(Sanford, ME) Nestled
on a quiet street in a small town, overlooking the shore
of Estes Lake in southern Maine is Lavalley Lumber. A family owned sawmill for over 50 years, Lavalley
specializes in producing Eastern White Pine.
As with any sawmill, logs are the
necessary raw material for their end product.
Up until 1999, log purchasing, log sales and log
inventory made up only a small portion of the overall
business for Lavalley Lumber.
However, the time it was taking to collect
and decipher, add and enter all handwritten scale
slips, as well as re-tally and pay loggers was
Recalling the old ways
Pam Smith who handles Lavalley
Lumber’s accounts payables for each of their three
locations and various divisions recalls the protocol for
gathering and entering scale slips each day. “We used three part scale slips.
Each day, I’d receive the scale slips, count
all logs by hand, and total each slip and total slips by
getting organized, I’d get out our pricing book and
assign cash values to the scale slips.
Those slips and values would then be entered into
our computer system.”
“We pay loggers each Thursday, so
each Wednesday I’d recall the slips and tally by hand
the total to be paid that week to each logger.
Of course, I’d have to have the totals double
checked to be sure everything was correct before cutting
Pam states that the process took on
average two or three hours per day and an extra 2 hours
per week to total up the slips.
"About 17 hours a week or so
was being tied up with scale slips.
That is, assuming all slips were legible and
there were no errors.”
I asked Pam to recall what the most
difficult aspect of the old system was.
After a quick pause, she stated the “slips that
got wet from snow or rain”.
She then went on to describe a scene of wet,
three part scale slips hanging off the back of office
chairs and dangling from the top of filing cabinets
until they dried.
“It could get a bit messy”,
The New System
Simply Computing’s Log Scaling
Pro software includes both a front-end data collecting
module and a back office, Windows based software
chose the Husky FS3 handheld computer as their “in the
field” data collector.
The hand-held unit provides an all-weather
solution that enables the scalers to enter scale slips
electronically, regardless of weather.
The hand-held unit is a weather-proof,computer that
maintains information such as price list, grades,
species and inventory.
Programmable to hold more than one application at
one time, the hand-held computer communicates with the
office computers using a serial or parallel port and
data cable. Repetitive
tasks can be assigned a shortcut key or “macro key”
to shorten the keystrokes.
Lavalley communicates with the office computers
once a day but can hold a weeks worth of slips in the hand-held's
Because of the all-weather casing,
the hand-held is not affected by rain or snow.
Scalers can punch in data wearing gloves and keep
their fingers warm.
"Probably the biggest change
I’ve noticed is my hands stay warmer because I don’t
have to write anything down”, states Ron Stone, a log
scaler for Lavalley Lumber.
“We also don’t have to worry about ink
freezing or paper getting wet and tearing, like with the
old 3 part slips.”
The hand-held contains data tables
with Lavalley’s customer, product and pricing
information is loaded into the hand-held via a serial
port connection with one of their office computers.
Ron scales about 12 to 13 loads a day and
connects the Husky to download the slips once a day.
Because of the increased attention
the scalers can now pay to their surroundings, Ron feels
that he can be a bit more careful in the yard.
“Most of the loads go pretty smoothly, but
sometimes you’ve got logs that move a little faster
coming off the truck.
You’ve got to be alert, especially in the
if the amount of time to scale logs has decreased due to
the hand-held computers, Ron thought and said “not
went on to explain that the amount of time it takes to
enter the data would be about the same amount of time to
write it down. “Keystrokes
and pen strokes take about the same amount of time,
really”, states Stone.
"The real benefit of the
system for me is it eliminates the weather from being a
factor and eliminates the errors that came from writing
quickly or writing in the rain and snow.”
When discussing training and how
long it took to learn the system, Larry Nadeau, also a
log scaler for Lavalley, stated it took him “about 3
pretty familiar with computers so it was really easy to
pick up. Ron
wasn’t so familiar but it still only took two or three
days for him to pick it up.”
Why Simply Computing?
Jeff Smith, a Lavalley forester and
timber purchaser along with Terry Walters, Lavalley’s
director of manufacturing are among a group of employees
that saw the need to invest in an automated log scaling
“It took a few years,
actually, of looking around and making our decision
before we finally made the move”, recalls Walters.
“Lavalley was purchased in the spring of 1999
and the first course of action by the new owners was to
purchase and install the Simply Computing Log Scaling
When asked how they came about
choosing Simply Computing and what attracted them to the
package over other packages they had looked at, both
Jeff and Terry agreed on the ease of use and the
flexibility to do the things Lavalley had been doing for
“We looked at quite a few
packages, to be honest.
We talked with other companies, even went on site
to a few other mills to see what they were using and how
it was working for them.
In the end, we were impressed with how much the
Simply Computing system did and how user-friendly it was
to operate.” stated
Smith describes their method of
inventory and purchasing logs and how the software helps
them manage that inventory.
“We keep a row inventory and each
time the sawmill completes a row, I delete it from the
system and create a new one.
Its very easy to do and it helps me analyze
inventory valuations and what we’re using over
“We don’t seek to purchase a
lot of hardwood, but some of our loggers have hardwood
from time to time and we purchase it from them to get
the lumber off their woodlots.
We have a couple of other mills that purchase the
hardwood logs from us”, says Smith “and we keep
track of that inventory by establishing special rows in
the software and keeping the inventory in our
By establishing a concentration
yard for their hardware and creating specialized
inventory rows depending on hardwood grade and customer,
Smith is able to accurately track logs bought and sold
and easily print reports and invoices without spending
much time on the process.
“We do it as a courtesy to our
loggers, really. Hardwood
is not our business and it wouldn’t make sense to put
an awful lot of time into the process.
The software enables me to manage the inventory
transactions and stay focused on our core business.”
Smith spends a few more hours each
week working with the log scaling software since
Lavalley installed the SCI system.
But the additional hours are for analyzing and
organizing inventory and billing, things that he was not
able to do as easily before.
“I’m able to get detailed and
summarized reports on inventory, purchases and trends
that were not available to me before.
With the new information, I can see which species
and grades are coming from each individual logger and
analyze which species and grades we need to scale back
on and which we need to purchase more of.”
Frank Kelley, corporate controller,
joined Lavalley Lumber after the Simply Computing
software was installed and integrated.
In talking with him, he had known no other way of
doing business at Lavalley than with the Simply
“It runs great”, says Kelley,
“we had our annual auditor come in recently and we
were able to provide accurate and complete inventory
information and be sure it was right for the first time
in years. Even
the auditor was impressed.
It went pretty smooth.”
When asked how other employees feel
about using the SCI Log Scaling system, Kelley states
that it’s been a very positive experience because the
software is extremely user-friendly.
“We have a few folks that know how to use the
application in case someone is out sick or on vacation. Its
nice to have more than one person responsible and
knowledgeable about the software.”
I asked Frank what he felt the
biggest impact the software has made?
He answered “definitely the amount of time
spent on accounts payable and invoicing.
Pam has really been able to do a lot more in much
Log Scaling Pro