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Cersosimo Lumber on Growth Track: Extensive drying operations, SII kilns help make company a lumber leader
Cersosimo Lumber increases efficiency and quality with customized dry kilns from SII.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 7/1/2014
BRATTLEBORO, Vermont — Cersosimo Lumber Company is a leading lumber manufacturer in New England with extensive operations for kiln-drying both hardwood and softwood lumber.
It had not added kiln capacity since the early 1990s, but when it turned to replacing some kilns two years ago in order to maintain quality and improve efficiency, it looked to SII Dry Kilns to supply them.
Cersosimo Lumber Company considered SII and two other suppliers. The lumber company staff had some ideas about how they wanted to customize the new kilns structurally as well as the control system, according to Scott Ferland, who oversees new projects and other aspects of the company's business. It has three employees each with 20-plus years of lumber drying experience, noted Scott. "We kind of put our heads together and got our wish list, so to speak."
SII was the supplier that was most willing to customize it services, said Scott, "to package the product to our needs."
"And they seemed to be the ones most willing to deliver what we were looking for at a price point that was acceptable," he added.
SII installed five conventional dry kilns for Cersosimo Lumber Company in May 2012.
"We're very happy with them," said Scott. "We've had very few issues...They look as good today as the day we started them."
Cersosimo Lumber Company grew from humble beginnings to become an industry leader. Anthony Cersosimo launched the business with a portable sawmill in Vermont in 1947, at the age of 31. Anthony died in 2002. His son, Dominic, is chairman of the company's board of directors, and his grandson, Michael, is president.
Cersosimo Lumber Company is known for manufacturing quality New England hardwood lumber and Eastern white pine lumber. It sells about 50-55 million board of lumber annually. About two-thirds of the lumber produced is New England hardwoods, and the remaining one-third is Eastern white pine.
The company's operations include five sawmills, grading facilities, and extensive dry kiln capacity. It has log concentration yards, railcar loading facilities, storage facilities, and its own fleet of trucks. Its various operations employ about 275 people.
Cersosimo Lumber Company markets exclusively to wholesalers and distributors. Manufacturing operations are fully integrated with the sales department to ensure that orders conform to customer requirements and are delivered on time.
Although it has exported lumber for more than 30 years, it formed its own export business eight years ago, selling hardwood lumber into Europe and Asia, and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East. The export sales division, which maintains an office in Shanghai, accounts for about 30 percent of the company's hardwood sales.
Hardwood species produced include red oak, white oak, hard maple, soft maple, yellow birch, Northern white ash, cherry, and beech. The company sells primarily 4/4 lumber and also some 5/4 and 8/4, depending on market conditions. All hardwood lumber is graded after kiln drying by the company's certified staff in its high-production, in-line grading, planing and packaging facility.
Eastern white pine products include S4S boards in 4-inch to 12-inch widths. The company offers pattern stock and sells kiln-dried 4/4 to 8/4 random width pine, rough or S2S.
The five new SII kilns were added to the company's operations in Brattleboro, Vermont. They are being used primarily to dry white hardwoods, such as soft maple, hard maple, ash, and yellow birch, and Eastern white pine.
Cersosimo Lumber Company has extensive lumber drying operations. The company has 26 dry kilns now at its facilities in Brattleboro and 10 more at another location in North Hartland, Vermont. It also operates an affiliated business, Hardwick Kilns in Hardwick, Massachusetts, where it offers custom lumber drying services.
The five new SII kilns replaced eight aging track kilns that were demolished with the new kilns constructed on the same footprint. At the same time that it added the new SII kilns, the company also installed a steam-powered generator system to meet some of its demand for electricity. The boilers were retrofitted from low pressure to high pressure, a process that involved re-piping the entire Brattleboro campus.
The five new SII dry kilns have a combined capacity of about 250,000 board feet; four of the kilns are identical in size and one is slightly smaller.
The new SII dry kilns are of aluminum and stainless steel construction. The forkload-lift-style kilns feature traditional beam style track hung doors and SII computerized PLC controls. The doors were fabricated extra-thick, and the kilns are lined with an extra 2” (R-8) layer of mineral wool insulation – two custom requests of Cersosimo Lumber Company.
