MONTROSE, Colorado — Montrose Forest Products recently added a new planer mill to its operations in Colorado to expand its product mix and align it with its sister mills. After many years of successful projects and reliable service and support from a trusted partner, Montrose management was comfortable awarding this major new investment to USNR on a turn-key basis.
Through this investment the mill also planned to ease the bottleneck that was constraining production at the sawmill. The result accomplished the objectives and more. Today the new line is hitting the targets Montrose set out, and several more that were unexpected.
Neiman Enterprises acquired a closed mill in Montrose, Colorado, in 2012 and named it Montrose Forest Products, then set about investing to update the technology. Among the early investments was USNR scanning and optimization on its primary and secondary breakdown lines and a new trimmer-sorter-stacker line in the sawmill featuring USNR equipment as well as scanning and optimization.
The initial focus for the mill was processing a large supply of beetle-killed Engleman spruce and lodgepole pine in the region that needed to be processed quickly before it deteriorated and became unmarketable. At the same time, removing the dead and dying trees would perform an essential service to help protect the region from devastating forest fires.
The Montrose operations comprise a sawmill, planer mill, and two lumber dry kilns. Prior to this latest project the company was strictly processing Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine into stud length lumber.
The Neiman team wanted to expand the scope of the mill’s products to more closely align with its other three operations that produce 1×4, 1×6, and 1×8 lumber products. The team contacted the US Forest Service and came to an agreement to include green ponderosa pine in the Montrose mill’s mix. This paved the way to add 1-inch products to the Montrose operations.
“With this new technology we look forward to being able to offer more products to our customers,” said Mike Kusar, manager of Montrose Forest Products.
The existing planer mill technology had long become outdated and was causing bottlenecks that adversely impacted the sawmill’s production and the overall efficiency of the operations. Mike explained, “With newer technology at the sawmill we were making more lumber than the planer mill could keep up with, so we knew we were losing out on opportunity. We were also interested in what automated grading technology could do for us.”
Another Neiman mill, Devils Tower Forest Products in Hulett, Wyoming, had recently invested in a USNR Transverse High Grader for its dry mill, so the team was familiar with the benefits of this technology.
USNR was chosen to supply the project on a turn-key basis because of recent successful projects at the Neiman mills, said Mike. His team traveled to several mills with USNR’s planer mill technology to see how it was benefiting those operations.
Service and support was another big factor in the decision making process, and the many positive business dealings the Neiman mills had with USNR was a strong motivation to trust USNR for this latest major investment.
“We know we can get in contact with USNR folks any day of the year for phone support, parts, and service scheduling,” said Mike. “That’s one of the reasons we chose USNR.”
The new line will contribute to a safer, more efficient, and more profitable operation, noted Mike.
The new planer mill line is designed to run at speeds of 180 lpm and above, depending on product size. The mechanical portion begins with the planer infeed featuring a continuous tilt hoist, stick and dunnage collection, planer, Quad Cam lug loader, multi-track fence, back-to-back lineshaft multi-saw trimmer with P.E.T. saws on a second shaft downstream from the trim saws, 30-bin pusher lug sorter, low profile stacker with magazine lath placer, and quad paper feeder and cutter.
Included in the project was USNR’s Transverse High Grader with Deep Learning technology for the leading automated grading capability available today. The Transverse High Grader shares the same Deep Learning optimization platform with all other USNR vision grade scanning products. This technology is proven on a wide variety of species and wood processing sectors.
The Transverse High Grader features an end grain scanner used to locate a board relative to its parental log. This provides the optimizer with data for use in knot projection and pith location.
The grader also integrates the WinTally system for management of sorts for targeted products the mill wishes to produce.
The project also included the USNR MillTrak system to manage the flow of boards at the planer infeed and the MyMill mobile sorter control to monitor and control the sorter from any location within the mill’s network.
The turn-key portion of the project contributed:
-Site engineering for foundations, civil work, new metal building, and support steel
-Geotechnical soils reports and recommendations
-Data and communications wiring
-Dust and shavings extraction
-Mill air system
-Grounding grid permits and inspections
-Installation of all machinery
John Jacques, USNR turn-key project manager remarked, “We did not encounter any turn-key challenges. It was a pleasure working with the Montrose Forest Products and Nieman team. We had great communication and collaboration throughout the design and execution phases of the project.”
Mike commented on the results the mill is experiencing from the USNR project. “The new planer mill has improved our overall efficiency and relieved our bottleneck, resulting in a reduction of over 20 percent in planer mill run hours,” he said. “In the new planer mill we are able to process all the products from the sawmill in 40 hours per week, and we are able to run our sawmill full out now. Our packages also look better and neater.”
“Before the project I had concerns with the switch from human graders to the Transverse High Grade, but USNR did a great job of training our quality control staff prior to the startup,” added Mike.
Mike also remarked on the reduction of labor and employee satisfaction. “Through attrition we’ve lowered our headcount in the planer mill by more than 10 people,” he said. “Our new facility has also resulted in improved overall employee satisfaction with a nice new building, new workstations, and everything automated. This will help with employee retention.”
“With this new technology we look forward to being able to offer more products to our customers than previously,” said Mike. “That’s one of the key goals for taking on this investment. It will contribute to a safer, more efficient, and more profitable operation.”