Sponsored by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association, this series features the winners of the 2012 Wooden Globe Awards. Here is Premier Hardwood Products Inc.'s story.Premier Hardwood Products' High-Tech Flooring Production




Premier Hardwood Products' High-Tech Flooring ProductionWhen basketballs hit the floor during home games at Syracuse University, they’re bouncing on a surface made by Premier Hardwood Products Inc. Since 1995 the Jamesville, NY-based company has been turning Northern and Appalachian hardwoods into high-quality flooring for residential, commercial and institutional clients, selling via distributors throughout the United States.

Its emphasis on quality led to a multimillion-dollar investment in an automated flooring mill, and won the Wooden Globe – Innovator of the Year honor award from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association during the 2012 Woodworking Industry Conference.

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 also gives Premier hard data on everything that happens to a piece of lumber during its progress through the line.

Created by Doucet in cooperation with Quebec-based EBI Electric and Industries PHL, the line “has a lot of sensors and cameras,” Brown says. “It reads everything. The data we can pull from that allows us to make better decisions on running the business.”

Fourth-generation Premier, headed by owner Jeff Booher, is a unit of vertically integrated B&B Lumber Co., which logs, saws, dries and turns timber into various products. Premier Hardwood offers flooring in American black cherry, red and white oak, white ash, hard maple, walnut and hickory.

Operation of the new flooring mill began a year ago. “We’re at the point of starting to recognize all the reasons for acquiring it,” Brown says. 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.”

Premier Hardwood Products' High-Tech Flooring ProductionAs a first phase of the project, Premier installed an automatic rip line; the flooring line is the second phase of 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 rejected and 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. “Once the wood hits the rip line, all we used to do by hand is done by machinery,” says Brown.

Premier Hardwood Products' High-Tech Flooring ProductionPremier Hardwood aims to improve yields on raw material by 6 to 10 percent, increase production capacity by 20 to 35 percent, and reduce labor costs 70 to 80 percent.   

After Premier made its needs known, Lee Chilson of WMIA Distributor member Hermance Machine Co., Williamsport, PA, challenged Doucet Machineries to devise a manufacturing solution.

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, other components include a Doucet Manyx two-axis vacuum destacker and a Doucet Iomus Swingsaw, which saves time by using an innovative crosscutting-in-motion technology. The saw cuts boards while in motion, eliminating time-consuming, stress-inducing sudden stops or accelerations, Doucet Machineries says. A Doucet GPS end matcher profiles the ends of the flooring boards.

The line’s automation makes Premier a pioneer, Brown says. “As far as I know, it’s the only setup like that.” See video and more information at wmia.org and woodworkingtechnology.com.

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