USNR MyMill™ Mobile Interface: The New Way to Work

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USNR’s MyMill™ system is catching on as a time and money saving solution for streamlining mill operations. Mobile machine control offers all the functionality that is typically available through a stationary HMI screen, at a fraction of the cost. With 23 systems sold, MyMill is proving that mobile control technology is no longer a wave of the future, it’s the new way to work.

MyMill is a software suite developed by USNR that enables mill personnel to control and monitor mill equipment using mobile devices, like iPads and iPods. MyMill replicates, in a mobile device, all of the functionality that is typically available through a stationary HMI touchscreen.

  • Real time data in the palm of your hand
  • Mobile machine monitoring and control
  • Powerful information and communications capability
  • Replaces consoles, reduces capital cost
  • Easier troubleshooting and maintenance
  • Reduces downtime
  • Built-in safety features
  • Dedicated wireless infrastructure, on secure in-plant network
  • Available as an upgrade to USNR controls systems or with new installations

Imagine having the freedom to move about the mill, carrying with you the tools and information you need to do your job from wherever you happen to be. Not only can you be more productive, but you will also be more efficient. Processing corrections are much faster, resulting in improvements to recovery and value of the final product.

Kalesnikoff Lumber’s New Sort Line Goes Mobile

A recent inductee to USNR’s MyMill technology, Kalesnikoff Lumber is based at Thrums, near Castlegar, BC. The mill just completed a major capital improvement project that saw its mill invest in a new primary breakdown line incorporating a USNR Quad Arbor Saw Box, vertical double arbor gang, scanning, optimization and controls; modifications to its board edger line; and trim/sort line improvements. One of the improvements the mill targeted was MyMill mobile control for its new 70-bin sort line.

Focus on Value

Chris Kalesnikoff, operations manager, related that the mill had previously utilized a largely manual lumber sorting process. He recognized the value of going to an automated system and quickly saw the benefit of the MyMill technology. “The MyMill system suited us very well as the mill employs a young generation of sawmillers, and we understand and relate to mobile communications technology like using iPads and iPods.” He explained that the mill runs a tight operation with a single 12-person shift, and every member of its lean crew is versatile.

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Selecting the MyMill system seemed an obvious choice. Chris explained that installing the mobile system required much less time and expense than a traditional sorter control system demands. There is no need to purchase and install multiple consoles, and no need to route the associated cables and wiring. He added, “A big thing for us was the reduced cost.”

Embracing Technology

The Kalesnikoff team was assigned two iPads and three iPods. Chris said, “Our crew has all been trained on the mobile devices, and we all use them. Our guys are very hands-on, but our trimmer operator is the one who is primarily chasing the bins.” He went on to explain a scenario experienced at the mill. The operator at the canter can see some of the sort bins, and when he noticed a bin didn’t index all the way down he called the trimmer operator with his radio to tell him about it. The trimmer operator simply lowered the bin using his mobile device instead of having to go to the bin console to manually press the button.

Chris said it is nice to be able to scroll through the mobile screen, and the bin information is all right there. “It’s great for troubleshooting. The operators can tell which photo-eye is covered, and with the sorter being 300 feet long it saves a lot of time. It makes so much sense to have the control in the palm of your hand.”

Already running with a minimal crew, implementing the MyMill system didn’t reduce the labor force required to operate the Kalesnikoff mill. Chris said, “We are using the same number of people, but we are using them in different places than we would have without the benefit of mobile technology. We planned on not having anybody chasing bins full time, and that’s definitely a nice feature.” Adding that he is happy with the mobile system, he said, “This is the way the world is moving.”

The First Sorter Installation

Looking back to the first installation of this mobile application, it was evident how useful these new tools would become. At the time, Gary Milhollen, mill manager at the West Fraser, Joyce operation, was a believer in the benefits of the MyMill mobile interface to control the mill’s then new 70-bin pusher lug sorter. He commented, “It’s reliable, and we don’t have to have someone up there on the sorter letting down the bays conventionally.” He has an iPad in his office that he uses to monitor what is happening at the sorter, while the mill’s planer mill superintendent, James Austin, chose to have an iPod for the same purpose.

