Idaho Forest Group Mill

Grangeville, Idaho, March 23 – Jenny was there visiting a perspective client, but who cares about that when it includes a tour of a state-of-the-art lumber mill. There were meetings, dining, charts, discussions… but did I mention the tour?


The tour begins with safety. We’re assured that the bright green vests aren’t for use in target practice by Shannon, the mill manager. Shannon is unique to this mans’ industry in several ways. In short, she’s a gracious manager who cares about her crew as much as the company. Both of which share her with her family. And thankfully, having earned the respect of her team, she doesn’t need to assert foul language, or a gruff masculine attitude to get the job done.


Everything here is big. For perspective, our new friend Dennis, stands next to the “giant tree grabber machine” (technical term). This machine lifts a full truck load of trees in one scoop.

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It then drops them onto a giant conveyor as the trees begin their journey.


While the logs weigh hundreds of pounds, they’re handled by machines that toss them around like toothpicks.


It can’t be stressed enough how there is a fine balance between man and machine. While machines do a lot of handling and analysis, humans are monitoring the progress and manage the machines at every stage of the game. The key is to push the machines to the limit, pushing as much lumber through the mill while not causing log-jams (pun intended) at the next stage of the process.


After logs are scanned and analyzed by computers, these automated saws then slide up and down the length of the log cutting them at the optimal length for the longest boards, and thus the most profitable, than each individual log can yield.


There are more cameras here than a high security prison, with people in towers and soundproof rooms, monitoring each log at each stage of the process. Because of automation, cameras and computers, one person can manage several stages of the process.


This is really cool. Even though each log is very unique, it can be scanned and a computer make the determination of the optimal cuts that will again, give the best yield. New to me is the idea that they don’t just produce 2x4s one day, and 2x6s the next. The saws adjust on the fly, cutting all different sized boards.


Not the best shot, but the logs pass through a series of band saws. Each of the two wheels on the left is the top of band saws. The 18ft bands are changed multiple times per day; lifted in with special cranes. They’re then sent down stairs (who would have thought a saw mill had a downstairs) for sharpening.

The big black thing is a scanner. It determines the size of the wood which is then sent off to be sorted by size and length.


The wood is automatically stacked and loaded on a tram system that takes it off to be kiln dried.


This is the final product. Idaho’s largest asset and biggest industry. A forest of cut lumber ready to go anywhere in the country by the railroad line that goes through the property.

Many thanks to Shannon and Dennis who were very kind hosts to Jenny and I during our visit. Hopefully you’ll allow us to return the favor when you’re in this neck of the woods.

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