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Automation Delivers Three Key Results  

Bryan Cone, Operations Manager Industrial Wood Products 

If anyone knows the challenges with meeting customer demands for remanufactured lumber, it is Industrial Wood Products. Their plants in Vicksburg, Mississippi and in central North Carolina saw, stack, band, and ship high-demand and custom-cut lumber for pallets, deck boards, timbers, and scaffold plank.  

Operations Manager Bryan Cone explains, “We run a lot of components typically out of low grade lumber. We have high volume of a high product mix.”  

One of the keys to their success is an efficient and environmentally safe workplace—and that takes innovation in operations and in automating their saw lines. “About eight years ago we looked at our labor costs and recognized that a big chunk of our employees were grading lumber, pulling defects and also stacking the packs to ship, says Cone. “We needed to find a way to reduce the manual labor on the back end and get more throughput out of our resaw line.”   

Working with Automated Industrial Technologies, the first project consisted of a line including an AIT TS 300 Board Stacker with stacking speeds up to 25 layers per minute to match the output of the AIT HY 400 Center Split Saw. “In a perfect world the HY 400 saw can out-perform the stacking speed of the TS 300, but due to our product mix and lumber defects, this set up helps us meet our demands with fewer operators. It has stood the test of time.”  

On the production line at the Vicksburg plant, IWP runs an AIT HY400 saw to AIT M2L stackers up to two shifts per day. One employee manages the board stacker from the machine controls and a shared forklift driver moves the finished stacks to be prepped for shipment. Cone explains, “We’re saving one person per line per shift because we used to have two people grading and stacking. It’s faster, more accurate, and safer. I’d estimate we have reduced our operating costs by about $50,000 per year for each line.” 

In recent years, IWP has added more M2L Board Stackers to optimize throughput on additional lines. “The M2L can pretty much handle the varied widths and lengths of our cuts and the smaller volume orders. It keeps us running at capacity and keeps the employees safe from injury and fatigue.”  

While most in the lumber processing industry have experienced labor issues, Cone says it was especially challenging during 2019-2022 during the pandemic. Wages went up substantially. “Our plants are in fairly rural areas and we are paying more than we ever have,” says Cone. It’s no secret that labor is a substantial part of operating costs and, when not managed, can slash profitability. IWP remained competitive by building a culture where their employees feel valued and appreciated. “Automating the repetitive tasks on the saw lines with the AIT board stackers proved to deliver three key results: improved our working environment, decreased turnover, and delivers predictable production per shift with very little machine maintenance.” 


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