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Canadian Company Reinvented Itself: Iron Bull Self-Dumping Hopper an Asset for Firewood, Mulch Divisions
South-East Pallet & Wood Products now has more diverse operations and has found markets for every bit of wood fiber from the log.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 10/1/2016
BLUMENORT, Manitoba — South-East Pallet & Wood Products was at one time dependent on limited lumber products that it produced, but with a willingness to adjust and flex with industry conditions, the business now has more diverse operations and has found markets for every bit of wood fiber from the log.
The company is located in Blumenort, a small community in the southeast corner of Manitoba; the town is a little over 30 miles southeast of Winnipeg and less than 50 miles to the U.S. border and Minnesota. It had its roots in the 1950s and was a family-owned logging business that also produced softwood lumber.
When lumber markets were tough about a decade ago, company leadership made adjustments within the mill to begin serving the wooden pallet industry. At that time, equipped with a Baker resaw line, a fairly natural transition was made into sawing pallet cutstock. Additional investments into machinery have been made to grow with demand for pallets and pallet lumber. A new sawmill and cut-up line were recently installed to process logs into pallet components. Baker Products supplied the majority of the equipment for the new mill, which began operating in March of 2015. In addition nailing machinery technology was upgraded to a Viking about that time. (Turbo or Champion – get model)
In addition to manufacturing pallets, including pallet stock for other pallet manufacturers, and this year adding firewood operations, the company also has developed markets for other residual wood products, such as landscape mulch, including colored mulch, sawdust, bark and biomass. South-East Pallet & Wood Products, has seen its business grow, and employment has increased from about 26 employees to about 42 in recent years.
Within the newer firewood segment of the business launched this year, the company’s operations are benefitting from a U.S. supplier — Iron Bull Manufacturing — that has introduced some innovations into the mundane world of steel hoppers used by many businesses for collecting and handling bulk materials.
For its new firewood operations the company invested in a Cord King model 1830 firewood processor. The company’s management talked to other people in the firewood business to get recommendations for firewood processors, according to sales manager Jac Siemens. Cord King was “one of the better machines out there,” he said.
Cord King, a Canadian manufacturer based in Perth, Ontario, offers a number of models of its processors that are capable of processing logs of various length and diameter, including units that buck with a bar saw and others that use a circular slasher saw. The Cord King 1830 model, for example, is equipped with a 20-inch bar saw for bucking and can process logs up to 30 feet long. It is powered by a 50 hp diesel engine and generates plenty of splitting force with its 4-6-way splitting wedge. The processor also features a hydraulic log lift system, a chain drive log infeed conveyor, and an automatic log clamping system. Optional features include a live deck and choice of offload conveyors.
The company received its new Cord King machine this summer, and it has worked out “very well,” said Jac.
The company produces pine, birch, tamarack, oak, and ash firewood. It sells firewood off its wood yard and also offers delivery service.
Representatives of South-East came across Iron Bull when the supplier exhibited at the Richmond Expo in Richmond, Virginia, in May. “They have a lot of interesting products,” said Jac.
South-East subsequently ordered an Iron Bull self-dumping hopper that was delivered about four to six weeks ago. The Iron Bull hopper allows the company to safely, easily, and efficiently load a half-ton pickup truck with a measurable volume of firewood, one-third of a cord.
Prior to purchasing the Iron Bull hopper, South-East did not offer a loading service for pickup trucks. Now, the innovative self-dumping hopper allows the firewood to be loaded easily, quickly, and safely, without damaging a truck bed. South-East also is using the Iron Bull equipment to load landscape mulch into pickup trucks.
“We’re very happy with it,” said Jac.
There are other firewood businesses serving the area, noted Jac. “The market is already taken up,” he said. “We have to provide a service and convenience” that is more attractive in order to capture some of that market share.
The company has a good location off a highway to provide convenience to customers, he noted. Although its principal market will be homeowners using wood for fuel as a primary or supplementary source of heat in the winter, another market consists of people who use campground facilities about an hour away. The company is selling bulk firewood to campground facilities. It is also offering a “weekender bag” of firewood that has proved popular with area residents who stop by and buy firewood for a weekend of camping.
Firewood packaged in tote bags is a marketing technique that has worked well for South-East. The bags have handles so they can be easily loaded with a forklift or skidsteer; one tote can hold one-fourth of a cord and the other, one-sixteenth of a cord. The larger bag is marketed to cottage owners or homeowners with limited space while the smaller tote is marketed to people for weekend camping. The firewood bags are supplied by BAG Supplies Canada Ltd, located in Stratford, Ontario, Canada (www.bagsupplies.ca).
The firewood division, which operates under the brand Firewood2Go, has its own website (www.firewood2go.ca) with complete information about firewood products and pricing. The company already had been offering firewood for sale — mainly slab wood from the sawmill operations. “We’ve always been in the slab business,” noted Jac, as a way to help get rid of scrap material.
