4 Recommended Areas of Focus for Hardwood Sawmills

The hardwood sawmill business is constantly changing. Whether it be ebbs and flows in logs or changes in the labor supply, it seems no two months are the same. It is always a challenge.

Successful hardwood sawmill leaders know that to constantly improve their chances to succeed they must be forward-thinking. We find that there are several important areas of focus today that will help a sawmill’s chances to succeed in the future. Here are four key areas we believe sawmill leaders can benefit from additional focus. DSC8198

Operating Safely and Improving Safety Awareness

You can never be too safe! Protecting our employees from injury should always be a top area of focus for any sawmill leader. Everything from performing routine inspections, holding training classes, conducting proper equipment maintenance and ensuring proper safety equipment is accessible and used is key. Elevate facility safety to the highest level and incorporate it into your operational norms. 

Operational Efficiency & Yield

Margins in the sawmill business are tight. Where ever you can gain in operational efficiency or performance improvement will be key.  Leaders need to continue to focus on finding ways to lower conversion costs and maximize the use of resources in terms of recovery and value. If you can find new ways to improve your yields on the logs you saw and produce more lumber from the same source you win! Analyze your existing processes, look for ways to improve throughput, seek solutions to reduce lumber handling. If you have been operating that same way for an extended period of time these are typical areas of improvements that may be found. 

New Technologies and Equipment

Technology and equipment improvement is constantly evolving in the sawmill industry. At some point, leaders need to consider how they can leverage these enhancements to improve yields and reduce labor costs. Whether it be the installation of a new optimized edger, a geometric scanner, an enhanced bin-sorter or a new automated vision grader, new state-of-the-art tools should be analyzed. 

Sawing Strategies and Product Mix

Be flexible. We all know we are in a supply and demand industry. Just because we always saw a specific species or a specific thickness doesn’t always mean it is the best thing for the business today. Be a student of the industry. Analyze the markets. Determine if your supply chain can be improved or if there is an unmet need or under-produced product in the marketplace you can profitably fill. If you find there is this area of focus, it could open up a whole world of opportunity. 

In short, we feel, it is always a good idea for hardwood sawmills to constantly analyze how they can grow their people, benefit from automation and improve lumber yields. 

What are your thoughts? What would you add?  Let us know!

Tony Cimorelli
Baillie Lumber
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