Centralized filing shops

Apprenticeships, future of the trade, ....

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Centralized filing shops

Postby thinkerf » Tue Feb 08, 2011 1:33 pm

Recently, the concept of having one facility that services the saws for several mills has come up a few times. This is usually in the context of one company that has several sawmills that are reasonably close together. This is done in Europe, and I know of one US company that does this. Also, most small mills and remanufacturing facilities often use a saw service.

There are several things that are driving this, beyond cost reduction. A shortage of skilled filers is getting to be a big issue in some areas. When this is combined with the availability of automatic and unattended grinders and levellers, then the argument for centralizing gets stronger, and certainly, more feasible.

The main issues that I can think of are: quality assurance, timeliness of delivery, and how to resolve a dispute (get to the real problem, which is likely a problem with the machine, not the saw)

Comments? If anyone has experience with a centralized saw shop, please share your thoughts and experience.

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Re: Centralized filing shops

Postby Daedalus » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:44 am

In Australia it is becoming more common place to have a centralised saw shop servicing several customers. I currently work for one of the smaller service shops but previously worked for the major player as far as service shops are concerned in Australia. I've also previously worked for several different sawmills in New Zealand and Australia.

The main driver of this is a lack of skilled saw doctors. Currently I know of at least 6 long term vacancies here in Australia that have been available for 6+ months. Experienced Saw Doctors are leaving the industry for a variety of reasons, commonly because they are simply "over" benching saws. They quite often leave for careers which are completely unrelated, such as becoming a Police Officer/Prison Guard, or a Truck Driver, or even going into a Boilermaker's position as a contract welder.

As the numbers of available skilled Saw Doctors drops, and the proportion of under skilled and inexperienced Saw Doctors increases, the quality of the work produced drops as well. Eventually sawmills are left with little choice but to hand the job to the "Experts" and turn to Saw Service shops in desperation. The advantages of passing the job onto a Service Shop in a contract capacity is the same as any other contracted maintenance situation. The sawmills sign a contract for 12 - 48 months, they have a fixed price to pay every month and the theory is, no more worries for us.

The problem is, the Service Shops are in the same situation, they can't find suitably experienced staff at the level of skill that they require. So they take on a multitude of "apprentices", which receive no formal training or qualifications. These "apprentices" or "trades assistants" are shown one skill and one skill only, whether it is to swage and sharpen a saw, or tip circular saws, or even weld and file bandsaws. They a lowly paid, they have little understanding of the overall concept of what it takes to make a saw run, but they manage to keep the contract going. What few saw doctors that are available and employed in these service shops, are normally relegated to levelling and tensioning an unreasonable amount of saws each day, whilst also trying to keep an eye on all of the unskilled staff as well.

The perks of running service shops like this, are the unskilled staff are generally of no real use to anyone but a service shop. They are often completely unaware of how a sawmill operates, and quite often have never even seen a sawmill running !

The advent of automation has lead to a decline in the skill level of saw doctors as well. While I appreciate the automation and the benefits it provides me, I still rely on my own experience and skills to ensure that if that machine breaks down, for whatever reason, I can still do a the job to the same level if not better. Automated machines are great, they make life easier, but they still malfunction. They can not be 100% right all of the time, after each time I put a bandsaw on the automatic leveller and tensioner, I still check the saw as I would if this machine wasn't available to me. However, I am aware of both service shops and onsite sawshops in sawmills which put their total faith in the machine, and don't check the saws afterwards. Simply having blind faith that the machine is doing the right thing. Sadly, when the chance to see their saws comes along, it shows. They are poorly maintained and not at the level that they should be.

Service shops will be the decline of the trade unfortunately. They are interested only in profits, and the less qualified and experienced saw doctors that are out there that can actually run a sawshop to the level that maximises production and minimises downtime, they better their profits will be. Service Shops don't make money from "helping" sawmills, they make money making bandsaws. Whilst they play such a key role in the industry, they will keep the skill level low, and continue to create process workers that don't have an overall view of what is right and wrong.


Sawmills are often reluctant to entertain that there may be an issue with their machines, and normally cringe when you suggest that the alignment may be out. If timber is coming out the other end, then that's ok. Currently we have a customer who's saws are more than capable of running 4 hours, but they change their saws every 2 hours. When the saws come back they are drained of tension and 9 times out of 10 they are ridged as well.

More than once I have put out the battle cry for a full alignment of their Twin Bandsaw line, a proper alignment, not just a "that'll do" quick half an hour look. The Manager of the service shop is reluctant to push the issue, as when he has previously brought it up the Production Manager for the customer (former Boilermaker/Welder), simply says "It's cutting fine, if its not broken don't fix it". He is happy to accept a shorter run time, and believes that any adjustments will end in a massive failure and result in huge down time.
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Re: Centralized filing shops

Postby stueycaster » Sun Oct 07, 2012 5:48 am

One question. How many of you make more than $20 an hour.
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