Charles and Richard Freeman, owners of Harry Freeman & Son Limited.
HARRY FREEMAN & SON—Skilled Workforce Utilizing 21st Century Technology Drives Success
By Terry Miller Publishing
Greenfield, Nova Scotia—Harry Freeman & Son Limited has operated lumber mills here since 1832. Situated on 26,000 acres, the family owned company produces Eastern White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, Spruce and Red Pine, which are all native to the region and grown on Freeman’s own timberlands.
“Red Spruce is the tree of the province of Nova Scotia,” owner Richard Freeman explained. “We’re famous for the quality of our Red Spruce timber.” Located in Western Nova Scotia, the firm is also located in an area known as the ‘Pine’ belt. “Our White Pine is part of the same belt that extends right across Southwestern Nova Scotia through New England and into Quebec. It’s something that you don’t see in other parts of the province here. We are right in the middle of White Pine timberlands.”
“The majority of our supply is good Red Knotted Pine and is mostly second growth,” co-owner Charles Freeman added.
The mill produces 4/4 and 5/4 S4S boards from Pine; 4x4 through 12x12 timbers and 1-and 2-inch stock from Eastern Hemlock; and 4x4 and 6x6 timbers, decking and some dimension products from Red Spruce.
Tim Blom, sales and transportation, RidgeTimber Trading Inc., Exclusive Sales Agent for Harry Freeman & Son Ltd.
The company markets its lumber products in a variety of methods. “It depends on the product,” Richard said. “We have some wholesale customers that are distributing in different markets and we don’t compete with them. We also have a sales agent, RidgeTimber Trading, that sells the majority of our lumber on our behalf through distribution and direct to customers.” Operating two shifts, the firm employs 120 people. Contract carriers and rail service handle the logistics of Freemans lumber products.
Richard and Charles attribute the success of Freeman Lumber to their employees and being a progressive company in a competitive market. “We are a progressive company in that we continue to update our mill so it’s efficient and we’re getting excellent recovery,” Charles explained. “People have asked us how we manage a business this well with just two people at the helm, and I tell them it’s because we’re not just ‘two’ people running this operation. We rely on a lot of good people and our success belongs to our people.”
By 1992 they had installed the company’s first dry kilns. Today they operate two boilers with a million board feet of lumber capacity per charge. In 1999 the Freeman’s literally rebuilt their business from the ground up.
Mac Hawkins, sales manager, RidgeTimber Trading Inc., Exclusive Sales Agent for Harry Freeman & Son Ltd.
“Our first move was installing a 10-foot curved sawing line in 1999,” Richard said. “At that point we were really focused on stud production and shortly after we began a series of projects in that mill which involved the introduction of the bin sorter, an optimized board edger and later we installed a trimmer. We completely rebuilt our planer mill with a linear optimizer and a 20-bin sorter so that we can now handle both studs and random lumber in that processing facility. We also installed a moulding plant with an 8- head precision moulder; trim line, stacker and other lumber handling equipment. Then in 2007 we completely renovated our random log sawmill. So we’ve put a lot of work into becoming efficient and maximizing our recovery.”
The equipment at Freeman includes three primary breakdown lines. “Because we are a White Pine sawmill, we still run a Cardinal carriage. We have a thin kerf double-cut band on it. Our stud line is a Comac DDM6, which is like a small sawmill in a box—it’s a curve sawing line. Our main primary breakdown line is a Comact OLI with a transverse fed fully optimized Shurman gang edger behind it. We have one Comact and one by PHL optimized board edgers, and two bin sorters. The technology we have in place coupled with our skilled labor force gives us the ability to produce 75 million feet a year.”
Located in Western Nova Scotia, the firm is also located in an area known as the ‘Pine’ belt. “Our White Pine (shown here) is part of the same belt that extends right across Southwestern Nova Scotia through New England and into Quebec. It’s something that you don’t see in other parts of the province here. We are right in the middle of White Pine timberlands,” Richard Freeman explained.
Charles said they also have a transverse moisture meter, “so our customers can be assured we have good consistency in our drying process. Our target is 10 to 12 percent moisture content.”
Freeman Lumber has three forest technicians on its staff and is committed to providing their customers with wood products harvested from sustainably managed forests. To obtain this, the firm has established a Chain-of- Custody system that provides a link between certified forest and the raw materials used in their manufacturing processes. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified, Richard said, “We are currently involved in a project that we expect will lead to the FSC certification of our woodlands as well.”
Harry Freeman & Son Limited is a member of the Maritime Lumber Bureau, Forest Products Association of Nova Scotia, and the Wood Products Manufacturers Association of Nova Scotia. Richard Freeman is currently president of the Forest Products Association of Nova Scotia and past chair of the Maritime Lumber Bureau. Certified to North Eastern Lumber Manufacturers Association (NELMA) standards, the company also obtained certification by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 9001). For more information visit www.freemanlumber.com or contact 902-685-2792.
Tom Dickson, Freeman & Sons kiln supervisor is shown here outside the firm’s dry kiln operations.
Freeman Lumber has three forest technicians on its staff and is committed to providing their customers with wood products harvested from sustainably managed forests. (L to R): Monty Hulan, Craig Hartlen and Kristian Turner.
Cants are shown here at the mills’ gang optimizer.