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Bethel Mill Reinvestments Drive Customer and Employee Experiences

September 3, 2019 6:46 pm Comments Off on Bethel Mill Reinvestments Drive Customer and Employee Experiences

Earlier this year, Hancock Lumber completed the installation of a new automatic grade scanning system at the Bethel sawmill. General Manager, Aaron Schulte, and his crew completed the massive capital project in typical Hancock Lumber fashion—a true team effort—finishing on schedule, and producing better results than predicted, for both employees and customers.

After six months of pre-install preparation, Hancock’s Bethel sawmill was 100% auto grading boards in the planer mill the last week of April.  The Lucidyne grade scanner is an amazing piece of technology—in the blink of an eye, the grade scanner looks at all four sides of the board and determines the solution. Located in line behind the planer, boards enter the Lucidyne tunnel where several cameras, lights, and lasers work to take images of all four sides of each board. These slices are then put together into one piece and—using proprietary image processing and defect detection—the board is graded. The scanner appears to have unlimited time to see all four sides of the boards and make optimal grading decisions, which are based on the solutions Hancock inputs.

A digital screen displays a visual snapshot of the Lucidyne technology at work.

Down the line, standing at the back side of the grading deck, you can see the fluorescent grade markers projected down onto the pine boards. A more streamlined process for employees, graders previously would have had only three seconds to manually grade the board, flipping it to view all four sides, and then mark the decision on the board. Now, employees can focus on expanding the quality control program and being more proactive finding improvement opportunities. When employees find these opportunities, sample boards are collected, ID numbers recorded, and the team sends the files off to echnicians where they work their magic updating the software. This fine tuning happens almost every day. It is lean, visual, and impressive to watch.

Lucidyne Grade Scanning Project Timeline:

  • 4/8 initial installation during planned 4-day shut down
  • 4/12 up and running, testing programming and controls
  • 4/29 running 100% with auto-grading technology
Online, a single grader views the screen while check grading against the projected marks—a very visual, real-time and improved process.

Tony Pitts, Account Manager for US Lumber, brought his customer from Georgia about a month after the auto-grading technology was up and running. Aaron Schulte toured the first customers around the mill, explaining the new grading system, technology and impact on their business. The customer of the month tour concluded with lunch alongside the entire Bethel crew, discussing their business, products, and appreciate for the long-standing partnership.

After touring the mill and visiting with the Bethel team, Tony shared his perspective on the project, “Strong partnerships like the one US Lumber has with Hancock Lumber create opportunities for exclusivity and proprietary product development—brand reputation means everything. The new auto grade scanning technology will improve consistency in quality, which helps US Lumber sell Hancock’s products with confidence in our markets.”

Our sales and operations teams are constantly working together to meet customer needs. With this new technology, the mill can run simulations and test the solutions prior to running boards through the scanner.

Grade-VU technology projects a series of markings on each board indicating grade, length and piece number.

Since the installation, feedback has been so positive. Moulder supervisor, Roland Jacques, has already seen drastic improvements in his team’s work flow and process efficiencies, resulting in improved product quality for customers. There is dramatically less down grade in the boards being sent to moulder to become pattern products, resulting in better quality wood getting patterned and less rework with second pass manufacturing.  He commented, “From an employee engagement view, it’s truly made everybody’s life more pleasurable. Not only that, our customers have seen immediate benefits. It’s a win-win all around.

Moulder supervisor, Roland Jacques, all smiles since the Lucidyne auto grade scanner installation commenting, ‘From an employee engagement view, it’s truly made everybody’s life more pleasurable. Not only that, our customers have seen immediate benefits. It’s a win-win all around.’

Thank you to our talented team coming together and phenomenally executing a complex project that will benefit customers and employees in the years to come. From our finished products manager taking the lead organizing the mechanical and electrical components, to our master electrician prepping the facility with no re-work required at end, and our mechanical engineer getting the site ready for the new system—everything was in order and ready for the Lucidyne team the day they arrived on site.

With the Lucidyne technology running, our customers are getting a more consistent product and the percentage of 16’ lumber has increased,” said Sawmill Division COO, Kevin Hynes. “Our graders are now working in quality control positions and are really excited about their change in roles. Every day our graders go through lumber looking for opportunities to improve the products going to our customers.

Instagram post

Company President + CEO, Kevin Hancock, recently toured the facility and commented on the Lucidyne grade scanner artificial intelligence technology, “We used to say that the lumber business was not ‘rocket science’, but today it’s getting close!”


For an even closer look, watch our video interview with Bethel General Manager, Aaron Shulte, by clicking the video player box below:

Aaron Interview

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This post was written by ssczurko

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