Collins Expands Chester Operations By Wayne Miller
Chester, Calif. — Chester Sawmill, a division of The Collins Companies, is in the middle of a five-year expansion to
Greg Simpson, day shift planer supervisor, Eddie Bauer, chief executive officer and president, and Mike Zojonc, plant manager, have been instrumental in the expansion of the Collins Pine facility, located in Chester, Calif.
significantly increase production and enhance mill facilities. The expansion began in 2002, shortly after the sawmill here was completely rebuilt.
“Following the completion of the new mill, we needed to add additional dry kiln capacity” remarked Mike Zojonc, plant manager. “We had a bottleneck at our dry kilns, so we added two new 104-foot Wellons Doubletrack dry kilns. That created a bottleneck at the planer, so we re-worked the infeed side and the planer. Recently, we added a 36-tray, 400-foot slant tray sorter for the finished lumber, as well as a new stacker. And while we were at it, we relocated our packaging system and added a new Signode plastic strapper. Our goal was to increase production and efficiency, and we have certainly accomplished that and much more.”
Total kiln capacity now tops 12 million board feet per month during the summer, and 10 mmbf per month during the winter.
“Prior to these improvements, total capacity was 77 million board feet annually, so with these changes we have almo st doubled our production,” said Zojonc.
Collins markets Ponderosa Pine, White Fir, Sugar Pine and Incense Cedar. According to Zojonc, White Fir is expected to account for 55 percent of the sawmill’s production by the end of this year. A majority of the White Fir is 2-inch dimensio
Collins Pine recently added this 36-tray, 400-foot slant tray sorter at the Chester facility.
n with 6/4 shop developing. The Ponderosa Pine is also cut primarily for 6/4 shop and 2-inch dimension, and Sugar Pine ranging from 4/4 to 8/4 thicknesses. Ponderosa Pine, Sugar Pine, and White Fir are also available in 4/4 through 8/4 thicknesses.
“Our sawmill also gives us a lot of flexibility in meeting our customer’s special requests,” added Zojonc.
Product choices and facility upgrades are two parts of the five-year expansion. But as Zojonc observed, “It’s the quality of our employees that really makes the difference, such as Eddie Bauer, our lead planerman and Greg Simpson, the day shift planer supervisor.”
To help retain employees in a tight housing market, Collins has also embarked on an expansion of the housin g currently situated on the facility’s property in Chester. Ever since the sawmill opened in 1943, adequately housing employees has been an issue. During World War II, the company constructed four duplexes for employees and the federal government built 10 fourplexes. Truman W. Collins, the third generation to manage operations, also built a modest house on the sawmill grounds to house foresters, managers, and others needing a temporary place to stay.
Following that, six additional houses were built for relocated employees. Two of those six houses were razed in
This new stacker has contributed to increased production at Collins Pine.
the 1990s, and now Collins is building three new ones to replace them. By 2007, those could expand to include either two more homes or two duplexes.
The first of the three houses now under construction is a 1,534-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-car garage property. Collins used its own kiln-dried White Fir for the floor joists and wall framing. The second is a 3-bedroom, 1,440-square-foot home, and uses the company’s kiln-dried White Fir for the wall frames. All three homes will feature hardwood in the bedrooms, including black cherry, white ash and northern red oak from the Collins’ hardwood forests and mill in Kane, Pa.
Building is also ongoing to house The Collins Museum that will be located near the sawmill offices. The 2,700 square foot, two-level logging museum will feature exhibits and information on the social, ecological and economic issues that have impacted the lumber and forest industries in the Chester area, which is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California. The museum includes the history of this family-owned company dating back to July 28, 1855 when T.D. Collins, his brother, Joseph, and three others purchased 1,500 acres and a steam sawmill at Turkey Run in the Tionesta Valley of Pennsylvania. The museum, spearheaded by fourth generation, Terry Collins, will exhibit logging arches, a D-4 truck cab and approximately a dozen other forms of transportation that moved products and employees of the company, some dating back to the mid-1800s. Opening date is slated for May 2007.
“We are proud of our heritage as well as our continuing commitment to excellence. With one foot in the past, one foot in the present, and a vision for the future, we will continually improve our products, be responsible to our environment, and better serve our customers,” concluded Eric Schooler,
Donna Harris secures lumberwrap with staples.
president and chief executive officer.
To that end, Collins is not only upgrading its mills and facilities, but has also had all of its Softwood a nd hardwood forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The Collins Companies product line includes: Collins hardwood lumber from its facilities in Kane, Pa., and Richwood, W. Va.; Collins Pine particleboard and TruWood siding & trim from its manufacturing facilities in Klamath Falls, Ore.; Collins Softwood lumber from Chester, Calif. and Lakeview, Ore.; and Collins’ Builder’s Supply retail yards, located in Paradise, Oroville, Chester, and Chico, Calif.