Canfor is driving performance improvements through innovation across all of our operations.
Our Grande Prairie, AB, sawmill was the first to test a new saw guide design developed by not-for-profit FPInnovations that is expected to extend the life of a saw and improve mill efficiency. Following the successful trial, some of our other Canadian mills, including Polar, Plateau and Isle Pierre, began plans to test the new design.
Our Thomasville, GA, sawmill installed new optimizers and a new trimline in June so it could extract more value from its fibre. While we have used similar technology at our Conway, SC, mill since 2016, Thomasville was the first operation to use it in a closed-loop system – on both the edger and trimmer – to achieve even greater benefits. It exceeded expectations by increasing the high-grade output to more than 30% from 22% to 24%, with less than 10% low-grade output. There are plans to install the technology at most of our southern US mills.
In 2017, our Wood Residue Working Group continued to work on sustainable solutions to historical and ongoing accumulations of woody debris at our sawmill sites. Five sawmills made substantial progress in processing and utilizing accumulated materials.
We used high-capacity log yard debris and screening systems at our Prince George and Houston sawmills in 2017 to separate debris into useable bark, rock and mineral matter and fines products so we could reduce landfill quantities. Our Chetwynd and Vavenby mills reclaimed historical piles of dirt-contaminated sawdust and wood residuals to create energy. At Radium, we processed more than 40,000 cubic metres of historical residual accumulations, using a shredder, grinder and separation system to generate usable hog fuel and separate the metal from the woody debris.
We sponsored nine Canadian and US university students so they could attend the Schweighofer Prize ceremony in Vienna. The biennial event awards innovative ideas, technologies, products and services that make a significant impact to the forestry sector. As was the case in 2015, we also sponsored an innovation workshop for the students and others from across Europe.
In October, a small group of our executives and board members toured the Holzindustrie Schweighofer sawmill in Radauti, Romania, to learn about new technology that maximizes the value extracted from fibre. They also went to Sweden and Austria to learn more about how lumber is being used in applications beyond core commodity products.
We are investing more on LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to acquire more precise and reliable information about the forests we manage. LiDAR is an active remote sensing technology that can be used to provide information about tree stand attributes such as height and volume. We have been using this game-changing technology in hard-to-reach areas of British Columbia and Alberta for more than a decade, and are expanding its use to analyze information down to the individual tree level. It changes the way we do business by reducing costs of fieldwork, harvesting and roadbuilding while improving our environmental assessment process and the ability to better predict profile of products to our customers.