Pyramid moving forward with big changes
May 23, 2019
SEELEY LAKE - Pyramid Mountain Lumber gave a brief update on the market and plant improvements at Pyramid’s Contract logger/Landowner/Log seller meeting May 3 in Seeley Lake.
Pyramid’s Chief Operations Officer Loren Rose provided some comparisons of the random length framing lumber composite prices. In 2009 the yearly average was $222, the lowest since 1996. He said the prices have increased nearly 60 percent in the last 10 years with 2019’s average currently at $356. While some would think the mill is doing very well with such an increase, Rose pointed out that $356 is only up $2 from 1998’s average. That increase doesn’t quite cover the cost of inflation in the last 21 years.
“It is an extremely volatile business,” said Rose. “I predict mills are going to become more sensitive to prices, log quality and be more nimble by adjusting operations quickly as things change.”
With the closure of two mills in Canada, Rose said 120 million feet of timber will be out of the mix. That equates to two and half years of production for Pyramid.
“We hope that will breathe a little life into the market,” said Rose.
With 2018-2019 being a perfect winter for logging, Pyramid’s log inventory at the end of March was nearly 10 million board feet. Rose said in the last 20 years, there have only been three years with more logs in the yard and all three of those years the mill was running 50 hour weeks, compared to 40 hours a week now.
“We are not using as many logs, we have an overabundance of logs and we are committed to a lot of salvage logs,” said Rose highlighting some of the current challenges.
Rose said Pyramid is excited to announce they will be installing an automatic lumber grader in October. Currently there are nine graders that manually grade every board. Now that will be done electronically with a few graders retained to run the new system. Rose said the new machine will make their grade line more consistent, improve recovery and increase production.
“It’s like the best grader, on his best day, all day, every day,” said Rose. “Our intention with the automatic grader is not to lay anyone off. We will fill some holes with the people that will be displaced.”
They will install a moisture sensor after the planer and are looking at automatic sorting trays on the dry end at the planer – the most labor intensive spot in the mill. Workers currently on the dry chain will be trained to move to the sawmill.
Rose said the ultimate goal through the automations is to be able to reduce the planer from 60 hours a week to 40 hours per week and keep up with the mill running 40 hours a week.