth considering. “I think it has been significantly overlooked by the industry,” he explained.
“All mills that cut 16-foot and longer material should consider [crosscut edging],” said Bill. As for his role in the design of the Baxley CrossCut Edger technology, it meshes with his approach to mill design. “I have a history [with invention] in our mills.”
Improvement is part of being in business. “We’re continuously looking for ways to increase our recovery out of the log,” said Bill. The MHFP mill is “optimized from one end to the other.”
The line at MHFP begins with a Komatsu 270 log loader that transports Douglas fir to a 72-inch bucking saw. All logs are debarked with a 27-inch Salem debarker. (Bark is used to fuel the Wellons boiler that heats the four 104-foot double-track Wellons lumber dryers at Carson.)
Debarked logs are sent to a Newnes double-length infeed with Porter optimization. Center cants go to a Denis twin horizontal resaw; side cants go to a McDonough horizontal resaw.
Boards from the Denis go to a USNR six-inch gang edger with USNR chip heads. The boards from the McDonough go to a USNR five-saw board edger. Both USNR edgers have Baxley optimization and controls.
All edged boards are planed. A Coastal 20-knife planer is in use. “This mill is unique because the planer is a part of the sawmill line, utilizing Autolog’s linear planer mill optimizer on the outfeed of the planer. Two graders are positioned downstream to provide quality control for the planer mill optimizer,” explained Bill. The planer may run 2x4s for 20 minutes and then 2x6s for 20 minutes. Changeover is essentially “on the fly” with the Coastal planer, said Bill.
From the planer, boards go to a Newnes trimmer and finally to a USNR 42-bin sorter. The boards recovered are primarily 2×4 and 2×6 with a small number of 1×4 and 1×6. Most of the lumber exiting MHFP is sold to companies along the West Coast for construction, particularly in housing for framing.
As for raw material to feed MHFP and the Carson mill, it comes from various sources. “We buy about 50 percent of our volume at agency sales,” said Bill, agency being federal, state and county. “We do some of our own road building.” But all logging is done by contractors.
MHFP has 47 employees. WKO has 100 employees, which is a tally that counts those involved with the infrastructure for the related companies, including personnel such as truckers and log purchasing agents.
Both the MHFP and Carson mills are very productive. Each runs one shift. MHFP produces 90 to 100 million board feet (MBF) annually; WKO at Carson produces 120 MBF annually.
Bill is a member of the American Forest Research Council and the American Wood Council. Before joining his father in business more than 35 years ago, he studied business and accounting at the University of Portland. “I really wanted to build houses and golf courses,” he said. However, his father and brother Brad, who had studied business and law, persuaded Bill to join the business.
Bill discovered he was right at home in wood products with his father and brother. “I could eat sawdust on my sandwiches,” he said. The opportunity for “being innovative” and finding increasingly more refined ways to capture value from every bit of wood fiber intrigues him.
The Baxley CrossCut Edger system is one that will pay for itself with more yield in as few as six months, explained Bill. That’s a plus.
“It’s worked so well,” said Bill. “We knew the concept was good. We knew just from standing over and looking at edgers [in the mill] – we knew we could benefit by cutting before we edged.”
Baxley Equipment specializes in high-tech solutions that improve productivity. Among the offerings from the company are an EcousticTM stress grader and a patented variable guide for a gang saw used in a curved canter system.
Through marrying the computer power of microprocessors (optimizing technology) to the Baxley CrossCut Edger, Baxley has done simulations to predict yield improvements. With the most conservative estimate, a mill can expect a gain of 2 to 2.5% in yield.
Because the Baxley CrossCut technology can be adapted to most existing edging systems, it does not require major reconfiguration of a mill. As Chris notes in descriptive text he has written about the technology, the concept takes what had been a back-end solution and elevates it to a front-end approach. It flips trimmer-saving strategies that have long been in place.
With trimmer-saving optimization, a board that had already been edged might be cut so that the smaller, mis-dimensioned end could be sent back for re-edging. Now the best place for a crosscut can be determined prior to edging. And that reduces steps (time and expense), even as it captures more wood fiber as product.
Bill values the investment he made in a college education. He said that accounting knowledge is a valuable bit of expertise for a business owner, especially understanding of tax laws. When he gets some free time – and there isn’t much – he enjoys golfing, particularly in the desert courses of the Golden State.