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Spotlight on Employee Led Innovations

December 20, 2019 11:38 am Comments Off on Spotlight on Employee Led Innovations

Touring around the company, it’s so exciting to witness real-time, employee-led ideas and innovations being implemented every day. Whether a small change or a large scale project, each one truly makes a difference in the daily workflow of our employees, making it easier to do the work and creating a better overall experience. Here are a few recent examples captured on a trip to the Ryefield sawmill in Casco that we wanted to share with you.


CASCO SAWMILL | Parts Room Innovations

Parts room innovations from new organization and labeling to inventory management systems
Marty Martin and Joel Leach from the Ryefield Maintenance Team stand before the upgraded and easy-to-use parts room.

“The whole idea around the parts room upgrades came from collaborating with the 12 people on our maintenance and mechanic teams who use this space all the time. We worked together and listened to their input on how we could improve the workflow and organization to make it a more user-friendly experience. We tried to make this parts room theirs.” – Marty Martin, Maintenance Team

This project was a team effort that truly benefits the entire maintenance team. Steve Swanson built the custom shelving to organize, by specific tool types and sizes, the parts needed to run the entire sawmill. Feedback from the team in advance was key in streamlining and organizing the space. High use items in the “grab and go” section, as well as a clear and informative labeling system, are key elements to this project. The team’s next step in the project will be to leverage technology and automate their inventory management system, with scannable codes and established re-ordering guidelines with min/maxes.


CASCO SAWMILL | Auto Stacker Station

New auto stacker improves employee experience
Employee experience dramatically improves with automated upgrade and new heating systems

Our team has benefited in many ways from the upgrades in the stacker room—with the installation of the auto stacker and three heaters, we went from a very manual process with lots of bending, twisting, picking up and moving stickers, to a more ergonomically friendly, relaxed, warm environment. The working conditions are much safer and comfortable, less physically demanding, and climate-controlled. Plus, anyone can come in and do this job now!” – Cliff McConkey, Sawmill Supervisor

While the auto stacker investment dramatically speeds up the process (saving on average 2 minutes per unit of lumber in the stacker!), the most valuable part affects our employees working in that space. The position is now much more ergonomically friendly, relieving much of the physical demands that previously existed. Now, any employee can work this station as part of their daily rotation. Another major upgrade through this innovations’ investment is the addition of three heaters, creating a more comfortable, climate-controlled work area.


CASCO SAWMILL | Boiler Room Innovations

Jeff Arn featured at the boiler alarm interface with new 2-way radio innovations
Jeff Arn featured at the boiler alarm interface with new 2-way radio integration

“The boiler alarm system came to life after I toured Bethel and saw an older system in place. Instead of having to constantly check on the outdated alarm system in person, now, any boiler operator will be communicated to on their two-way radio if a boiler alarm is triggered. This is all about making it easier on our boiler operators and night/weekend operators to monitor this critical system. There is a peace of mind on the reliability—we can be anywhere on campus doing a job without having to constantly check in-person on the alarm system. It’s saved us a tremendous amount of time and improved our productivity.” – Jeff Arn, Boiler Operator

Casco Sawmill General Manager Mike Shane was quick to see the potential in Jeff when he joined the team three years ago after relocating to Maine. Jeff was new to the industry, but picked it up quickly and connected with Mike on an opportunity to train as a boiler operator, and study electrical engineering technologies at SMCC. After touring the Bethel mill, Jeff was inspired to create an alarm system to help the boiler operators in Casco be better connected to the critical alarm system. With a sprawling campus and other jobs to be done while working, Jeff used his skills in electrical work and ingenuity to create an automated alarm system that communicates through the team’s 2-way radio. This innovation in automation eliminated operators having to check the alarm system, in-person, every 15-20 minutes. Jeff didn’t stop there. During this project, he also took the opportunity to freshen up the labeling system to help easily ID sources on breakers and panels, and rebuilt and outdated electrical panel. These efficiency gains and innovations make the boiler operators’ jobs easier, more efficient, and creates a safer environment all around.

Aerial view of the Casco Sawmill, innovations since 1848
Aerial view of our Casco campus including the Ryefield Sawmill, new Home Office, lumberyard, and timberlands Hancock owns + manages
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This post was written by Kourtney McLean

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