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John Caron, mill supervisor, stands in front of the main headrig bandsaw.
Sustainable Forestry Equals 125 Years Success At J.D. Irving

By Terry Miller

Clair, New Brunswick—Nearly every company can look back and revisit milestones and successes that the business has enjoyed. After 125 years in operation, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI), located here, has enjoyed many milestones, but a recent one is being particularly appreciated by company officials.

“On June 6, 2007, we celebrated our 50th anniversary of tree planting,” said Daniel Couturier, general manager of the hardwood division. “J.K. Irving started planting trees on June 6, 1957, in the St. Leonard region, and we’re very proud of that. We were one of the first companies in Canada to start planting trees and we planted many trees, millions and millions of trees. In fact, we have planted over 700 million trees in New Brunswick thus far.”

J.D. Irving, Limited — year after year — has proven to be a good steward of the forest by doing sust
Dave Steeves, mill manager, pauses in front of the new PHL band 6-foot re-saw.
ainable management in terms of harvesting, reforestation, habitat protection and an ongoing investment in eco-system research. This, combined with third party audits to achieve environmental certification under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the ISO 14001 environmental standard are evidence of this company’s commitment to the environment.

“We plant up to 11 native species of trees in areas where they would naturally grow — primarily softwood species. However, we also invest in forestry silvicultural work to grow quality hardwoods, to make sure that we sustain healthy hardwood forests,” Couturier said.

Sustaining forest health involves significant investments of time, as well as human and financial resources. The company plans up to 100 years ahead to manage multiple values including wildlife habitat, water quality and a sustainable resource of hardwood and softwood trees. More than 200 professional foresters are employed by J.D. Irving, Limited to ensure a healthy forest future on the 6 million acres that the company owns or manages.
Gilles Albert, value added plant supervisor, is in front of the ripsaw.

“From seedling to store shelf, we are focused on healthy forests that enable us to operate an integrated value chain of sawmills, as well as pulp, paper and consumer tissue operations. Sustainable forestry means that less than 2 percent of the forest is harvested each year and that more than 30 million trees are planted annually.” Couturier said. “Our company has been nationally and internationally recognized by some of the world’s leading environmental organizations for our efforts in habitat conservation, research and pioneering world first pollution prevention technology in the forest products sector.”

Not only does the tree planting show a commitment to the environment, but also to the customer.

“We are focused on building long-term relationships with customers that are always adding value. This has been our fundamental way of doing business since 1882,” Couturier said. “We can trade on a daily basis, but that’s not our primary objective. We want to build long-term value and solutions with customers that enable both of us — customer and supplier — to succeed. It’s a win-win; it helps them run their business and helps us run our business in the hardw

Positioned behind Alain Lamarre, value added plant manager, are bundles of S4S lumber ready for shipments to retail stores.
ood, Cedar and all the other businesses we operate.”

To best serve customers, JDI recognizes that continuous improvement and ongoing investment — in people, best practices and new technology — is critical.  The Clair hardwood mill has been the focus of significant capital investment and the use of leading productivity improvement initiatives including LEAN and Six Sigma.

“We invested in new technology,” Couturier said. “We added four 6-foot PHL band mills, which means we installed a new Cardinal carriage line and a resaw line. The main objective is to optimize our yield and quality, sending higher yield products to our value added plant. The investment that we made two years ago in the value added facility allows us to customize products from any customer requirement. Our main objective, as a value added plant, is to produce components for our secondary manufacturing customers as well as retail and distribution, directly to the end user.”
The sales team for the hardwood division of J.D. Irving, Limited in Clair, N.B., consists of (front, from left) Dennis Cuffley, marketing and sales manager; Ginette Le Vasseur, administrative assistant; Melanie Brochu, business analyst and process improvement; and Charlene Ouellette, Cedar sales representative; (back, from left) Patrick Losier, sales coordinator; Daniel Couturier, general manager; Denis Dube, hardwood sales representative; and Richard Dupuis, quality control, hardwood division.

Additionally, a two-faced Newman planer, a Wadkin moulder and Paulson ripsaw were installed.

“The next step for us on the value added side is to invest in optimization and scanning equipment,” Couturier said.

JDI’s production is heavy in Hard Maple, which accounts for about 55 percent of annual production. The next dominant species would be Yellow Birch, which is about 30-35 percent. The balance is in Soft Maple and Beech. A small amount of Red Oak is produced at the Strong, Maine, sawmill. All totaled, about 60 million board feet of hardwood lumber is produced annually.

“In all of our species we manufacture 4/4 through 8/4,” said Dennis Cuffley, sales manager. “However, we will manufacture some 10/4 for special orders. Widths run from 4-inch and wider depending on the grade and lengths run from 4-foot to 12-foot.”

To protect the lumber after it goes through the sawmill, it is immediately placed on Breeze Dried sticks — whether it’s Maple or Birch — and it’s brought to the covered air-drying shed before proceeding to the dry kiln facilities. Following the dry kiln process, the lumber is staged in dry storage sheds, ready for prompt shipment domestically or internationally.

“From the mill, through to delivery to the customer, we can assure and guarantee that the lumber has no sticker shadows or sticker marks because this lumber has been stacked on Breeze stickers and has been stored in a fas
Pauline Caron is the lumber grader at the value added plant.
hion that the lumber will breathe and prevent any stain,” Cuffley said.

At the sawmill about one to two days worth of green lumber is kept, and on the kiln-dried side, the company has about 500,000 board feet of inventory of different thicknesses and grades.

Customers include millwork, moulding, flooring, furniture, cabinetry manufacturers and distribution yards.

“Eighty percent of our sales are done directly to manufacturers, and the remaining 20 percent is through exporters or distribution yards,” Cuffley said. “We would like to expand, especially on the distribution end of it.”

With the new value added facility and the new equipment, J.D. Irving can commit to different programs, which, for large end users like the kitchen cabinet sector, offers different kinds of components.

“Basically, we are working closer with our customers to give them exactly what they need, to be more e

Guy Boutot, kiln operator, pauses next to the Hilderbrand dry kilns, which has an 8 million board foot annual capacity.
fficient on their end, and for us to build loyalty with these customers,” Cuffley said. “The other program is for components for the flooring industry, which is mostly exported outside of North America. The third program we’re looking at aggressively is the retail program, which is our S4S products manufactured in Hard Maple and Red Oak. We have been working on this program for a couple of years and we’re ready now to be able to produce in large quantities.”

More than 4,000 people are employed in the forestry and forest products operations products of J.D. Irving, Limited. They operate 15 sawmills in addition to pulp, paper, medium and tissue mills. Company officials attribute 125 years of growth to two essential ingredients — valued customers and dedicated employees.

“This company is locally owned, and we live in New Brunswick, the owner lives in New Brunswick, the majority of our forest products employees live in New Brunswick and in the Maritimes and also in Maine,” Couturier said. “Mr. Irving would say that our success is due to the people that work for the company, and the customers with whom we have built long-term partnerships. The dedication and the loyalty of our employees is unsurpassed and they’re proud to be working with us.”

J.D. Irving, Limited is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Assoc., Canadian Lumbermen’s Assoc., New England Lumberman’s Assoc., Quebec Pallet Assoc., and the Wood Component Assoc.

This is a sample of a S4S board prepared for the retail stores.
As long as J.D. Irving, Limited remains committed to sustainable forestry, customers and ongoing investment in its people and manufacturing plants, the next 125 years should have as many milestones as the first.

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