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Cousienau a Major Presence in Northeast

Continental Biomass Industries Magnum Force 4800 provide on-site grading for Maine sawmill

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 10/1/2003


NORTH ANSON, Maine — Soon after Ernest and Velma Cousineau started a wood products business in 1959, they signed on a very good customer. The company manufactured hockey sticks for a leading vendor, according to their son, Randy Cousineau.

"That business was good in the sixties," Randy recalled, but then plastic and laminates supplanted wood in the hockey stick market. The Cousineau family began to look at other options. "We decided to build a long lumber mill," said Randy.

Today, Randy owns Cousineau Inc., sharing ownership with his two children, Brandi Cousineau and Brody Cousineau. He incorporated the company when he took it over from his father in 1973. Brandi and Brody joined the firm four years ago.

Cousineau Inc. is a diversified business, doing land clearing and dealing in real estate in addition to offering a full gamut of wood products and related services, such as grinding. The company has two primary locations; besides the headquarters location in North Anson, Me., there is a consolidation yard and processing facility in Henniker, N. H.

Cousineau Inc. moves its heavy-duty grinding equipment between the North Anson and Henniker facilities. It also takes its grinders to the Riverside Recycling Facility in Portland, Me. where it grinds on-site for the municipality. The company has site permits to take its grinders to several other locations in Maine and New Hampshire.

Three grinders and a screener get the job done for the company. Two of the machines are from Continental Biomass Industries Inc. (CBI). In 1998, Randy purchased a CBI 4800 Magnum Force grinder after some serious research.

"I went from coast to coast looking at different manufacturers," said Randy. The CBI 4800 Magnum Force got the nod for a simple reason. "I thought it was superior to others," he said. (As it happens, Randy ended up in his own neighborhood to make the purchase; CBI is headquartered in Newton, N.H.)

Cousineau also is equipped with a CBI pre-screener. Randy bought it in 2001 specifically to screen stumps and separate dirt and rock fines from old wood piles. Once stumps have been screened by the CBI pre-screener, the material is ground in one of the other machines.

The CBI 4800 runs about 30 or 40 hours each week, said Randy. It’s a strong performer, he explained, noting that any piece of equipment requires regular maintenance.

A Kenworth tractor is used to pull the CBI 4800 from site to site; Cousineau relies on Kenworth and Mac tractors.

The CBI 4800 Magnum Force grinder, powered by an 880 hp motor, can reduce up to 100 tons of material per hour. The company uses the machine to grind mill waste, logs, poles, ties, and stumps. The road legal machine weighs 89,000 pounds.

Although the 880 hp is a good match for Randy’s operations, CBI offers customers a range of engine options from 860 to 1,030 horsepower.

Like other CBI 4000 series grinders, the CBI 4800 Magnum Force machine has upper and lower feed rollers. Three high-torque planetary gear drives power the infeed rollers. The system of rollers provides continuous movement of logs and other material into the grinder.

The crushing force of the upper roller is adjustable remotely by radio control. A pre-screener is built into the CBI machine so that tiny particles like crushed rock can be filtered out before they come in contact with the hog. The pre-screening system reduces wear on the hog by rocks and other foreign materials.

The CBI 4800 Magnum Force is designed for rugged use and longevity. It features full front and back access to the hog chamber and bolt-in liners. Different rotors can be matched to specific types of grinding.

Because Cousineau Inc. provides land-clearing services, it often uses a Pallari KH-160 wood shear on jobs. (Land clearing plays an important role in the Cousineau Properties arm of the business; land purchased for lease or sale often is wooded and may need to be cleared.) Mounted on an excavator, the Pallari KH-160 extracts stumps by pulling them up. Then it shears them into pieces that can be fed to the grinders. Randy also turned to CBI for the Pallari equipment, and CBI now is the exclusive East Coast dealer for the Pallari KH-160.

Besides the two CBI machines, Randy has a Morbark 1300 tub grinder that he purchased in 1997. "We’ve had three Morbark grinders" in succession, he said.

The third grinder — a Jeffrey wood hog — is a stationary machine on site and is used to grind bark into mulch or for first grinds. Cousineau Inc. makes mulch only from bark, Randy noted. The exceedingly fine bark mulch that has gone "through a two-by-two grate" is so fine, in fact, that it can be colored.

Cousineau Inc. has used various dry colorants to color bulk mulch and has not settled on one colorant as its sole choice. Mulch is sold wholesale; none of it is bagged. The company uses bark removed from incoming logs and also buys some bark from Madison Paper.

Cousineau performed its own logging from 1996-98. The company bought Timbco equipment in 1996 to get started but sold it two years later when it exited logging. Now the company subcontracts with cut-to-length loggers.

"We own 13,000 acres of timber land," said Randy. As much as one-third of the hardwood logs required by the mill come from company-owned land. The sawmill and flooring mill mainly run red oak, maple and birch as well as some ash, beech and aspen. About 10% of the mill’s production is softwood lumber. "We do some pine for furniture," said Randy, including Eastern white pine, hemlock, spruce, fir and white cedar.

The sawmill was operating on a single shift, five days a week in August when Randy spoke with TimberLine, but the company adds a shift when demand is strong. About 15 of the 100 people employed by Cousineau Inc. work in the sawmill.

