Are Mills Choosing Polyester Strapping?
Q&A With Steve Wilson of Samuel Strapping
By Carl Clayton
|The VK-30 strapping head
can be retrofitted to equipment formerly dedicated to steel strapping for
a low cost conversion to polyester.
competition and economic challenges in the lumber industry are forcing sawmills
to look for innovative ways to both cut costs and increase productivity in order
to compete in todayís international marketplace. Because even small
modifications in a production plantís day-to-day operation can have significant
impact on financial performance, firms are looking to fine tune in every area of
To be more competitive, many Northwest mills
are changing from steel to polyester strapping. To find out why mills are making
the switch, TimberWest recently spoke with Steve Wilson. Steve is the Northwest
sales manager for Samuel Strapping Systems. Samul is one of the major
players in the strapping marketplace as well as a firm that's done, according to
Steve, hundreds of steel to polyester retrofits in recent years.
strapping, according to Steve Wilson, is easier to handle due to reduced
weight, results in less potential for injury in a mill, and can be
significantly less expensive than steel.
Why are sawmills switching from steel to polyester strapping?
The cost of steel strapping became a significant factor for many mills when tems.
Samuel is one of the major play-the U.S. imposed tariffs on steel imports ers in
the strapping marketplace as a couple of years ago. Many began to well as a firm
thatís done, according to consider making the switch then. Steve, hundreds of
steel to polyester retrofits in recent years.
So the cost of steel is the driver?
It was at first, but companies soon found cost was only one compelling factor in
making the decision. Firms changing from steel to polyester found plastic brings
a whole range of benefits to the table. Safety is a big issue in sawmills, and
mills Samuel Strapping retrofitted saw big reductions in the number of cuts
employees were experiencing. Polyester is also non-staining. It doesnít leave
marks on the lumber as steel does, especially in the Northwest. The lighter
weight results in reduced wear on equipment. Jumbo coils of polyester strapping
also reduce changeover times and are easier to use. There are more subtle
benefits as well. Strapping requires less dunnage so the time and labor savings
translate to cost savings and production enhancements. Shipping weight is
reduced. That might not seem like much until you begin to consider that some
mills ship hundreds of thousands of bundles a year. All of these things add up,
over time, to an impressive package of savings and productivity increases in a
How much equipment has to be purchased to make the changeover and how much down
time is a mill looking at when it decides to make the change?
Existing equipment can be retrofitted when companies decide to switch. That
saves a lot of money. I can only speak for Samuel Strapping but, in our case, we
simply install our VK-30 strapping head onto the machine the mill already has in
place. The whole process is generally completed in two days and conversions can
be done on almost any existing system regardless of the original manufacturer.
Because weíve done so many VK-30 retrofits we have some very experienced and
well-prepared teams to put on the job. In most areas of North America, Samuel
Strapping Systemís service is readily available, as are our experienced,
well-prepared retrofit teams. We make every effort to make the conversion
trouble free for the customer.
Are there down sides to the change?
Early on, a number of mills had poor experiences when they tried 5/8-inch
polyester strapping. With new high tension strapping heads like our VK-30 and
high strength polyester strapping, those mills are now running it successfully.
Because of the cost and safety advantages, this is a great time to revisit the
polyester strapping program if you tried 5/8-inch strapping in the past without
success. The nice thing about the newer strapping heads are that they can run
either 5/8 or, for more demanding applications, the head can be easily adjusted
to run 1/2-inch polyester.
How much can a mill really expect to save if they switch to polyester strapping?
The savings generated by converting to polyester can amount to well
over 35 percent on the strapping alone. That doesnít count the other tangible,
yet difficult to measure savings generated by such benefits as lower shipping
weights or reduced lost time from injuries.
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