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Grinder Aids Profitability of Penn. Reman Plant

Second Advanced Recycling Challenger for Lewis Lumber Products converts wood waste into saleable product.

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 6/4/2002

PICTURE ROCKS, Penn. ó Once you get "chips in your cuffs," said Keith Smalley, you are hooked on the wood products industry. By age eight, Keith was carrying tree-marking paint for his father, a forester. And he knew wood was his future.

Keith worked his way through Pennsylvania State University by cutting and skidding pulpwood and earned a degree in forestry. Today, Keith is a project engineer for Lewis Lumber Products, Inc., a distribution yard and planing mill. He helps the company implement state-of-the art technology to extract the most from the kiln-dried quarters it buys for remanufacture.

The interest that Lewis Lumber Products (LLP) has in efficiency extends to every part of its operations. Last fall the company added an Advanced Recycling Equipment horizontal grinder, a Challenger CH200-4045-S with a 20-foot vibrating conveyor and silencer package. It was
the second Challenger from Advanced
Recycling for Lewis Lumber, replacing
a smaller, 12-inch machine, a CH100-
3015-S horizontal grinder that was purchased in 1998. "The company had grown," said Keith "We needed a higher volume machine."

The new Challenger grinder has made a significant improvement at Lewis Lumber. "Before we got the first Challenger," said Keith, waste wood was bundled
with the hope that people who needed
firewood would take it away. With the grinder in place, the waste is "now a
saleable product."

The Advanced Recycling CH200-4045-S grinder has so automated the processing of wood waste that Lewis Lumber gets a marketable product "essentially with no human handling," said Keith. Itís an arrangement that Keith likes for two reasons. The company "can dedicate people" to the high-revenue products of sized lumber, panels and molding, yet it also gets the most from value from every board that enters the yard.

A vibrating conveyor gathers wood remnants from the ripping system and feeds them to the Challenger grinder. The ripping system includes a Raimann rip saw with a moveable multiple blade and two chop saws from Grecon Dimter. "The Advanced Recycling grinder is an integral part of the line," said Keith.

A Grecon Dimter 2D Linear Scanning System makes the ripping system extremely efficient, explained Keith. Consequently, wood waste heading for the Challenger is minimized.

In December, ripping became even more sophisticated when Lewis Lumber invested in a MillVision system from Grecon Dimter. The MillVision system enables Lewis Lumber to receive orders from customers via e-mail, download specifications directly to the chop saws, and after cutting, print up to thirty characters (in whole numbers and decimals) on each board. When the finished piece is kicked off, the "person off-bearing can put it into the correct bin" thanks to the precise labeling, said Keith.

Output from the Challenger grinder, which is combined with waste from the dust collection system from Scientific Industries, is sold to various markets. For example, some is sold to manufacturers of composite decking and for animal bedding. About two truckloads per week are produced.

During the regular eight-hour day at Lewis Lumber, the Challenger "runs constantly," said Keith, and the company has been "very pleased" with its performance.

The only limiting factor on the output of the Challenger has nothing to do with the grinder. "It can produce more chips than the blower system can handle,"
said Keith. In fact, some times the vibrating conveyor must be halted so the blower
system is not over-loaded. "The grinder monitors the load on its motor," Keith
explained, and stops the vibrating conveyor as required.

"Nothing is maintenance free," noted Keith, but Lewis Lumber had "a good experience maintenance-wise with the old Challenger," and the new Challenger is meeting all its expectations.

Lewis Lumber gets half its raw material from Dwight Lewis Lumber Co. Inc. Lewis Lumber buys dry 4/4 and 5/4 material from Dwight Lewis Lumber and also buys some thicker material, particularly cherry and oak, on the open market.

The two companies share some history and ownership. Dwight Lewis and his sons, Melvin and Marc, own Dwight Lewis Lumber and they hold majority ownership of Lewis Lumber. Keith Atherholt is a part-owner of Lewis Lumber and also the president of Lewis Lumber.

Dwight Lewis Lumber, located in Hillsgrove, Penn., got started in 1941. Lewis Lumber was established in 1984 and is located in Picture Rocks. Both towns are in the north-central part of the Keystone State. Picture Rocks is 20 miles east of Williamsport, and Hillsgrove is 10 miles northeast of Picture Rocks.

Besides operating a sawmill, Dwight Lewis Lumber owns 16,000 acres of timberland. The company generally contracts for logging. It has been involved in some unusual logging endeavors in Pennsylvania, including the first helicopter operation on state game lands.

A tract of blow-down timber from Hurricane Floyd in 1999 had to be logged by helicopter. Skid trails and roads were
unacceptable to the logging plan for the remote game lands. Loggers went in
with chainsaws, and the wood was
taken out with helicopters leased from Carson Aviation.

Fifty employees work at Lewis Lumber. Three trucks are on the road each
day and reach destinations across Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
Some lumber is sold retail from the Picture Rocks headquarters.

Ten people work in the yard to pick orders and sort (grade). Four people run the ripping system, two working at pull-off. Output from the rip saw line is extremely variable, explained Keith, because orders differ so much. An order may be as few as12 board feet or as many as 15,000 board feet.

Lewis Lumber makes custom molding and has tools to make about 500 different profiles, according to Keith. About half the knives have been used only once.

Essentially, "people bring us molding and ask us to reproduce it," said Keith. There are two three-person molding crews. One employee runs a computerized profile drawing and template design system. Besides molding equipment from Weinig Unimat and a Logo-Pac measuring system, Lewis Lumber has planners from Yates and Buss and a Challoner 527TS for making tenons. The company also is equipped with a Baker Products ABX horizontal band resaw with power infeed.

Dwight Lewis Lumberís sawmill is equipped with an HMC debarker, HMC linear positioning carriage and a 63-inch HMC head rig saw. There are also two line bar resaws, a 53-inch McDonough and a 48-inch Stenner, a Paul optimizing edger, a Fulghum six knife chipper, which produces paper grade chips, and Armstrong filing equipment. The company has an AFC 125 hp boiler and three 50,000 board foot capacity American Wood Dry Kilns.

Lewis Lumber and Dwight Lewis Lumber are participants in SmartWood, a third-party certification program for companies that demonstrate sustainable forestry practices advocated by the Forest Stewardship Council. SmartWood was initiated by the Rainforest Alliance. The third-party program "verifies that we are managing for sustainable yield," said Keith.

Because he works as a project engineer for Lewis Lumber and also handles sales for the company in western Pennsylvania, Keith keeps a deep and broad
perspective on the wood products industry. His job sometimes takes him to Hillsgrove to lend a hand at Dwight Lewis Lumber.
"I was involved last summer installing
the Paul optimizing system at the sawmill," he said.

Keith is a firm believer in the importance of the wood products industry to the economic health of the nation, and Lewis Lumber uses several strategies to remain competitive with imports. High quality products and custom work are important elements for success. So is flexibility. Lewis Lumber tries to staff for maximum productivity on a regular, five-day week, but it pays for overtime when needed.

"One of the things thatís neat about the industry," said Keith, is that "thereís room for all levels. We sell to a one-man shop and a 500-man shop."

Before Keith joined Lewis Lumber he worked for Pennsylvania House Furniture as a lumber buyer and plant manager. In one of his earliest timber cutting and skidding jobs, he relied on a horse for skidding. "I like the variability that Iíve gotten into throughout my career," he said.


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