In the hardwood lumber industry, sawmill tours are the norm. When customers can visit a sawmill, they can get a better idea of the suppliers capabilities, products and ability to service them. Many times, especially for someone new to the industry, customers find it interesting to see firsthand how a log is processed from a round log to a bundle of random width and length boards.
However, not all sawmill visits are the same. We regularly like to remind our customers that when they are preparing for a sawmill tour they develop a plan or an objective for the visit. We suggest to our customers that they incorporate these four best practices into their hardwood sawmill visit plans to get the most out of their visit.
Start with the lumber
Start with the end in mind. Sometimes starting a tour by looking at the kiln dried lumber in the warehouse helps people gain a better perspective on a mill’s overall capabilities. Look for things such as the thickness of the lumber, the widths and lengths that are being produced, look for over length, and take note of the trimming and edging done. By inspecting these types of things, you might be able to determine is the mill has the ability to meet any certain criteria you find valuable.
Inspect the quality of logs
The type of hardwood logs sawmill has access to directly impacts the quality of lumber they can produce. Scan the sawmills log piles. Try to take note of the logs size, diameter, length, and overall quality. Typically, is the sawmill is working with larger logs it can be a key indicator that they will be able to produce quality lumber. Also, look at the straightness of the logs. Crooked logs can cause cross grain issues and tapered logs may result in lower yielding lumber.
Take an inventory of the machinery used
Hardwood sawmills use all different types of equipment. Depending on when they were built and how they have been maintained and upgraded you might see numerous type of equipment combinations. Debarkers, head-rigs, and re-saws are all items to observe. Kiln dried lumber sorting capabilities, laser scanners and hand held tallying devices are commonly used today and are things to take note of as well.
Observe the overall cleanliness
Sometimes, when a sawmill is focused on cleanliness and the safety conditions for their employees it is a good indication that they pay attention to details and care about what they produce. It is important for sawmills to keep up with the equipment maintenance needed and ensure their employees are properly trained and managed. These types of general operating practices tend to lead to better results, higher standards and even improved supplier reliability.
These are just a few suggestions on how to get the most out of a sawmill visit. What other suggestions would you add?