When basketballs hit the floor during home games of Syracuse University, they’re bouncing on a surface made by Premier Hardwood Products, Inc.
It’s the same at the Canton, MA, international headquarters of athletics-footwear giant Reebok. The gleaming hardwood of the company’s basketball court there, plus other flooring at the site, is by Premier.
Since 1995 the Jamesville, NY-based company has been turning Northern and Appalachian hardwoods into just such high-quality flooring for residential, commercial and institutional clients. It sells via distributors throughout the U.S.
It’s this emphasis on quality that led to its recent multimillion-dollar investment in an automated flooring mill, a move that helped win it the Wooden Globe – Innovator of the Year honor awarded by the Wood Machinery Importers Association during the 2012 Woodworking Industry Conference.
Designed by WMIA member Doucet Machineries and firms EBI Electric and Industries PHL, this state-of-the-art flooring line gives Premier data on everything that happens to a piece of lumber in process.
The Doucet Advanced Manufacturing Solution designed by WMIA Manufacturer Member Doucet Machineries Inc. of Daveluyville, QUE, is expected not only to lead to increased production, says company President David Brown, it gives Premier hard data on everything that happens to a piece of lumber during its progress through the line.
The line, created by Doucet in cooperation with Quebec-based companies EBI Electric and Industries PHL, “has a lot of sensors and cameras,” he says. “It reads everything.”
“The data we can pull from that allows us to make better decisions on running the business,” he says.
Premier, a fourth-generation company, is headed by owner Jeff Booher and is a part of parent company B&B Lumber Co. of Jamesville. B&B is a vertically integrated company that logs, saws, dries, and turns timber into various products. Premier Hardwood customers have a choice of flooring in American black cherry, red oak, white ash, hard maple, white oak, walnut, and hickory.
Operation of the new flooring mill began about a year ago, and Brown says that now, “We’re at the point of starting to recognize all the reasons for acquiring it.”
It’s the meshing of all the components that makes the system so valuable to Premier, he says. “All the technology – being able to automatically grade within the line, have the line do all the work on defects – all the different components of the line are now working together.”
As a first phase of increased automation, Premier installed an automatic rip line earlier. The flooring line represents the second phase of the investment. Once the blanks exit the rip line, a vacuum lift on the flooring line picks them up to start them on the way to the Waco moulder. A defect will set off the line’s monitoring equipment, and the blank is not just rejected but automatically sent to another area for reworking.
“The whole system is designed to save lumber and the effort of doing reworking,” says Brown. “It allows you to get more done in the same period of time.”
Grading is done automatically, as is stacking of final product in shipment-ready units. Brown says that now, “Once the wood hits the rip line, all we used to do by hand is done by machinery.”
Though the company has always been a leader in embracing technology, the extent of the automation in the new line makes it something of a pioneer, Brown says. “As far as I know, it’s the only setup like that.”
Premier Hardwood’s goals in installing the line are to improve yields on raw material by 6 to 10 percent, increase production capacity by 20 to 35 percent, and reduce labor costs by 70 to 80 percent.
After the company made its needs known, Lee Chilson of WMIA Distributor Member Hermance Machine Co. of Williamsport, PA, challenged Doucet Machineries, a WMIA Manufacturer Member, to come up with a manufacturing solution to meet them.
EBI Electric developed all the systems for material screening, video applications, and integrated software, says Doucet Machineries Associate General Manager Pascal Doucet Industries PHL provided the high-speed automated nesting systems.
Besides the Waco moulder, some other components are a Doucet Manyx two-axis vacuum destacker and a Doucet Iomus Swingsaw, which saves time by using an innovative crosscutting-in-motion technology. A Doucet GPS end matcher profiles the ends of the flooring boards.
The saw cuts boards while in motion, eliminating time-consuming, stress-inducing sudden stops or accelerations, Doucet Machineries says. Traditional cutting action would have acted as a roadblock to the speed generated on the rest of the line.
Besides increasing production, Brown looks to every part of the new line to add to the company’s knowledge of its flooring operations.
“We’re now able to take that information and make better business decisions,” he says.
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