Swanson Group Stays on Tech Edge with Moisture Management Systems

Written by Wagner Meters, published first by Timberline (November 2014 issue)

Written by Wagner Meters, published first by Timberline (November 2014 issue)

Using Wagner Meters’ In-line Moisture Measurement Systems, Swanson Group Improves Yields while Maintaining Quality

A company with over 60 years of operating experience learns a few things along the way. Swanson Group is one such company. Founded in 1951, Swanson Group has stayed competitive through a strategic combination of grounding values and technological innovation. Indeed, its values of accountability, excellence, and commitment have been key in the forging of its long-standing relationship with Wagner Meters as its provider of moisture measurement systems.

From the earliest days in its history, Swanson Group has been staying ahead of the technology curve. By the 1960s, the U.S. government was encouraging sawmills to reconfigure their systems and operations in order to process the smaller logs of second growth timber. Seeing the opportunity, Swanson Group didn’t hesitate to improve its operational systems and incorporate small log technology – making it one of the first companies in Oregon to do so.

Over the next few decades, the company continued to grow and expand, both through acquisition and incorporating more technological advances. As part of this process, Swanson Group entered the new arena of aerial logging in the 1990s when it purchased Superior Helicopter. Swanson Group also spent these decades deepening its partnership with Wagner Meters to stay at the forefront of all the advances in moisture content management.

Staying Ahead with Top Line Moisture Measurement Systems

Wagner Meters' Moisture Measurement SystemWagner Meters has been a valued vendor at the Swanson Group stud mill since 2001. For more than 20 years, Swanson Group has been using Wagner Meters’ moisture measurement systems to improve the quality of its lumber, improve yields, and operate more effectively and efficiently. Where wood moisture used to present a high level of risk for mold, low grades, and operational inefficiencies, new moisture measurement technology, like that provided by Wagner Meters, gives sawmills the control and information needed to reduce all these risks.

The set-up at Swanson Group Manufacturing in Roseburg, Oregon measures moisture both before and after the planer. Measurement occurs on the rough lumber with a sideways system pre-planer and post-planer, and an additional four-sensor system measures the moisture. The company also uses hand meters on the rough lumber post-planer to confirm moisture content changes. All these measurements, along with relevant data about the batch, are automatically fed into the Wagner Meters integrated software. This allows the quality control department to actively evaluate data and processes with supervisors to ensure their sawmills are providing the best product in an efficient manner.

Bryan Vigue, Dry End Superintendent at Swanson Group Manufacturing, explains, “Our goal is to always increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our operation. Using moisture meters helps us track and control our output. The technology makes this portion of the job much easier.”

This approach not only supports the company’s value of excellence as continuous improvement, but the sophistication of Wagner Meters’ reporting and analysis capabilities also allows the company to live its value of accountability. Vigue reports that one of Swanson Group’s goals is to identify boards that are too wet before they go through the planer. Measuring moisture prior to the planer has reduced the volume of boards they have to re-run or reject. He notes that only three to five percent of their boards need to be re-dried.

Using the Wagner Meters moisture measurement system, Swanson Group has also been able to verify that the anti-stain treatment chemical sprayed on the boards as they move through the planer doesn’t affect the actual moisture content of the boards. Unlike moisture meters that only measure surface moisture, the Wagner Meters moisture content readers are able to provide accurate moisture measurements regardless of temporary changes to the board’s surface. This accuracy helps Swanson Group avoid delays due to erroneously-reported elevated moisture concerns.

Another advantage of the company’s approach to moisture management is improved grade inspections, which brings higher batch yields and increased revenue.

The Value of a Strong Partnership

Swanson Lumber MillThe 25-plus years that Swanson Group has partnered with Wagner Meters is a testament to another one of the company’s values – a commitment to building strong relationships with its business partners. Vigue points to Wagner Meters’ “great customer service” as one reason for the lasting relationship between the two companies. He explains that not only does Wagner Meters “get right on it when it comes to answering questions or addressing concerns, but they also call to check in on us to see if we need anything or if they can offer any help.”

For example, in one instance when Swanson Group had to replace the pads in the wood moisture measurement sensors, Wagner Meter representatives came out to the sawmill and identified an issue with Swanson’s pad set-up that was causing electrical problems. In addition to replacing the pads, Wagner Meters reconfigured the system to eliminate the problem, all while keeping operations running smoothly. Vigue explains that Swanson Group understands what a critical investment their high quality equipment is, which is why the team cleans and calibrates it daily. Since Wagner Meters shares the same serious and thorough approach to maintaining and using technology and equipment properly, working with them all these years has been easy for Swanson.

The role of moisture management in producing quality lumber in an efficient manner can’t be overstated. Misreadings in moisture content can lead to delays, low yields, and poor grade inspections. Swanson Group considers its monitoring of moisture measurements with the Wagner Meters’ moisture management system to be such an integral part of its sawmills’ success, that it’s a responsibility reserved for those employees who have a track record of displaying Swanson Group’s values of accountability and excellence.

Learn more about wood moisture measurement solutions at www.wagnermeters.com/forestproducts/ or by calling (800) 634-9961.

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Larry Loffer

Larry Loffer is a senior technician at Wagner Meters, where he has over 30 years of experience in wood moisture measurement. With a degree in Computer Systems, Larry is involved in both hardware and software development of wood moisture measurement solutions.

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