To meet the Joyce mill’s requirements USNR supplied 5 mobile devices, 2 iPads and 3 iPods, that are loaded with the MyMill interface software. These devices completely replace the 11 consoles that would have been needed in a conventional supply. Also included is a full-size HMI screen located at the stacker operator’s area, and another in the control room. The sorter operator carries an iPad and is able to control all of the sorter functionality remotely.

The sorter operator can choose which bins to dump in several modes:

  • Full auto – the system selects bins in ascending or descending order.
  • Selectable auto – operator selects bins to dump and sets dump order.
  • Manual – operator controls bin equipment and floor chains directly.

To perform a function such as jogging the discharge deck, the operator must hold his finger on a button on the screen until the desired jog is accomplished. If he removes his finger, the deck stops.

The sorter operator often finds it is more convenient to dump a bin while he is at the floor chain level where he can also manage the discharge decks. He has the ability to discharge any number of bins while standing adjacent to the floor chains, rather than having to be at one of the consoles on the walkway above. This also improves package staging to the stacker. The system can be monitored by the stacker operator, the QC technician, the sorter supervisor, and anyone else who carries one of the MyMill interface devices.


For West Fraser, safety was a concern with the use of the devices. Using a mobile device with the MyMill interface is actually much safer for sorter operation than the use of a stationary console that is typically mounted at the top of the bins. Mobility allows the operator, maintenance or service personnel the capability to actuate any aspects of the sorter operation from the location that is most convenient for dumping a bin, clearing a jam, changing out a valve, etc. They do not need to rely on the exchange of messages with another worker who is at the console or HMI and controlling the operation.

With MyMill you can be in the optimum location for what you need to do, and if lock-outs are required you can verify that they are in place before proceeding. Some personnel may be tempted to skip locking out a machine for a “simple” fix because of the extra trips back and forth to the console, but putting the console in his hands eliminates that danger.

If communications from a device are lost even momentarily, the PLC immediately disregards all inputs from that device. That way, if there should be a drop in the signal that device cannot inadvertently control the sorter’s functions.

Troubleshooting Made Easy

John Jacques, USNR project manager for the West Fraser project, commented on the ease of troubleshooting with the mobile functionality. “During commissioning (of the sorter), all our field service personnel loved the mobile functionality because they could take an iPad or iPod and actuate the bins, diverters and the live bin walls without having to go to an electrician or get someone else to actuate them at the console. So it really made troubleshooting a lot easier.”

Message Center

The mobile devices offer an abundance of real time data in the palm of the hand. Not only do they provide mobile machine control, they also provide a powerful communications tool so that anyone with a device can tell at a glance the status of any of the functions of the sorter, and of its components. One aspect that the West Fraser personnel appreciate is that, from one worker to another the devices provide reliable information and messages through the message center. Personnel can create and view messages, and from one shift to another, communication about current issues is easily accessed without having to leave handwritten notes.

Wireless Access, Range

The MyMill system operates on a dedicated wireless infrastructure on a secure in-plant network. The wireless access point allows a range of up to 700 feet, so a whole mill could be networked with a single wireless access point and several repeaters.

The stationary HMI screens and PDAs running the MyMill interface access the PLC independently, and provide the same machine control functionality. The difference is the mobility of the PDAs and the mill wide accessibility to actuate or monitor any number of machine centers.

MyMill Application Takes Off

Since the first application of this mobile technology in March 2012, interest has been high and sales have taken off. Today 23 systems have been sold or installed on green and dry sorters, on a debarker and on a planer. USNR has expanded this application to dry kilns, and is now working on applying this concept to its optimization suite. USNR recently debuted the MyMill Mobile Interface that delivers remote access to your optimization system, in real time. Now you can take it all with you; log scans and optimizer solutions, reports, sensor diagnostics, and more. Mill managers gain unprecedented freedom through mobile interaction with their optimizers.

For more information, contact 800.BUY.USNR, +360.225.8267 or