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By May 10, 2010December 12th, 2018NEWS

Canfor-New South (Timber Processing Article)

Canfor-New South’s most recently acquired mill undergoes a green and facelift and renewed emphasis on maintenance to see improved yield and production.

By David Abbott

New South Companies, Inc., a member of the Canfor group of companies, purchased what was then Chesterfield Lumber here in late 2007 with the understanding that it would need additional resources and capital improvements to be competitive. With the addition of Darlington, there are now four New South mills, all in the Carolinas.

“When New South acquired this site, there was no formalized maintenance program,” according to Chief Engineer, Travis McDonald.  In 2008 and 2009, management started a cultural shift in processes and mindsets in an ongoing effort to implement preventative and predictive maintenance.

The shift was a long-term strategy. One of the first steps was stocking critical parts and housing them in a central location. A parts warehouse was created, converted from an old planer mill in 2008, and it serves not only this location but also contains a consolidated inventory of specific components for the other New South mills in the region. A purchasing agent and warehouse shipping manager were brought in to oversee this area, working with a maintenance planner dedicated exclusively to running the new computerized maintenance system, planning workloads and tracking progress. “You want it to happen overnight, but there is significant work in changing a mill’s operational philosophy,” McDonald comments on the time involved in making this transition.

The general manager of New South’s Camden operation, Steve Singleton, served dual functions for two years, overseeing the transition at Darlington while continuing in his duties at Camden. In November 2009, veteran New South manager Joey Jones was transferred to take over as general manager of Darlington. Starting with the company in 1980, Jones spent 17 years at the Conway location and another 11 as sawmill manager in Camden. Jones says the goal at Darlington is to model its maintenance programs after Camden. “It’s developing here, no doubt, but it’s a gradual process,” Jones says. “The Camden (maintenance) program continues to evolve and improve, but it has been in place for about 10 years and has been successful, so we want to mirror that.”

The Camden plant ran 80% uptime 10 years ago and hovered in the low 80’s for a long time, but over a period of a few years it ramped up to almost 90% consistently.  It was an incredible improvement and done without much capital expense, just a focused effort on reliability-centered maintenance.

One of the benefits of New South’s acquisition by Canfor is the expanded capital availability it brought.  The Conway mill spent about $5 million in upgrades on a sharp chain conversion and installation of a new curve-sawing gang in the fall of 2008, bringing it to a level on par with the Camden, SC and Graham, NC mills. With $6 million in upgrades in the last two years, Darlington hopes to achieve a similar boost. Its location (almost exactly in the middle of the other three mills), solid timber basin and proximity to several major interstates and highways helped make it a good strategic fit. Additionally New South believed there was opportunity for meaningful improvement without large expenditures.

After getting parts and maintenance on the right track in 2008, the next phase was to install new equipment to improve production and yield, but it went beyond that. “It was a total mill upgrade and required more than just dropping an edger in,” McDonald says. “We touched just about every piece of machinery in the mill, either speeding it up or tuning it up.”  The project came in ahead of schedule and under budget, and the mill has reached its targets in terms of production rate and yield with the primary focus now improving uptime throughout the mill.

The centerpiece of the upgrade was the addition of a new edger. New South believed that adding the edger and improving the trim line would eliminate a major production bottleneck and bring production up by 25%. With the increased throughput, other mill systems used to running at a slower pace required tweaking. New South brought in USNR to tune up the gang saw, including both controls and modifications to the gang infeed and outfeed systems. Finally, the project involved some minor mechanical improvements to the sharp chain and primary log line.

The edger was the first Baxley Equipment lineal edger. “When you purchase serial number 001, you normally have some design issues to work through no matter how thorough the company is,” McDonald notes. “But we were comfortable going with Baxley’s because they had so much experience with transverse edgers. Their infeed line is basically the same. We added some bells and whistles on this one, with wane detection and auto turning. We were also satisfied with their knowledge of curve-sawing gangs so we figured that a skewing saw box was not going to be a stretch for them. It turns out they produced a very good machine that we have been very satisfied with.”

