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Optimum Yield: Baker Innovates at Its Own Sawmill, Looks to Share Insights with the Industry
Optimum Yield: Baker innovates at its flagship mill, develops reverse flow edger and new additions to its popular sawmill line. Learn how the company wants to revolutionize lumber sawing.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2016
Baker innovates at its flagship mill, develops reverse flow edger and new additions to its popular sawmill line. Learn how the company wants to revolutionize lumber sawing.
Getting the most out of each log with the lowest number of workers is the goal when it comes to lumber production. And Baker Products under the leadership of its founder, Ed Baker, is continuing to experiment and improve upon its winning track record. Ed has been working over the last few years to completely redesign Baker Enterprises, his pallet and sawmill facility located in Ellington, Missouri.
More than just a leading manufacturer of sawmill & pallet equipment, Baker Products through its sister-company puts new designs and ideas through real world testing at its facility. Pallet Enterprise explored this redesign in May 2014, and many of the things covered in that article have changed. Ed took a number of bold steps. Some paid off and others have led to more experimentation. And this time Ed believes he has found the winning formula.
From versatility to production to labor savings the new design takes advantage of proven Baker equipment with some solid modifications.
Reverse Flow Edger
One of the innovations that Ed is most proud of is his sawmill and reverse flow edger system that allows two men to operate a sawmill system.
Ed explained, “This system typically requires three people to run, and with our reverse flow edger, we have eliminated one person, which saves $35,000 or more per year in labor costs. We are working on a new design to show off at EXPO Richmond that will automatically stack different sizes of cants and railroad ties.”
Typically wood flows through the sawmill and then through the edger and is stacked on the other side requiring three operators. But with a reverse flow edger system, the boards travel past the edger then are fed back toward the headrig. When the edged board clears the edger, it is returned alongside the edger back to the tailman. The mill sawyer’s only job is saw as fast as he can.
But the tailman does a lot in this system. Ed commented, “The tailman edges the boards, stacks the edging strips, stacks the boards, stacks the slabs and bands the boards and slabs and takes them away. He also bands and removes all cants with a forklift. He keeps the log infeed deck full and can scale the logs also. The slab and board accumulation deck allows him time to keep up with relative ease.”
Baker Enterprises uses this system to produce cants for its pallet operation. The line will average an estimated 7,000-8,000 bf per eight-hour shift. Ed added, “Since we are using thin kerf technology, this system will produce a higher yield than most other small industrial sawmills on the market.”
Baker Products is planning on offering this tailing system to other mills already out there on the market.
Ed boasted, “I am extremely excited about the reverse flow edger system. I believe I have the lowest operating cost sawmill in the world.”
Another thing Ed is doing with his approach is to use an electric forklift to feed and tail the mill. He said that this electrically powered forklift gets plugged in each night and the cost to run it is minimal. Ed said, “It always runs with minimal maintenance due to few moving parts. It has hard wheels and never gets a flat. The electric forklift is small, compact and does the job well moving logs and lumber.”
Trial and Error Leads to Hard Lessons
In 2014, Ed and his team began planning a massive overhaul of the sawmill operation at Baker Enterprises. A number of innovations were attempted and some did not work out as expected. One such innovation was to go with 36-inch diameter band wheels on the resaws instead of the normal 28-inch diameter wheels in the hope of being able to run an entire shift without changing blades.
Ed lamented, “Boy was I wrong. The longer length blades did not allow us to run all day without having to change blades. Actually, we almost always had to change blades during the shift. We reinstated the process of changing blades twice per day, and that helped with down time. We hadn’t been debarking the logs up until that point and once we started it made a huge difference.”
Debarking the scragg logs is a critical step in the process that most operations don’t do. Ed looked at the different drum and rosserhead style debarkers, which are commonly found in U.S. sawmills. But he decided to go with something different due to low output, maintenance difficulties and performance concerns.
Ed explained, “I opted for a rotary style debarker, which is not common in this country. Other systems are just too slow or depend on the low-grade scragg logs to be fairly straight and fairly uniform.”
Finding a used rotary debarker manufactured in Canada, Ed purchased it and said it has worked great and has resulted in excellent blade life.
Baker is looking at modifying the rotary debarker design and producing a smaller unit that could be used in conjunction with scragg mills. Ed raved, “Using the debarker has greatly improved blade life, decreased downtime and given us less miss-cut lumber. The rotary debarker requires very little maintenance and can be operated remotely by the lift driver.” It eliminates the need for a dedicated operator.
Something interesting Baker has done with its circular Tri-Scragg mill and Baker band slab edger is adding a 7-1/8 inch width setting in addition to the normal 3.5 and 5.5 inch settings. The bigger blocks and the bigger slabs are cut to 7 1/8 inch and then split into two 3.5-inch pieces.
Ed explained, “We always had a disproportionate amount of six inch instead of four inch wide pallet deck boards. When in reality you need a ratio of two 4-inch to every one 6-inch board. Before, we had the opposite ratio and even worse than that at times. By putting the 7-1/8 set in the system, now we can totally control that. We can get way more 4-inch boards than 6s. It also increased our yield and production increased as well.”
