Plaster Rock turns to Sennebogen for ‘trouble free’ parts supply

Plaster Rock

Earle Fawcett knew he had squeezed everything he could out of his aged knuckleboom loaders. It was time to move on. 

Fawcett wears several hats at the Plaster Rock Lumber Mill operated by Twin Rivers Paper Company near Edmundston, New Brunswick. 

His duties include steam plant chief, mobile equipment manager and environmental coordinator. The issue of sourcing parts to keep his loader fleet running is ingrained in everything he does.

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“When you’ve made mill upgrades and you’re putting money into your operation, but you’re trying to feed it with some old equipment that’s almost impossible to find parts for anymore, you have to say, ‘look, we can’t just keep running that way,’” Fawcett said. 

He explained the mill had a purpose-built material handler in the yard,  for a few years, but found that timely access to service parts was a problem with that machine, as well.

Fawcett brought up the need for new log-loading equipment with Strongco, the local Sennebogen dealer. Strongco then introduced Fawcett to some of the maintenance crews servicing Sennebogen machines in other nearby yards.

“We visited two mills in the Bathurst area,” Fawcett said.

“I watched the Sennebogens work and the maintenance people told me they were trouble-free machines and that the parts were easy to source. We were on our way to a third yard when I decided I’d seen enough — let’s go back and sign up the paperwork.”

Strategic engineering

Sennebogen has made access to parts a strategic aspect of their engineering. Known for expertise in hydraulic systems for crane and material handlers, the engineering team is tasked with minimizing the number of proprietary parts in their design. They specify standard off-the-shelf parts wherever possible. This way customers are able to find what they need when doing routine hydraulic and electrical service from any nearby industrial supply house. 

Sennebogen also ensures its distributors maintain extensive service inventories in all their branches, while the central warehouse at Sennebogen headquarters in Stanley, North Carolina is well stocked with every component for any green machine in the field.

Keeping up with upgrades

Fawcett reports his new Sennebogen 830 M-T log-handler more than meets his production targets for his upgraded mill. Plaster Rock is a softwood lumber mill producing 145 million board feet of SFI certified dimension lumber and studs annually. By-product softwood chips and biomass are also passed along to Twin Rivers’ pulp and cogeneration operations in Edmundston.

Handling the volume of 2.75 metre stud wood was a new line of production for the mill, and this was a key driver for upgrading the loading equipment. Fawcett explained the 830 M-T easily replaces the older material handler, and looks to boosting throughput further when its new 9910 Rotobec grapple arrives. 

“The operators are very happy with the 830,” he said. “It’s like they stepped off a dinosaur and into a Cadillac!”

The M-T model of the 830 is specially designed for log yards. A standard 830 upper chassis is mounted on an undercarriage that has been designed for heavy pulling stresses, with separate transmissions on each axle for added pulling power and traction. 

Plaster Rock expansion

Fawcett said the machine’s strength will be put to use, too. Wood stacks in the mill yard have capacity for just a day and a half of production, while a nearby reserve yard can store another 170,000 cubic metres.

However, the mill yard is about to expand into an adjacent property, and a new high capacity log trailer is on-site to begin ferrying wood to the feed deck.

Hauling fully loaded log trailers is a challenge in most yards. As Fawcett said, “depending on the time of year, this yard is a dust bowl or a mud pit.” The trailer-pulling capability of the 830, though, will allow an increase in ready stock for the sawmill.

The extra mile

Running double shifts five days a week also presents challenges for the two technicians responsible for Plaster Rock’s mobile equipment. Along with their various log loaders, the fleet also includes three recently acquired front-end loaders.

As Strongco customers, Fawcett and his technicians were invited to attend the Sennebogen Training Center in Stanley, NC. The training facility provides classroom and hands-on technical instruction, without charge, at primary and advanced levels.

Fawcett appreciates the simplicity of Sennebogen engineering as another timesaver for Plaster Rock. In his experience, troubleshooting often equals waiting for a factory tech to come with a computer.

Sennebogen has simplified its machines with hydraulic controls that don’t require complex electronics, so an experienced equipment tech can troubleshoot problems without the wait and without the expense of travel time. If factory support is needed, Strongco’s nearest technician is a half-hour away.