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Use of advanced hardwood sawmill equipment, and desired features for next-generation systems

Informally Refereed
Authors: Scott Bowe, Robert Smith, Philip A. Araman, D. Earl Kline
Year: 2000
Type: Miscellaneous Publication
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Proceedings, 28th Annual Hardwood Symposium. 131-140.


The hardwood sawmill industry is extremely important to the U.S. economy. This importance is demonstrated by the yearly consumption of over 13 billion board feet (BBF) of hardwood lumber produced in the U.S. (Hansen &West 1998). This material is the foundation of many value-adding industries worth tens of billions of dollars (U.S. Census Bureau 1999).

Many segments of the forest products industry have seen significant technological leaps in manufacturing. Engineered wood products have developed new production technologies and have adapted to an underutilized as well as a changing raw material base. The softwood lumber industry has adopted scanning and optimizing technology to improve manufacturing. These new technologies and new products are instrumental in meeting the increasing demand for wood products.

The hardwood lumber industry has not followed this trend, however. The hardwood sawmill industry, as a whole, has not readily adopted advancements in sawmill technology. This leaves a great deal of room for improvement in the hardwood sawmill industry.

The demographics of the hardwood sawmill industry may in part drive this reluctance to adopt new technology. Despite the recent trend toward consolidation in the industry, a significant number of hardwood sawmills are small. Companies of this nature may not have the capital or the supporting market share to justify purchasing advanced technology equipment that can cost $500,000 to $600,000. However, a significant number of large- and medium-sized mills do exist, and are a potential market for hardwood sawmill technology. In addition, the existence of several manufacturers of commercial scanning and optimizing technology suggests that there is a market for this equipment; however, this market is not well developed. A small segment of hardwood sawmills have adopted advanced scanning and optimizing technology such as edger-optimizers and trimmer-optimizers. As the names suggest, these technologies are designed to optimize (or partially optimize) production.

Slow adoption of this technology may also stem from the lack of quality market information supporting scanning and optimizing technology. To promote this technology, information about the customer is needed. First, the differences between those companies that adopt this technology and those that do not are unknown. From a marketing perspective, these differences need to be identified to better define the market. Second, several manufacturers produce scanning and optimizing equipment yielding similar yet different benefits. The hardwood sawmill industry?s expectations from this technology must be understood. Third, the hardwood sawmill industry?s expectations of the next generation of technology must be understood.

This information will provide scientists and developers of this technology with needed information to assist in the development and adoption of scanning and optimizing technology. Far too often, technology is developed without a clear understanding of the customers? (sawmillers?) needs.


Bowe, Scott; Smith, Robert; Araman, Philip A.; Kline, D. Earl. 2000. Use of advanced hardwood sawmill equipment, and desired features for next-generation systems. Proceedings, 28th Annual Hardwood Symposium. 131-140.