Boise Cascade Company, now known simply as Boise, and formerly Boise Cascade Corporation, continues to advance its wood panel manufacturing operations in the Pacific  Northwest of the US. The company was reorganised last year.
The firm’s LaGrande, Oregon, particleboard plant has accomplished such projects as  continued press upgrades, sander upgrades, new grading systems, new regenerative  thermal oxidiser (RTO) air quality control, improved process control, computerised  maintenance management, and an innovative new product.
These measures have all helped to maintain efficient saleable productivity, even during slack markets. For example, before the upgrading there were separate former operators,  but now it is all controlled from the press station.
Maintenance superintendent Steve Schlegel said: “The press work consisted of hydraulic closing arms, four-corner platen levelling, new trays and loaders and newdesign pusher bars. Higher pump volume increased closing speeds; pressing to position instead of stops saves much time when changing runs and the old shims took time to change.”
They also replaced one press base.
An Argos grading system from Kongsberg, Norway, brought more quality control using high intensity xenon lamps and cameras. Lateral light illuminates the panels on both sides and the shadows cast feed the computer with information.
Air density separators were installed on one of the two lines.
Craig Zollman, manufacturing superintendent, said: “We pay great attention to our environment and environmental controls. Probably the biggest challenge in particleboard right now is environmental standards.”
Boise installed an RTO two years ago to treat emissions, while dust is filtered through 28 bag houses throughout the mill.
Mr Zollman continued: “We have put a really high focus on establishing data collection so we can be a lot more consistent with our pressing strategies.We’ve implemented at least a dozen quality in-process checks, reducing defect which potentially could slip through by at least 85%. Most of these are manual checks, from every half-hour to every hour. Technical director Morgan Olson and his crew help audit that process once a month when they evaluate all the checks. This benefits our customers and makes us better.”
Regarding production, Mr Zollman’s comments were simple: “We make good board and make as much as we can.”
Boise calls its new product Boise Select, used principally for moulding and cabinetry. At 491⁄2lb, it’s of a heavier density, has no voids in the core and no noticeable transition from face to core. It will accept some fairly severe profiles, according to Mr Zollman, and can be foil or laminate covered.
Mr Schlegel continued: “In 2000 we instituted a computerised maintenance management system. It automatically prints out work orders. It really helped us to find our problem spots and reduce our unscheduled down time.We take about six hours on Wednesdays on line 2. And we do our line 1 maintenance on Sundays. The main maintenance crew works Sunday to Thursday.
Mr Zollman said: “One of the reasons we’ve been successful, particularly in tough market conditions, is our ability to continue to run and experience minimal down time.Raw material comes from throughout the Pacific Northwest, but the company’s nearby plywood and sawmills furnish a good share. Most is shavings and sawdust and some plywood trims.
The mill has a Phelps truck dump with an operator who controls in which of the three buildings the furnish is placed. Each line has a separate building and green furnish goes to the third from local suppliers who dump their own trucks.
The furnish is separated by species, introduced into the process at different ratios. The furnish bins hold three 24-hour capacities of material. One front-end loader feeds the hoppers in all three buildings.
A conveyor takes material from two of the storage buildings to the dryers, while the green material from the third building goes to a silo serving the MEC pre-dryer. Separate milling and drying buildings serve each line.
On line 1 the material goes through an air density separator to a screen separating out fines and overs. The heavy material is handled in a 36in Jeffrey hog. Fines go straight to the dryer while intermediates go to Bauer double disc refiners. With two dryers on each line – Heil on 1, and MEC triple-pass 60ft long, 13ft diameter on 2 – the material goes to the appropriate core or face dryer.
An 8ft x 10ft x 15ft dry storage bin holds material on line 1 while on line 2 the material goes to Rotex shaker screens; two for face and another pair for core. Overs are hogged, intermediates go to Bauer refiners, and fines go right to the dryers.
GreCon and Pyroguard systems protect blowpipes with spark detectors and deluge systems. The maintenance team, headed by Steve Schlegel, works closely with Factory Mutual Global to ensure that fire systems are inspected frequently to provide continuous protection for employees and property.
Next is a Crossfield weigh-scale and two Littleford blenders using Hexion (formerly Borden) UF resin. A Hexion plant is located beside the mill and resin is piped  underground to the Boise mill. They also use Hexion wax and catalyst.
The blended furnish goes into Sunds Classiformers for metering on to a continuous belt which carries the mat up through the Washington Iron Works pre-press for 21⁄2 seconds to the WPS saws just ahead of the press where the belt rolls under, returning under the line.
On line 1, panels go to a 14-panel loader, which transfers them to the Washington Iron Works 5ft x 18ft, 14-opening press. It produces thicknesses from 5⁄16in to 13⁄16in. Line 2 has a 4ft x 24ft 14-opening press.
Mr Zollman said he has had more requests for metric sizes, with perhaps 1% of production in metric. The different thicknesses are much easier to change than when pressing to stops. He added: “We used to have four to six people on each side of the press for each stop change. Press upgrades have eliminated the need for stop changes. We don’t miss stop changes at all. It could take from 12 to 15 minutes – lost production time – for each stop change.”
Pressed panels go to the Washington Iron Works unloader, followed by a wicket line going through a cooling chamber. Line 1 full panels go out to a stacker for sanding and Jenkins sawing with a capability to make 36 separate cuts, while line 2 production goes through a Jenkins saw for cut-tosize, followed by sanding on an eight-head IMEAS using 40-60-80-100 grit sequence. Mr Zollman said the sander has been a  great upgrade for the facility, saying Fred Kurpiel originally introduced the system here. The mill uses Norton abrasives.
Line 1 has a six-head Kimwood sander using 50-60-100 grit.
The Argos sorting system automatically scans both faces of each panel and sorts into bins for grade separation.
Next is a Signode strapping line – plastic strapping is popular with Boise’s customers. One end of the mill has a covered loading area for six railroad cars. One truck can be loaded in one area and two trucks can be covered in another in-plant area. Drivers use a harness system, anchored from above, to protect against falls from atop the load and product is shipped throughout the US, Canada and Mexico.
Some output is re-manufactured into counter tops, shelving, stair treads and cutto-size. Edges are filled and an edge coat applied, while shelving and treads are bullnosed. There is no laminating. “There are so many laminators out there,Mr Zollman declared.
The mill has streamlined its production and salaried force to 140 for its three-shift operation. Depending on orders, it runs five-day or seven-day weeks and is a union mill.
There is a high focus on employee involvement, especially in mill safety performance.
Mr Zollman said: “Production has to take second seat to keeping people safe. We ask employees to monitor other employees and encourage safe working practices. It changes morale when employees are part of the process. We want employees involved in everything we do and safety is most definitely the first priority. We value safety and we expect our employees to value safety as well,he emphasised.
“We’ll shut something down to fix it if there is any chance someone could get hurt. That’s where we’re following the lead of Tom Stephens, our new ceo. Employees are empowered to shut down equipment if they think there’s a potential for injury. Culture change hasn’t been a bad thing for any of us.”
The mill has standard operating procedures for all its operations, such as start-ups and shut-downs.