A rip scanning and optimizing rip system using pre-crosscut 29-inch and 84-inch material helped Batesville Casket Co. reduce labor while boosting yield and cutting scrap.

The new line, called a Straight Line Replacement system, replaced seven in-line rip saws at Batesville’s Vicksburg, Miss., operation, where solid wood dimension stock and glued-up panels are made for caskets. Previously, each ripsaw cut for only a couple of parts because it was unfeasible to process the entire cutlist at one time. The new machines allow Batesville to run as many special-sized parts as they have room to sort.

The new lines also allow the Hillenbrand Inc. subsidiary to run more volume per shift with far less labor. The Batesville location has seen yield increases along with reductions in product scrap of about 4 percent. It takes eight fewer persons per shift to run the line. The new line can run up to 45,000 bf per shift.

The Vicksburg plant employs about 200 people and uses North American hardwoods for casket construction, including cottonwood, maple, oak and pecan, as well as mahogany lumber. The 198,000-square foot operation includes an 86,000-square foot manufacturing plant and an 81,000-square foot drying operation.

Scanner transport 

When the boards arrive at the scanner transport they have already been end trimmed by a saw at the previous operation, explains Keith Pittman, engineering manager for Batesville Casket Co.’s, Vicksburg Operations.

“The operator places the board on the scanner transport, and it passes through the scanner,” he says. “The scanner optimizes a cut decision based on our programmed cutlist and the values of the desired parts while the board is being even-ended and transferred to the sequence deck. Once the board reaches the printer on the sequence deck, part codes are printed on the board in what will become the center of the part once ripped.”

The board is then transferred to the servo fence and through the saw where it will be ripped by anywhere from two to seven blades simultaneously. The now-separated parts drop onto a sort belt where the parts are sorted and the edgings fall to the scrap belt.

Product flow 

In a cut-first configuration, boards come off the tipple, through a Newman Whitney rough planer, to a crosscut saw where they are trimmed and then put through a length sorting conveyor. When the boards come out of the conveyor they are dropped onto a belt that feeds the scanners.

“The operator then places the boards on the scanner transport,” Pittman explains. “The board is scanned, even-ended and printed with a product code before it is ripped according to the solution from the scanner. The parts then come out of the saw and fall onto a sorting conveyor where our associates sort, inspect, and package the parts for the next operation. There is much less manual handling than with an in-line rip saw.”

In a rip-first configuration, boards come off the tipple, through a Newman Whitney rough planer, to a Paul saw skewing station where the board is measured for width and then shuttled to the correct position to be gang ripped to specific width for full optimization.

“The wood then is transferred to the scanner transport station to be processed through the WoodEye scanner,” Pittman says. “After the board is scanned, according to the solution from the scanner, the board is then chopped with a Paul optimizing chop saw. The parts then come out of the saw and fall onto a sorting conveyor where our associates sort, inspect, and package the parts for the next operation. There is much less manual handling than with a manual chop saw.”

System components 

Pittman says that components of the system are: scanner transports, WoodEye rip scanners, even-ending sweep, sequence deck with print station, servo infeed fence, Raimann KR-610 saws, and the sort belt conveyor. All equipment except the scanners was purchased from Weinig.

The line was designed with input from both Weinig and a Batesville project team. “The Batesville, Weinig, and WoodEye teams had interaction throughout the design and testing process,” Pittman says.

“In addition to multiple conference calls and many emails, we had on-site visits with the teams in Vicksburg and Weinig’s headquarters in Mooresville, N.C. Several weeks before installation, we had training sessions in Atlanta and a testing/run-off week in Hickory, N.C.”

Other equipment in Vicksburg includes a lumber stacker, dry kilns, WoodEye crosscut scanner, Paul Model 11 crosscut saw, continuous flow glue machine, multiple Newman Whitney planers and radio frequency glue machines.

Batesville operates three WoodEye scanners, including two WoodEye rips and one cross cut. Most of the cut decisions in the plant are made by these machines. “They are the brains behind our cutting strategy and vital to our rough mill operations,” Pittman says.

Also, Batesville is using Super Thin Saws blades on the manual ripsaws. “Thin-kerf blades of .110 were used in the beginning of the optimization project on the Raimann saws, but we found that thicker kerf blades were needed to increase the stability of the saws with the Raimann hanger design.”

Over the last five years the rip-first line in Vicksburg has been upgraded with scanner technology. Pittman says that other new processes to improve yield has been identified and implemented.

“In the short term, we plan to utilize data from tests on these machines to adjust our hardwood grade/length purchasing habits in order to lower our overall costs,” he says.

Diagram: This is the layout of the optimizing ripsaw line at Batesville Casket’s operation in Vicksburg, Miss.

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