By Chase Warner, Wood-Mizer Contributing Author
In less than three months after taking ownership of the family sawmill business, 3rd generation owner Mike Junk and brother-in-law Shawn Fowler made a big change in order to get big results out of their grade lumber operation. By installing a Wood-Mizer WM4000 industrial headrig to replace their old circular sawmill, Mike and Shawn increased efficiency, yield, and profits for their business.
Sawing hardwoods to produce grade lumber for moulding, caskets, veneer, stair treads, flooring, cross ties and pallet cants, the Pennsylvania based company used a circular sawmill as the center of their operation for more than 70 years. By using old technology and inefficient production methods, Honey Grove Hardwoods was struggling to keep up with competitive timber prices and increasing industry demand.
With more than two decades of experience in the lumber business, Mike noticed a shifting trend in the competitive industry. “For many years, the lumber business has been based solely on production. This is no longer the case,” he said. “The industry is changing from ‘how much you produce’ to ‘how much profit you can make’.” To keep up with the evolving lumber industry, Mike and Shawn came to the conclusion that their circular saw with conventional wide-kerf blades had reached the end of the line. “We realized we were running outdated equipment when we weren’t getting the footage and grade yields that we thought we could get with thin-kerf technology,” Shawn said.
Looking to learn more about thin-kerf, Mike and Shawn traveled to Wood-Mizer headquarters located in Indianapolis, where they witnessed the WM4000 industrial headrig in action. “After seeing the WM4000, we realized the potential production and yield increase advantage over the circular mill we were currently using,” Mike said. Seeing proof that a narrow band, thin-kerf blade sawmill could produce less waste, more product and use less energy to saw, Mike and Shawn decided to move forward with their operation and installed a complete Wood-Mizer system including a WM4000 headrig, Log Deck, Three-Way Conveyor, Green Chain, and EG400 Edger.
Mike and Shawn admitted to working through a learning curve with the new equipment. “We were used to operating with a log carriage instead of the log placed directly on the bed of the headrig, so we had to learn how to use the controls and setworks of the WM4000,” Shawn said. “We also had to learn the correct adjustments and mill alignments in order to keep the band finely tuned in order to produce accurate lumber. I’d like to give Wood-Mizer a special thanks for their customer support and helping to educate us on these issues,” he said.
Mike says the WM4000 is the all-in-one primary breakdown and resaw for their operation. Compared to their old circular sawmill operation, Mike said their yield has improved greatly with Wood-Mizer equipment. “The much greater yields of the thin-kerf and the accuracy of the setworks are second to none and has positioned us to be very competitive on a daily basis,” he said. Being able to produce more product from fewer logs also cuts down on transportation costs and increases the profit per log. “We are getting the same amount of lumber while using 25% less timber and raw materials, which in turn, reduces transportation costs across the board,” Mike said.“We saw every log from start to finish on the headrig in order for the sawyer to get the most value out of each log,” he said.
Although Honey Grove Hardwoods basically produces the same products as with the old circular sawmill, Mike says that they have reevaluated what is cut out of each log with the huge savings coming from thin-kerf Wood-Mizer DoubleHard blades. “The larger kerf of the circle mill was causing us to purchase so much more raw material,” he said. “We were just turning more dollars and sawing logs faster, but not getting the yield returns we wanted on the lumber. Although our system looked productive, it wasn’t profitable.”
With their new Wood-Mizer system, Honey Grove is sawing 10,000 board feet of lumber every day. “Wood-Mizer has been great,” Mike said. “I must say, the concepts from a traditional mill to their industrial mill style are some of the most ingenious ideas. I have come to realize you can do more with less.” By utilizing the Wood-Mizer industrial system and thin-kerf technology, Mike and Shawn have positioned Honey Grove Hardwoods, LLC for success in the lumber industry for generations to come. “The WM4000 put us right back up to the competitive edge on utilizing and maximizing yields for our business,” Mike said.
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