Sims Forest Products Changes Plans, Seeks Right Product Mix With Cooper Machines


4/13/2018 2:10:42 PM

Log/pole Merchandising Saw

Sims Forest Products: Southern sawmill shifts focus from low-grade hardwoods to sawing pine, installs new equipment. Operates equipment from some of the biggest names in sawmill and resawing sector, including Cooper Machine.

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 4/2/2018

Sims Forest Products
Southern sawmill shifts focus from low-grade hardwoods to sawing pine, installs new equipment. Operates equipment from some of the biggest names in sawmill and resawing sector, including Cooper Machine.

TUSCUMBIA, Alabama — When Sims Forest Products started up a new sawmill in 2015, it was all set up to cut low-grade hardwood logs into pallet components and other industrial lumber products. About a year later, however, the company transitioned to sawing pine for the same markets and also added some new products for other markets.

A key partner in launching this mill has been Cooper Machine, which manufactures a wide range of sawmill machinery. Cooper supplied the Tuscumbia mill with two new machine centers, including a Cooper log merchandising and sorting system in the log yard and a Cooper auto edger.

Sims Forest Products operates several manufacturing facilities and has two sawmills operating in Alabama. The company specializes in cutting industrial lumber products.

The company’s pine sawmill is located in Tuscumbia in northwest Alabama, adjacent to Muscle Shoals, where Sims Forest Products has its corporate headquarters.



Changing the Mill Focus

Last year, Sims management transitioned the facility to pine as low-grade hardwood logs became increasingly difficult to obtain. Pine is much more abundant and has made it easier to keep the mill supplied with logs, and many pallet manufacturers have been moving their customers to pallets made of softwood lumber.

During this plant evolution, Sims added some new equipment, including a second scragg mill — a Baker Products system — to increase production. The company’s operations are equipped with other well-known names of pallet and sawmill machinery manufacturers.

The Tuscumbia plant is comprised of four buildings with a combined 30,000 square feet. Forty employees produce 1.4 million board feet of finished lumber products per month. Cutting all low-grade pine logs, the mill manufactures pallet parts, fence pickets, and it also has operations to produce fence posts, a new product line. About 50% of the mill’s production is pallet components, 25% fence pickets, and 25% fence posts.

The mill can cut “whatever a customer wants” for pallet stock, said assistant mill manager Jeff Lindsey, from 7/16-inch deck boards to 3-inch stringers with lengths ranging from 36 to 72 inches. Most stringers coming out of the plant already are notched for four-way pallets.

The mill, which began operating in 2014, transitioned to pine as low-grade hardwood logs became increasingly difficult to obtain. Sims Forest Products has pallet manufacturing customers in such states as Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.



Exploring the Mill Process

The mill buys tree-length pine logs down to a 4-8-inch top. The company gets most of its logs locally, but it buys from contractors up to 200 miles away, which includes southern Tennessee and Mississippi. In the log yard, a knuckleboom loader unloads and stacks incoming logs. A front-end loader is used to feed logs to either scragg mill.

For fence post production, the logs are fed first to a Cooper merchandising system that was added last year. It bucks the logs to lengths of 6, 7, or 8 feet. Logs continue along a trough and are automatically kicked out into bins according to length and diameter and then can be picked up and staged at the pole operations.

The Baker Products scragg mill, acquired used and added in early 2017, is a sharp chain system and runs two 48-inch circle saws to remove two sides of the log. The two-sided cant then is turned on its side 90 degrees.

The two-sided cant then goes to another Cooper addition, a 6-inch, two-saw auto edger. The Cooper machine, with automated infeed, replaced an older edger that required a worker to manually feed it material. The Cooper auto edger centers the cant, and two saws are adjusted automatically and remove the remaining sides to produce a four-sided cant.

The Cooper auto edger has been a good addition to the mill, noted Jeff. “It has worked out well,” he said.