Ed reflected, “All of my life I have focused on yield. Savings on kerf. Savings on how you process these small, low-grade logs and scragg blocks, and this 7-1/8 set allows us to do this well.”
The process started with his team sitting down and discussing how to get more 4s and fewer 6s. Ed credited Wayne Swyres, Baker’s chief engineer, for developing a criss cross setworks that enabled this design to work well.
Also, the original pallet plant layout in 2015 used a Baker 9-head and 5-head combination resaw line for processing 3-sided cants. The problem was the average diameter of Baker’s scragg blocks was not big enough to support the 9-heads on many occasions. They ran the system for 1.5 years and decided to overhaul it. Today, they are running two Baker 7-head resaws with standard 28-inch wheels. This system is performing well and gives the operation the flexibility it needs.
Ed said, “This new design provides for maximum flexibility allowing us to simultaneously cut two different sizes of deck boards or deck boards and stringers all on one line. Or we can shut down one line for thickness change over or maintenance and still keep the other line humming.”
Baker Line Step-by-Step
The new Baker circular scragg system is versatile and focuses on production efficiency. It all starts with debarking logs. A stationary electric knuckle boom loader picks up the debarked logs, sorts them and places them on the log merchandizing infeed deck. Logs then move on to the hour glass roll case, and an operator cuts the logs to length using a Baker circular slasher saw.
Logs then enter the Baker Tri-Scragg sawmill system with two circular saws. Logs then flow through a horizontal bandsaw to cut the material into two 3-sided cants. These cants then move to a Baker double end-trim saw to cut them to an exact length.
The slabs flow sideways and go through the newly designed Baker band slab edger, now processing slabs flat face down due to no bark. The smaller 3-sided cants from the slab edger transfer onto the same 3-strand green chain. At the same time, the two larger 3-sided cants off the back of the scragg mill feed through the same Baker band double end trim in order to be cut accurately to length.
When material comes out of the double end-trim it moves across a lateral accumulating staging conveyor feeding either one of two Baker 7-head resaw lines. Pieces that are 7-1/8 inch wide are sent to a newly designed Baker vertical band splitter head that cuts them into two 3.5-inch wide cants ready to be processed by the 7-head resaw line.
At the outfeed end of the 7-head resaw lines, workers remove any shims onto the waste conveyor. And if there are more boards to be reclaimed out of the cant, they will send it back down the return conveyor to be cut again. All the boards then go through a Baker M7 Sidewinder deduster.
Deck board material is graded and stacked by hand. Stringers are graded and the good ones transfer down the line into double head notchers and are hand stacked at the end. This system could incorporate an automated stacker. But Ed said that he doesn’t use one because there isn’t room in the facility to handle one more machine. He laughed, “We are busting at the seams here. We don’t have enough room to add anything else. That is one of the reasons we are looking to build a second facility on a separate location.”
The facility is still being upgraded as new conveyors are further being added to reduce the number of workers needed to run the system. Also, the main pallet mill includes a 4-head Baker AmbiTrim saw so that 1-1/8 inch x 3.5 inch boards and 4x6 and 6x6 cants can be cut to length at the same time the rest of the scragg system is in operation.
In addition to the scragg mill and adjoining resaw line, Baker Enterprises also operates at its Ellington facility a Baker BP Dominator band sawmill and reverse flow edger mentioned earlier in the article.
Growth, Growth, Growth
Since the Pallet Enterprise last featured the Baker Enterprise facility
in 2014, Ed Baker has focused on growing his facility and pallet and cut stock sales.
Ed said, “Our pallet business is going very well right now. I think the primary reason for our growth is that I hired a direct pallet salesman and have aggressively gone out after business. Also, I believe our economy is stronger than anybody realizes.”
Baker Enterprises has grown a lot over the last two years according to Ed. He added that with the new facility and equipment additions his capacity has gone from 8-10 loads of pallets per week to 25-30. He has added a second logging crew and acquired more land and timber to feed his operation. Two new Woodpecker Jr. nailing machines are currently on order to boost its production capacity.
Ed explained he choose the Woodpecker due to its cost, limited space requirement and simplicity.
And due to space limitations at his Ellington facility. Ed has purchased land along Highway 60 just west of Ellsinore, Missouri with a plan to build a new state-of-the-art wood processing plant and pallet manufacturing facility. This new mill will produce grade lumber and railroad ties in addition to pallets and pallet cut stock.
From the new reverse flow edger to modifications at his primary sawmill to planned expansion in the pallet operation and a new facility on Missouri Highway 60, Ed has done a lot and is looking to do more. He credits his strong team for carrying forth the vision and helping to tweak everything along the way. Ed added, “It has been a team effort upgrading our facility, and we are ready for growth.”
Ed summed it all up, “You have to be about yield and growth to stay ahead of the competition.” He believes his Ellington facility will not only continue to be a showplace for Baker equipment, it will become a model for how to improve yield, be versatile and keep labor and all other costs in check.
For more information about Baker equipment or saws, visit www.bakerproducts.net or call 800/548-6914.