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Return on Investment (ROI)

Test results are now in from the first commercial LightSORT™ GVMM installation, and the news is great!

According to Forintek Canada testing, overall productivity is up by an amazing 10.1%* at Tolko Industries Ltd., Kelowna Division since the LightSORT system was installed.

Testing was based on a 3-bin sort. LightSORT output was compared directly to standard RF head sort results. Further gains to this 10.1% overall improvement figure are expected when the mill moves from a 3-bin to a 4-bin sort using the new LightSORT system.

The 10.1% improvement figure is based on a 7.6% improvement in dryer productivity, a 2.5% gain in target dry veneer (correct moisture content), a 0.15% reduction in re-feed veneer, and a 2.7% reduction in re-dry veneer. A copy of the complete Forintek report is available by request.

* Results of mill trials are specific to each mill. Productivity increases may be expected to vary from mill to mill, based on a variety of factors. These results are reported here for information purposes only. Contact Westmill for additional details.

LightSORT's improvements to the veneer drying process won its inventor a Canada Energy Efficiency Award in 2005

Sort technology comparison*.
Volume breakdown and productivity for green Douglas Fir.

scanning technology
Grade Volume
Time (s)
Equivalent drying time per unit volume (s)
RF Sensors
light sensor
Technology (peak MC)

*Data collected by Forintek Canada (March 2005)

Early adopters of LightSORT™ reap the rewards

Introduced out into the market in 2006, it didn't take long for Westmill's system to attract the attention of the industry innovators.

In the fall of 2006, Tolko Industries Ltd., Kelowna Division, was the first mill to purchase and install the new LightSORT™ system as part of a restructuring plan intended to make Tolko a top marketer and manufacturer of specialty forest products.

In an interview for Specialty Wood Journal earlier this year, Travis Stelter, Capital Projects Manager at the Kelowna Division, was quoted:

"The benefit to Tolko is that the plant will be able to accurately segment the veneer in moisture groupings by identifying the moisture content. Preliminary studies with Forintek indicate we can expect a five (5) to seven (7) percent uplift in our dryer productivity. We will also use less energy per 1000 square feet of veneer. And last but not least a very good moisture sort means less over-drying. This will result in better veneer at the lay-up area and a higher product quality overall."

Since then, Tolko Kelowna has realized a 10.1% improvement in overall productivity, as reported by Forintek Canada. (Contact Westmill for a copy of the full report.)

Beta Site Test Results

Richmond Plywood (Richply) served as the beta test site for the LightSORT™ technology. A case study conducted by Forintek from February to June 2006 on Richply's six-deck steam heated jet dryer showed the LightSORT™ improved drying productivity by approximately six percent (6%). This testing was based on a three-bin sort that compared radio frequency (RF) heads with LightSORT™ drying technology.

As Richply General Manager Doug Scott told Canadian Wood Products magazine:

"What I can conclusively say at this point is that the increments of adjustment with the LightSORT™ technology are more accurate than the old system."

The mill has since added a forth "light heartwood" sort to its original three bin sort of heartwood, light sap and heavy sap. This fourth sort was added to capture the 'problem' in-between sheets of veneer. With the LightSORT™ system evaluating both the peak and average moisture content for each sheet, Richply was able to successfully fine-tune its drying process to give these 'rogue' problem sheets their own bin and their own recipe.

"By adding the fourth sort we are definitely seeing gains, as we have reduced the amount of re-dry significantly and we are dealing more with re-feed." Doug Scott noted. "My objective was to try and eliminate re-dry in the heart system and that is what we have achieved.

Doug Scott added,
"The real benefit to this LightSORT™ system would be if we had additional bins added onto our green stacker and were able to separate sap woods into many very tight sorts."

Other ROI Possibilities - Selling Green Veneer on the Open Market

Mills selling green veneer on the open market today are now able to offer a guarantee of both the average and the peak moisture contents for each load (stack). Veneer stacks sorted to very tight tolerances using LightSORT™ can be marked with LightMARK™ labels. This promises to eliminate claims from customers against green veneer that does not meet the correct moisture specifications. With proper tuning, LightMARK™ information could also be used down-stream in a customer's dryer program for fine-tuning the dryer of any veneer bought from anyone using a LightSORT™ system. This tightly controlled moisture content veneer should both demand and fetch a better price on the open market.

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