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Growing Weston Forest Products Adds Cut-to-Length Capacity
L-M Equipment (Canada) Package Saw Strengthens Industrial Unit
By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 3/1/2005
“As we grew our business we had more need for cut-to-size products,” said Steve Ekstein, vice president of the Weston Forest Products industrial division. “We realized we had to add to our cutting capacity in order to handle the volume, so we started the process of looking for the right machinery for us.”
After talking to representatives of several sawmill machinery manufacturers, Weston decided on a package saw system and invested in a Verticut P4 from L-M Equipment Co. Ltd. in
Weston has a 100,000-square-foot mill and warehouse in the metro
The industrial division sells grade and off-grade SPF, plywood, OSB, and hardwoods to packaging and material handling customers throughout
“Being financially stable,” Steve said, “we buy directly from mills when the timing is right. We inventory large volumes, which allows us to pass along the savings to our customers.” Weston sources non-traditional species and sizes, such as 3-foot by 6-foot or 5-foot by 12-foot panels. “For pallet customers, those odd sizes can translate into less waste,” Steve emphasized.
Steve’s uncle, Frank Ekstein, started Weston Forest Products as a local lumber yard in 1952. He died from injuries he suffered in a car accident in 2003. Frank’s sons, Rick and Peter, today are the principle owners.
Growth has been rapid in recent years. Between 1990 and 2004, Weston’s
Steve began working part-time for the company during school until he completed his undergraduate degree in economics from the
Weston’s mill is equipped with two multi-rip saws, resaws, a planer, and three cut-to-length saws as well as the Verticut, which is located outside. The equipment provides Weston with the ability to control lumber quality and also to meet customer requirements in short lead times.
The L-M Verticut P4 system includes a separate infeed module, bump, automatic strapping system and one-piece chain waste conveyor. It has been a key investment, Steve observed.
“It has allowed us to become more efficient and more competitive in the cut-to-length market place,” said Steve. “We’ve gone from using our multiple overhead saw a majority of the time to a minority of the time. The L-M is taking care of 90 percent of our cut-to-length needs. It has done a great job.”
A key feature of the L-M Verticut P4 saw is the FACT (Fast Advanced Cutting Technology) design, which reduces cycle time. The saw comes down quickly until it contacts the bundle of material. As the saw begins the cut slowly, the programmable logic control monitors the amperage the motor draws, which varies in relation to wood density. The saw then speeds up accordingly to maximize throughput.
The FACT feature speeds up cycle time for smaller, 24-inch high packages of material. In the past, package saws were designed only for cutting 48-inch high lifts.
Steve is especially pleased with the Verticut’s automated strapping system. “That has saved us countless man hours,” he said.
In order to allow customers who require dunnage to use the automatic strapping system, L-M developed a combination roll-chain conveyor system, explained
L-M Equipment Co. has been providing cutting solutions for the wood products industry since 1957. In addition to the Verticut, L-M produces a number of other popular products, including log cut-off saws, portable yard package saws, chainsaw log splitters, vertical resaw systems and others.
The Verticut is very popular in a number of cut-to-length applications, such as lumber distribution yards, fencing lumber manufacturers and pallet operations, but the biggest market is lumber mills, according to Rick. More mills are starting to install package saws inline, he said.
Lumber mills tend to process 20-foot packages of material because it is most efficient. They can fill orders for 16-foot or 14-foot lumber without sacrificing throughput by running longer packages through the Verticut.
One mill in
L-M also supplied Weston a one-piece, chain-drive waste conveyor. The one-piece design eliminates problems inherent with belt conveyor transfer points, where wood cuttings can build up, as well as problems caused by temperature extremes associated with belt function.
Customers sometimes ask Rick if the Verticut can be installed outdoors and if it will perform well in cold weather. The Weston installation machine is a clear example that it can successfully meet the challenges of cold climate conditions.
Another interesting feature of Weston’s Verticut is that the infeed module is a separate unit from the saw. If a forklift accidentally struck the infeed, the actual saw assembly would not be disrupted.
L-M delivered the system on schedule and trained Weston employees how to use and maintain it, said Steve. “They provided excellent support during the start-up,” he said. “Now, two years later, their support is still great.”
L-M helped Weston customize the saw, adding special features specific to Weston and its customers’ requirements. “It worked out really well,” Steve said. “L-M’s customer service is outstanding. They’ll just drop in to make sure everything is okay if they are in the area.”
“They can consistently deliver new chains and bars to us within 24 hours, and their price is very reasonable,” Steve continued. “We commend them. We are very happy with our experience with L-M.”
L-M equipment is designed to use many common, off-the-shelf replacement parts. Critical parts are warehoused at the factory and shipped by air as required to keep customers’ equipment in production. L-M has equipment in service around the world. It recently sold additional machines to Weyerhaeuser to be installed in
In addition to its main location in
The location of the distribution yards is a key factor in Weston’s ability to provide ‘just-in-time’ delivery. “We can offer next day, two day service anywhere in
For example, a truckload order might contain a few bundles of OSB, plywood, SPF lumber and hardwood lumber. “You don’t need to go out and buy a full truckload of plywood and a full truckload of softwood,” said Steve. Weston’s diverse product line is attractive to customers that want to minimize their own inventories as well as the number of inbound trucks.
“Our staff members are not just order takers,” said Steve. Weston representatives can offer alternatives and solutions for wood packaging manufacturers. “Just because you are buying 2x4 economy spruce, that doesn’t mean we are just going to quote you on 2x4 economy spruce. Of course, we will give you a price on it, but we will find out what you are cutting it to, and we may be able to recommend a better yielding product or alternative species. We are partnership driven here. That’s how we help our customers.”
Many customers call and require something within 48 hours, building a truck around a few items they need as opposed to buying a full truckload of one type of material. “They can mix and match to help their cash flow and get the product when they need it,” said Steve.
“We are a full service remanufacturer and distributor. We provide mixed loads, ‘just-in-time’ and mill direct,” Steve added. Weston has a fleet of 15 tractor-trailer and flatbed trucks and also uses common carriers.
Weston Forest Corp. is also a certified supplier of heat-treated lumber; it sells heat-treated softwood, hardwood and aspen.
One consequence of Weston Forest Product’s rapid growth has been that it has outgrown its facilities as well as its existing business model. “It no longer makes sense for administration and operations to cater to the same five business divisions,” Steve said. Having evolved differently, the divisions have come to require separate, dedicated operations,
“We believe that the smaller, more dedicated companies will allow us to change more quickly, to be more focused on our unique businesses, allowing us to be an even better partner to our suppliers and customers,” Steve said. “This is going to position us for continued strong but manageable growth. It will benefit our people and shareholders.”
The company still will take advantage of economies of scale for such overhead costs as credit and insurance and buy such services at the corporate level even as the divisions become more independent. The company recently purchased six acres for a site for Weston Premium Woods, its hardwood division, and has completed construction of 100,000 square feet of warehouse and offices for this group.
Steve wants people to know that Weston Forest Products is one-stop supplier offering competitive prices, “awesome” service, a huge inventory and a partnership approach. “We’re not just order takers,” he reiterated. “Our people are the reason why we’ve been successful, and it is the reason we’ll continue to grow. They are a knowledgeable bunch, and they understand what it takes to be a good partner to our customers and suppliers. We’re really poised for the future.”
For more information on Weston Forest Products, visit their website at www.westonforest.com, or call Steve at (905) 677-9364.
For more information on L-M Equipment Co. Ltd. or its new Verticut P4 system and automatic strapping system, call (800) 455-8807 or visit the company’s Web site at www.LMSaws.com to request a CD-ROM demonstration video.