Capital project planning and reinvestments are a normal part of any given year at Hancock Lumber. Typically, each manufacturing facility will take on at least one major capital project, but for Team Hancock’s Casco sawmill 2021 is a year of six major reinvestments! General Manager, Mike Shane, is up for the challenge of managing these additional projects on top of normal business operations like the veteran industry leader he is, “In a normal year of capital projects, having one large one is enough—so, with six on the books it’s a very busy year,” said Casco GM, Mike Shane. “Our team is talented, prepared, organized, and ready to make this happen in 2021. The benefits that will result for our employees and customers will make this all worthwhile.”
Hancock’s first project, completed mid-summer, is the installation of a back pressure turbine that generates electricity. Based on pre-project analysis, the team estimates the turbine will produce approximately 2-million kWh/year of power, roughly 25% of the Casco facility’s annual usage. The system creates electricity from otherwise wasted steam to provide heat for the dry kilns where ‘green’ pine boards are dried for seven days. Therefore, the steam is used twice–once to generate power and a second time to heat the dry kilns, a process called cogeneration. This project is the second of its kind as Hancock’s Bethel facility installed a similar system in October of 2017.
A second major project going on-line simultaneously with the turbine is a new sawmill carriage. With the old machinery being over three decades old, it needed to be replaced. The same manufacturer as the old one, this new carriage has a lot more bells and whistles including onboard turners, a key new feature. “Currently, when we turn a log we have to come all the way back what we call ‘whole’ and we turn it with a bar turner. Onboard turners enable us to turn the log right on the carriage, improving our speed and efficiency. The goal is to gain lines per minute with this new carriage,” said sawmill maintenance manager Lloyd Martin.
The third of the major 2021 capital projects at Hancock’s Casco sawmill will improve the front end of the operation. Earlier this year a brand new Weinig six-head planer was manufactured in Germany to be installed this fall. Of all the projects underway this year, this new planer will have the biggest impact on the operation—from customers to employees and everything in between. This state-of-the-art planer is a pull-through system providing further efficiency and reliability. This project combined with the Comact Grade Expert installed in 2020 will allow pattern to be processed in a single pass. Customers will benefit from this upgrade because it will decrease lead times by nearly 50% on some product lines.
On top of these major projects, the team in Casco is working on a few others. From a safety and risk-management standpoint, a fire suppression system will be installed which includes a 150,000 gallon above-ground storage water tank on site. Another upgrade to the Casco campus will be a newly designed and constructed sawmill office building that is home to site managers for the mill, but also the marketing, sales, scheduling, and HR teams. This building will complement the new Home Office across the street and be an exciting upgrade. Finally, stay tuned in early 2022 to learn more about another major facility upgrade coming to Casco—customers won’t want to miss this announcement from Hancock Lumber!
“Team Hancock’s goals continue to be centered around continuous improvement—for our employees and customers,” commented Sawmill Division COO, Aaron Schulte. “Our Casco facility has an ambitious year of capital projects lined up, but we’ve never been more excited about a set of upgrades. From modern spaces for our employees, to technology and machinery upgrades that will provide a more efficient workflow and improved turnaround times, this is what is important to us. Things are changing because we listen to our employees and customers’ feedback—they have helped us build what we are today.”