There were two reasons for upgrading with the new SII dry kilns, explained Scott. "Quality was number one," he said. The second reason was to reduce drying time. "We probably increased turnover times by 20 percent." The SII dry kilns are more efficient and produce a more even drying process, he added.
"It gave us the ability to dry any product all year-round," said general manager Jeff Hardy, particularly to produce high quality New England hardwoods and Eastern white pine during the summer months.
The new SII dry kilns gave the company added flexibility in sawmill operations, explained Scott. In the past, drying operations could lag behind the sawmill. "Now we have enough kiln capacity," said Scott.
The older kilns fan systems were under-powered, according to Scott, and venting was not adequate. "We improved our air flow and we improved our venting," he said.
Cersosimo Lumber Company produces lumber entirely from its own sawmills; it does not buy green lumber from other sawmills. The company has two sawmills at its headquarters in Brattleboro. One mill cuts mainly Eastern white pine, producing about 20 million board feet annually in two shifts. The other mill cuts hardwoods and does about 14 million board feet per year. A third sawmill in Rumney, New Hampshire cuts hardwood and a small volume of Eastern white pine, producing about 8 million board feet annually.
The drying operations at Brattleboro have a capacity of about 14 million board feet of kiln-dried lumber annually while those in North Hartland have a capacity of about 6-8 million board feet. The custom drying operations at Hardwick, Mass. can handle about 10 million board feet annually. All the company's kilns rely on biomass fuel.
The Brattleboro plant also is equipped with a planer mill, as does the Hardwick custom drying operations.
The grading facility at Brattleboro handles about 22 million board of lumber annually.
Cersosimo Lumber Company is on the move, too. The company has acquired two hardwood sawmills in upstate New York, north of Saratoga Springs, in the past eight months. One, in Warrensburg, N.Y., cuts about 5 million board feet annually. The second mill, located in Lake Luzern, N.Y. , currently is closed and undergoing renovations that are expected to enable it to produce about 7 million board feet annually.
The company has another affiliate business, Vermont Mulch Company in Vernon, Vt., less than 10 miles south of Brattleboro. It is supplying the mulch business with residuals from its other operations and also buying additional residual wood material from other companies. It also operates a chip mill at its Vernon site, producing chips for the pulp and paper industry from hardwood, softwood, and hemlock.
For its hardwood sawmill in Brattleboro, Cersosimo Lumber Company buys saw logs 8-16 feet in length and a minimum 10 inches in diameter. After removing the bark with a Nicholson 36-inch ring debarker, the logs are placed on a Cleereman carriage, which passes them through a Sanborn 7-foot double-cut bandmill. The head rig is optimized with USNR technology.
Resawing is done with a Sanborn 7-foot bandmill. Other primary machines include an HMC edger and an HMC trimmer. Stacking is accomplished with a Sanborn 7-foot stacking machine. Scrap material is processed with a Precision 56-inch chipper.
The company has made steady improvements and acquisitions over the years. The sawmill in Rumney was built in 1980 and renovated from a circle mill to a bandmill in 1990. The Brattleboro plant began operating in 1987, and the second mill was added in 1998. The North Hartland facilities were acquired in 1991, and the Hardwick business, in 1996. The chip mill was built in 2010.
The chip mill, with a Nicholson 72-inch, 8-knife chipper, processes tree-length hardwoods, pine, and hemlock. Softwood chips are supplied to the pulp and paper industry; hardwood chips are utilized both for boiler fuel and supplied to the pulp and paper industry.
The mulch plant, built in 2012, has a fully automated bagging system and produces mulch from both hardwood and softwood material. The company uses a Hogzilla tub grinder for primary grinding and also uses a Peterson horizontal grinder for grinding and coloring mulch.
Hardwood sawdust from sawmills is used for boiler fuel while pine sawdust is sold for animal bedding.
Cersosimo Lumber Company has seven licensed foresters on its staff. "They're pretty committed to keeping us supplied with wood," said Scott.
