Using Flow Simulation as a Decision Tool for Improvements in Sawmill Productivity
We developed a sawmill flow simulation model to identify production bottlenecks and determine where productivity improvements could be made. Sawmills often invest in a new machine center and then find out that the processing bottleneck just moves somewhere else. Our approach was specifically designed to investigate the effects of such changes on the entire system. We determined that the trimmer was the system bottleneck when both the small log and large log lines were running concomitantly. Under base case conditions, the model predicted an average board output of 13,147 boards. An increase in the processing capability of the trimmer resulted in a shift of the bottleneck from the small log line to the large log line (at the edger). This bottleneck shift was further investigated and, by allowing the simulation model to manipulate machine settings for the trimmer and edger, it was able to maximize the modeled average board output to 17,996 boards per shift (when edger set up times were not considered) and 16,708 boards per shift (with edger setup times included). These findings were presented to the sawmill management and subsequently implemented as specific improvements at the trimmer machine center, which in turn resulted in an actual increase of 10% in their sawmill s lumber volume output.