McDonald says Baxley did a great job handling the issues that arose with the design. “Conscientious is a good word for it. They understood what we were trying to accomplish here, and they really got involved, all the way up to the president of the company, Russell Kennedy. He was very easy to work with, and there was a good level of trust and communication between us.”

Regardless of the problem encountered, Baxley dealt with it very quickly, and within two months of installation the bugs were worked out. “Where we sit right now I am pretty happy with the new machinery and I have been pleased with Baxley’s support,” Jones said.

Bob Brouer Consulting, LLC of Apex, NC helped with engineering the project. DR Reynolds in Star, NC was the mechanical installer, and Sellers and Sons of Marshville, NC handled the electrical work. The project required a large amount of demolition work removing structural steel and machinery from an old gang and resaw.

Longer term, New South isn’t finished with its improvements to the Darlington mill. Down the road, they envision upgrades on sharp chain optimization, optimized log bucking, and a new trimmer.


Like all of the New South mills, Darlington is a southern yellow pine dimension lumber mill, making 2×4 through 2×12 in lengths up to 16 ft. Annual production on a one-shift basis is projected to be 90MMBF. Procurement and sales are handled through New South’s corporate headquarters, as well as trucking for all four mills.

Before the New South purchase, Chesterfield Lumber had added a second log line and crane. The two Fulghum cranes feed the log lines, which feature MDI metal detectors and Cambio 30 in. debarkers. The two log lines come together at a separated quad Newnes (USNR) sharp chain and a Log Boss (USNR) headrig with Lewis controls. It is followed by an early generation Newnes transverse curve-sawing gang. The new Baxley edger leads to a CSMI (USNR) trimmer with Hemco sorter line, to which was added a new infeed unscrambler, board feeder and lug chain and a new trimmer optimizer. The trimmer scanner features new Dynavision 3150 heads. “They’re almost plug and play,” McDonald says. “We get more speed and accuracy, and going with the Dynavision heads hopefully gives you flexibility later for upgrades with grade scanning on the green end.”

Two 60 in. USNR Forano chippers handle trimmings. Darlington uses Key Knife disposable blades on the edger and gang. Both band saws and circle saws are repaired in-house with Armstrong grinders and a Simonds leveler for bands and Vollmer for circle saw repairs.

On the dry end, two Hurst and IBC boilers power four USNR Irvington-Moore steam kilns with Kiln Boss controls. The planer mill, built in the mid-1990s, is well laid out, McDonald says. It has all USNR equipment with some recent upgrades by Baxley to the strapping line, compression station, and controls to get it ready for the higher volume the improved sawmill would be sending its way. Jones describes it as a typical U-shaped planer with a first generation USNR electric planer, tilt hoist, manual grading line and trimmer-sorter-stacker all by USNR. The Darlington location has an incredible amount of storage available, Jones notes. “The shed capacity is much greater than any of our plants. We bought a lot of infrastructure for a lot cheaper than if we had to build it from scratch.”


The corporate philosophy at Canfor-New South is called “One Factory.” The goal is to have the mills standardized and all on the same page in terms of customer focus and service, equipment and operational objectives. In this way, all four locations benefit from shared knowledge and operational synergies. This goal was partly in place even before Canfor came into the picture.

“Our mills had sometimes gone in different directions in terms of equipment and now we have a more repeatable strategy,” McDonald says.

Since Jim Shepard became CEO of Canfor about a year and a half ago, one corporate focus has been Lean Manufacturing and continuous improvement—officially known as the Canfor Operating System. The changes at the Darlington mill, particularly the shift to a predictive and preventative maintenance culture, typify this philosophy and point toward the bright future of New South and Canfor as a whole.

Reprinted with permission:

Seth Vance

Author Seth Vance

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