The other production line, in place when the mill first began operating, starts with a Big Jake scragg system originally built by Timberland Machinery, which later was acquired by Brewco. It is a four-saw system with sharp chain infeed that processes the log into a four-sided cant. After twin circular saw blades remove the first two sides, the log continues along to a set of rollers and is turned on its side 90 degrees. The two-sided cant is clamped, measured and centered for the next two saws and exits the machine as a four-sided cant.

Cants produced by both scragg mills are conveyed the length of the building to a cant dumper, then stacked with a forklift, banded, and put in storage until they will be resawn.

The mill relies entirely on gang saws for resawing the pine cants. They are housed in the other mill building and put on a deck feeding to a Timberland double-end trimmer before being resawn.

The company has three gang saws and is in the process of adding a fourth. It has a Brewer, a Brewco, and a Quality Machine, and it will be adding a second Brewer. All the machines have been purchased used — except for the Brewco — and rebuilt by the Sims maintenance staff. The additional Brewer will be a used machine that is being refurbished.

Each gang saw has a planer head sizer on the front to trim the top of the cant down to the correct height. Of the three gang saws, one normally is set up to cut stringers and one for fence pickets. The third machine usually cuts deck boards or other material.

Material exiting the gang saws is graded by a couple of workers and fed to one of four stackers, two AIT lumber stackers and two Timberland Machinery stackers.

The company has a Timberland Machinery double-head notching machine for notching stringers and is getting ready to add a second machine, a West Plains two-head notcher. Profile Technology cutting tools are used for the notching heads.



Fencing Operations & Other Markets

Sims Forest Products is equipped with a Holtec package saw that is mainly used to cut material to length that is manufactured into fence posts. It also may be used to cut cants to length if needed.

The pole operations, contained in a shed, produce 6- and 8- foot fence posts that are perfectly round, without any taper.

The mill has one customer for whom it makes a small quantity of pallets; they’re assembled by hand with pneumatic nailing tools.

All slabs from the Cooper auto edger and the Big Jake scragg system are routed to a Montgomery hog grinder along with other scrap material. The grindings and sawdust are supplied to the nearby affiliated parent company and is processed into mulch.

Most stringers are 48 inches long by 1-1/4x3-½, and nearly all of them are notched before leaving the plant. The company cuts some custom dunnage, too. It also is equipped to cut banding grooves and supplies some grooved dunnage, but most of it is done for its own shipments of fence pickets.

Fencing is sold to markets in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Kentucky, and most of it ends up being treated before eventual sale to building contractors and homeowners.

The mill relies on two suppliers for saw blades and service, a local company, Miner Saw, and also Superior Saw Service in Tennessee.

Sims Forest Products is a family business, and the owners treat their employees like family, according to Jeff. “We try to get as many local people as possible. We try to help our community around here grow.”



Growing with Cooper Equipment

Although the cut-up system and auto edger are the first two Cooper machines at the Tuscumbia mill, Sims Forest Products has been no stranger when it comes to turning to the machinery manufacturer for equipment. Cooper has supplied machine centers to the company’s other Alabama mill, including an overhead scragg, a MIT 4-inch vertical band head rig, and a 3-inch edger.

Cooper Machine, in Wadley, Georgia, manufactures a wide range of machinery and equipment for the sawmill industry and also is a distributor of some lines of sawmill machinery.

For more information, visit www.coopermachine.com or call (478) 252-5885.



For more information about this article please contact: Frances Cooper Byrd Website 478-252-5885


Log/pole sorting system

Log/pole sorting system
 

Phone: 478-252-5885

Cooper Machine Company, Inc.

A leader in custom sawmill machinery, Cooper Machine utilizes proven technology with the latest innovations to design and manufacture quality sawmill equipment. Cooper Machine is best known for our Scraggs, but we also offer a full line of sawmill equipment including Edgers (with or without optimization), Merchandising Systems, Sorting Systems, MIT Resaws and Carriages, Cooperage Equipment and Prodesa Pellet Mills.
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