Chips, Inc. has made several improvements to its southern pine sawmill over the past five years to improve its production and yield at the mill’s location in Troy, Va. The company’s latest investment, a SmartMill lug loader, has reduced bottlenecks and increased production nearly 5MBF per hour since completing the project in July 2021.
Vice-president Jordan Diehl says a new debarker and gang put pressure on their existing 24-year-old hook-stop board feeder and production outgrew the trimmer infeed. “We knew we needed to do something because the trimmer was backing up and the operator was getting his butt kicked everyday handling way too many pieces,” he says of their lug loader purchase.
Diehl says one of the biggest takeaways was increasing lug-fill percentages and hourly production from 22MBF per hour to 27MBF. (Chips, Inc. accepts no larger than 20 in. logs and its average small-end diameter is 9.7 in.).
The SmartMill lug loader is essentially maintenance free and the operator’s handling job has switched to a process surveillance role. “The lug loader is all electric and air so there’s hardly any maintenance. We haven’t had to work on it hardly at all the past eight months,” Diehl says.
Chips, Inc. was very satisfied working with SmartMill under Berube’s leadership and says the lug loader investment has already paid dividends. “They make a great product and see the project all the way through to the end,” Diehl affirms. “It has really paid off for us.”
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