The ground was first broken here twenty months ago and reached its apex on the first Monday in July this year: the new Koskisen sawmill started operations, perfectly on schedule.
The morning of the start date, 3 July, began in the new sawmill building with the customary joint meeting. The agenda included a review of the day’s goals, the contact people in the event of various situations and agreed routines, which included synchronised break times. About thirty people, including both representatives from equipment manufacturers and Koskisen’s own employees, were present as the mill was being gradually ramped up.
– Everything happened as planned, and our own operators were in charge in the control room from the start. At the ramp-up phase, equipment manufacturers are often responsible for use of the machinery, but we wanted our own employees to learn how to run the production line themselves and be involved in tuning it from the start, the investment project’s Project Director Lassi Santala says.
Even though the day was important, there was no doubt that everything wouldn´t go as expected. Santala says that all the parties to the project had committed to the schedule and conformed to it to allow the start-up to proceed without problems.
Goal easily achieved
On the first day, only one log class was processed, from which sawn timber was sawed per customer orders. The goal was for 500 logs to pass through the mill’s infeed all the way to the sawn timber dimensional sorting compartments.
– Naturally, the line did not operate without any breaks. There were short breaks during ramping up, but the tuning and schedule were planned with brief stops in mind. That allows time for learning.
In total, 800 logs were sawn that Monday, as the original goal had been achieved well before the end of the shift.
However, achieving the one hundred per cent utilisation rate requires time and integrity. As the line was running, a range of factors was monitored, from the quality of the sawn timber and wood chips to safety. The 20 months of building work had passed without a single serious accident, a situation Koskisen was keen to preserve as the launch moment approached.
– Before the line began operating, all the equipment manufacturers signed a declaration that the safety areas under their responsibility were in order.
Towards full production rate in a controlled fashion
Santala says that common sense was the primary guideline when running the production line. For the first two weeks, the equipment manufacturers were given space to optimise the machinery, after which the pace was increased while monitoring the ramping up in accordance with the Koskisen budgeted sawmilling rates.
– The goal for the start of the autumn is a 60% utilisation rate, from which we will proceed to full utilisation. The advantage is that if delays occur, the old mill will be operating alongside the new one for as long as is needed. That means we can serve customers well, meeting the quality goals and on time for the duration.
Not only has project been in budget and on schedule: surprises have also been avoided. Santala admits there has been a lot of minor adjustments and fine tuning, but says that is part and parcel of the project.
– Every line is a unit of its own and has to be tested on site. Our sawmill is not based on an off-the-peg layout and even if it were, every machine and line would have different nuances regardless.
Following around four weeks of operations of the line, only spruce has been sawn. Santala believes that when the settings are right, the species of timber being sawn will not matter. Presently, the log scanners are being tuned in collaboration with the equipment manufacturer.
– Our operators specify what we want to produce from the log, and the equipment manufacturers adjust the machinery accordingly. Of course, it’s a two-way street, and we listen to their needs and what they would like to test.
Even though everything currently looks good, Santala says that he will breathe a sigh of relief only when a 100 per cent utilisation rate has been achieved.
– I’m not saying it doesn’t feel good now. It’s rewarding to see that a schedule drawn up over two years ago has been met to the day and that the goals have been met from the first push of a button.