In addition to buying gatewood and stumpage, Cersosimo Lumber Company owns and manages forests throughout New England and in New York. It uses contract loggers to harvest timber.
The company is active in a number of trade associations, including the Hardwood Manufacturers Association, the North American Wholesale Lumber Assoc., and the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc. it is also affiliated with several regional trade organizations, including the New Hampshire Timber Owners Assoc., Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the North East Lumber Manufacturers Assoc., the Northeastern Loggers Assoc., and the New England Kiln Drying Assoc.
Like other companies, the company adapted to the most recent recession, but the economic downturn is in the rear view mirror. "We certainly scaled back production in the downturn at all our facilities," said Scott, "even mothballing some of them for a period of time."
"As the economy has improved," he added, we have slowly ramped things back up to where we were prior to the downturn. The company reached its pre-recession production levels about 18 months ago. "Since then we've grown," said Scott. "Everybody's a little happier."
"We continually strive to put out a high quality product in the market place," said Scott.
SII worked with Cersosimo Lumber Company to incorporate an energy conservation program into the control system.
"We're able to reduce our kilowatt consumption if it reaches a certain level," said Scott. The benefit of the energy conservation program is that it has helped the company avoid increasing power consumption. "That was part of the control system," said Scott, which was customized for the company.
"We were concerned about creating a higher demand (for electricity)," he explained, as time goes on and the company makes additional investments in the future.
With the aid of an SII software application called “Utility Watch”, the company's electricity provider can send a signal to an SII computer if the company's operations are approaching peak electrical demand, explained SII president Dan Mathews. The “Utility Watch” program works in conjunction with VFD’s (variable frequency drives) and enables a customer to prioritize which kilns need full fan air speed and which ones can be reduced in order to reduce the demand for power in those circumstances.
It was one of SII's first applications of Utility Watch, which requires the cooperation of the electric utility.
It is a valuable feature for companies in the Northeast where electric rates can be considerably higher than elsewhere in the country, noted Dan.
SII has a similar software program to manage steam distribution more efficiently by tracking boiler steam pressure and prioritizing which kilns need maximum available heat and those that do not. The steam management system will maintain required steam needs for high priority kilns while reducing heat valve output for those of lower priority.
The extra layer of insulation gave the walls an insulation value of R-30, about a 35 percent increase, noted Dan. "Clearly, in the Vermont location, that extra insulation can pay dividends in the winter months," he said.
Another unusual aspect of SII's application was a two-story control room, effectively separating controls for electrical systems and steam. Part of the reason was to provide rooftop access to the kilns, which simplifies maintenance from the fan decks.
Constructing the new kilns on the footprint of the old masonry kilns was a challenge, noted Dan. "They literally had to be shoehorned into the footprint." In some areas there was less than 3 feet of clearance for construction activity. "We're pleased that it all got done and got done safely," said Dan.
"Customers like Cersosimo Lumber are enjoyable for us to work with," said Dan, "because they push you to do certain things," to be more progressive and innovative. Some equipment manufacturers, he noted prefer to "sell only what they've already done."
"Quite frankly, it's good for us to be challenged," said Dan. "It makes us a better company."
SII Dry Kilns manufactures kilns for drying hardwoods and softwoods, pre-dryers, fan sheds, kilns for drying firewood, and pallet heat-treatment systems, and it supplies drying accessories and kiln control systems.
The family-owned and operated company began in 1969 as a kiln installation and refurbishing business, but it evolved to offer complete lumber drying systems. The company provides complete installation and service and today has more than 1,500 kilns in operation worldwide.
SII manufactures conventional package-loaded kilns, single and double track-loaded kilns, various types of fan sheds, and multi-zoned pre-dryers. Over fifty people work at the company's manufacturing facilities in Lexington, N.C.
SII offers various types of kiln controls, including PLC-based systems, circular chart recorder controls, and its own “Kiln Dry” computer software. SII says its KD-8000 and 9000 series software have the most comprehensive user interface of any similar software on the market.
For more information, call the company at (800) 545-6379, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the website at www.siidrykilns.com.
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