Before entering the pallet arena, the company contracted with portable sawmillers to process logs into cants at the landing. The cants were hauled to the company’s mill to be resawn into 2x4 and 2x6. The lumber was kiln-dried and surfaced for sale.
Jac described how the company entered the pallet industry. It was approached by a local business that habitually experienced a shortage of pallets to ship its products and was asked if it would supply them with pallets. At the time, South-East had about 1 million board feet of downfall material not suitable for 2x4 or 2x6; it utilized this material and began building pallets, assembling them by hand with pneumatic nailing tools. Eventually, it was able to use all the downfall material in its budding pallet operations. “Slowly, as we gained market share, we continued to grow,” said Jac.
South-East had to undergo considerable change when it made the transition from lumber producer to pallet manufacturing. “The process on the yard needed to be rebuilt...to better service the pallet business,” said Jac.
The company has experienced “tremendous change,” acknowledged Jac. The company’s operations are contained in three buildings — including a new sawmill building — with about 25,000 square feet under roof.
Jac originally was hired as general manager in 2011, but just recently he moved into the role of sales manager in order to focus on continuing to grow the company’s sales. The company appointed a new general manager, Sjoerd Huese, who will be focusing on continuing to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, and implement safety standards, among other tasks.
The new sawmill brought another challenge. In the past, when portable sawmills initially processed logs into cants at the landing, all residual materials were left at the landing. Now, the company was required to deal all the residuals from its sawmill and lumber manufacturing operations: bark, slabs, scrap wood material, and sawdust.
The company collects and markets all residual material. “All residuals are sold into a different value stream,” said Jac. “No wood fiber goes into the landfill.”
Sawdust goes to a collector outside the mill and directly into a walking floor trailer that is filled about every 12 working hours; the sawdust is sold for bedding material to dairy and poultry farmers in the region. The company invested in a Rotochopper machine to grind scrap wood into biomass and also landscape mulch, including colored mulch; mulch is sold both wholesale and retail. Slabs and other scrap wood end up in a bunker to be made into firewood or moved to the Rotochopper to be processed by grinding. Bark is sold to landscaping businesses.
Iron Bull Hoppers Known for Durability, Innovative Features
Indiana-based Iron Bull Manufacturing, which makes self-dumping material handling hoppers, began doing business in 2014 although its management and ownership team did a considerable amount of research and development prior to start-up.
Owner Emanuel King asked Joe Glick to be his general manager and get the business off the ground, and Glick agreed.
Emanuel already had a vision to manufacture and sell steel hoppers for material handling, and Joe took it further. From the start, Joe, whose background includes experience in manufacturing and marketing, emphasized that they should develop a high-end product with top quality and strong service.
Now in its third year, the company has sold almost a thousand hoppers, Joe reported.
“What really excites me is we’re not a ‘plain Jane,’ me-too hopper company,” said Joe.
Iron Bull has developed several innovative features and products that other businesses do not offer, such as the bottom-drop easy load hopper utilized by South-East Pallet & Wood Products. Iron Bull also has other specialty hoppers for slab wood, including a hopper that allows someone with a chainsaw to cut stacked slabs to firewood or furnace length or to bundle the slabs together with bands. The hoppers are designed for easy pick-up, handling, and moving with a skidsteer or forklift and can be dumped, too. In fact, most Iron Bull hoppers are available with a feature that allows the forklift operator to dump them without leaving his seat.
Iron Bull’s proprietary Positive Alignment System™ featuring a Tapered Slide Box™ with expanded clearance angles allows fast, accurate entry of fork tines into hopper base channels. The system makes the forklift or skidsteer operator’s job easier and faster and eliminates damage to hoppers.
Applications for Iron Bull hoppers including operations for manufacturing, machining, construction, agriculture – virtually any bulk material collecting, storage and handling, including waste material and recycling operations.
The company’s hoppers have proven popular with wood products businesses, such as furniture makers and woodworking businesses, as well as sawmills, pallet companies, firewood businesses, and others. It also is finding customers in machine shops and other manufacturing businesses.
Iron Bull offers five series of hoppers in thirty sizes from 1/8 to 10 cubic yard and up to 7,000 lb. capacities. Designed for connecting to cyclone dust collection systems, special sawdust handling hoppers are a popular item, too. The company also offers custom hoppers per customer specifications.
Iron Bull hoppers feature heavy-duty materials and construction for durability. A dual safety lock system consisting of a hopper retaining chain and safety flip lock is standard on all models. Hoppers are available in a selection of colors. Optional features include casters, push handles, the dump-from-seat latch rope, and open-end self-dumping hopper.
For more information about Iron Bull products, call the company at (765) 597-2480.
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