The sawmill is equipped with a Fulghum Industries Inc. debarker and two head rigs, one from Salem Equipment Inc. and another from McDonough Mfg. Co. The McDonough head rig is the newest piece of mill equipment. "We purchased a new one about a year ago," said Randy. "We felt it was as good a machine as was on the market."

The mill is also equipped with a 5-foot Stenner band resaw, a 6-foot PHL Industries linebar resaw and various trimmers. A planing mill for finishing the lumber is equipped with two planers, including one supplied by Newman Machine Co., as well as two optimizer cut-off saws from Paul Saws & Saw Systems. The planing mill finishes the lumber for furniture manufacturers and other customers and also makes wood components.

"We’re pretty much a producer of wood products," said Randy. Besides planing to finish the lumber, Cousineau Inc. will cut to length, make miter cuts and other remanufacturing operations for component products.

The sawmill operations cover 4.5 acres. Annual production is about 10 million board feet. Some of the lumber is kiln dried, and the company has drying capacity of 125,000 board feet in Strong, Me., its former headquarters, and another 200,000 board feet of drying capacity in North Anson. All dry kilns were supplied by Irvington-Moore. The company also sells green lumber and air-dried lumber.

An 800 hp boiler from Industrial Boiler Co. heats the entire facility in North Anson in winter.

The typical lumber inventory at Cousineau Inc. is about 1 million board feet of air-dried lumber and 100,000 board feet of kiln-dried lumber. Lumber is sold in thicknesses ranging from 4/4 to 8/4 and in various widths.

Cousineau Inc. employs a full-time forester who selects and marks trees for harvesting. Trees that will not produce grade lumber are processed into chips, which are sold to various markets depending on market conditions and price. Paper quality chips are sold to pulp and paper makers while other markets include pellet fuel manufacturers and surface material for playgrounds.

Cousineau Inc. also serves as a chip broker, using its Henniker facility. "We buy from other mills," said Randy. "We broker chips from other mills." In a typical week, the company may receive as many as 200 loads of chips from 60 mills in the Northeast and Canada.

The company also collects and consolidates other sawmill residuals at Henniker. As a result, aggregation and recycling of materials that would otherwise be a waste disposal challenge for mills provides multiple benefits. The residuals are ultimately used by pulp makers, biomass fuel producers or others.

North Anson, headquarters for Cousineau Inc., is about 50 miles due north of Augusta and located near the Kennebec River. It has a population of about 2,500 people.

Visitors to Maine who tire of its rocky coastline with picturesque fishing villages find an entirely different sort of beauty in the rugged terrain of the interior of the state around North Anson. The town lies along the eastern foothills of the Longfellow Mountains, and nearby peaks top out at an average of 4,000 feet. The surrounding region is heavily forested.

Cousineau Inc. has diverse customers throughout New England, and it provides varied products and services. For example, the city of Portland instituted a wood and green waste disposal program for its residents; they bring the material to the city’s Riverside Recycling Facility for grinding. Cousineau Inc. periodically takes its CBI 4800 Magnum Force machine to Riverside to provide on-site grinding services.

Lumber products made by Cousineau Inc. include dimension lumber, furniture stock, studs, pallet stock, timbers and railroad ties. The company makes a number of cedar products — decking, lumber and tongue and groove siding.

Cousineau Inc. does all its own equipment and truck maintenance. Its fleet includes six tractors with box trailers and moving floor trailers, and three dump trucks. A staff of eight maintenance workers takes care of everything, even welding and fabrication, in house. Of all the various aspects of the company’s diverse operations, maintenance is "probably the hardest part of the business," said Randy.

Both Brandi and Brody attended college before joining the business. Brandi studied finance and computer technology at Bentley College in Massachusetts while Brody studied forestry at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

For Randy, a native of Farmington, Me., there are two big rewards in owning his own business. They are "just seeing us accomplish things and providing jobs," he said.

As for achievements, Cousineau Inc. has a very long list of successful efforts to which it can point. There is the lumber, the real estate and the land clearing. There is also snow plowing in winter and gravel, sand and loam consolidation and sales. Cousineau, Inc. also sells soil amendments and erosion control mixes. It also offers log home packages.

Real estate rentals include everything from physicians’ offices to a shoe shop. Rentals to local government are also part of the mix.

Of course, the history of Maine reveals many intrepid and entrepreneurial spirits. The first permanent European settlement in Maine was in place by 1622. According to The World Almanac of the U.S.A., the first settlers brought timber with them on ships so they would be able to build houses. Obviously, they didn’t need it and were pleasantly surprised by the plentiful forests when they arrived.

Professional memberships for Cousineau, Inc. include the National Hardwood Lumber Association and the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association. The latter association writes grading rules for Eastern white pine and has its own grade mark.

Staff turnover at Cousineau Inc. is low, which is a great source of pride for Randy and his co-owners.

A motto adopted by the company introduces its website (www.cousineaus.com); it is, ‘Handling the Earth with Care.’ Cousineau Inc. emphasizes the dual importance of forest products and its commitment to its customers and all parts of its enterprise. An aphorism at the Website reads. ‘Wood is the fiber of our business. Service is the fiber of our existence.’

When Randy takes time away from his many business ventures, he enjoys playing golf. His leisure time also puts him in the air. "I’m a helicopter pilot," he said. Piloting was something he wanted to do for a long time, so he did it. "I just went and took lessons," he said.




 






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