With the gradual turnaround in the housing market, a family-run lumber company in Adams County is about to put down $1.5 million on high-tech equipment to get more out of its logs.
At Evergreen Forest Products, new scanners will read rough-cut timber, showing mill workers how to get around impurities such as knots. The devices will help produce the highest-grade cuts that will bring Evergreen the most money.
And Rodney Krogh, Evergreens president, wont have to wait long for a financial return. The payback will be within a year on grade alone, he said.
Scanners and other automated equipment have become practically a necessity in Idaho sawmills like Evergreens, which cut soft woods such as Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. In a shrinking field of sawmills some didnt survive the recession competition demands getting the most financial return from each log.
(It) means mills have to purchase fewer logs, said Steve Shook, a University of Idaho marketing professor who specializes in the wood-products industry.
Adding new equipment isnt always easy. Mills have struggled with trying to marry high-tech equipment with old machinery, Shook said. And finding financing can be difficult.
Krogh says Evergreen will install its scanner early next year. Today, workers eyeball the wood to grade it for specific types of cuts. They lift a board to figure out whether it would make a 2-by-8 or a more profitable 2-by-6, for example.
Even the best eyes cant see what the scanner sees, Krogh said.
New manufacturing technology often means hiring fewer workers, in lumber mills and other industries. But Krogh says he wont lay anyone off.
I wont lose the guy, Krogh said. He wont be lifting these big boards all day long.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts