New MSU software gives sawmills a competitive edge


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Posted: 6/21/2002


Many sawblades in hardwood sawmills remove slightly more than a quarter of an inch of wood for each piece of lumber sawn from logs. That may not seem like a lot, but multiplied by the countless sawlines made each year at Mississippi's hardwood sawmills, it represents a lot of potential lumber turned into sawdust.

A new computer software package developed in Mississippi State University's Forest and Wildlife Research Center is helping sawmill operators determine if they will benefit economically from installing new higher-accuracy sawing machines with thinner sawblades.

The Economic Choice for Hardwood Sawmill Operations, or ECHO, program helps estimate increased lumber recovery and the potential increased revenue from installing the new equipment, said ECHO software developer Phil Steele, a professor in the department of forest products.

"The amount of wood removed by each sawline, the width of which is termed kerf, may be reduced by up to 40 percent in some instances with thinner-kerf sawing machines," Steele said. "Often, the newly-installed sawing machines also cut straighter, saving additional lumber by reducing the amount of planing required to produce finished from rough lumber.

The new machines usually require a significant capital expense, however, and determining whether the financial benefits from increased lumber yield outweigh the costs can be difficult to determine.

"ECHO was developed to help analyze the economic benefit of installing thinner-kerf and higher accuracy sawing machines, Steele said. "The investment feasibility measures of present net value, rate of return, and payback period are provided, and the software also addresses federal tax implications.

Funded by the USDA Forest Service's Southern and Northeastern Research Stations, the Economic Choice for Hardwood Sawmill Operations software is available free of charge online at

Mississippi's lumber and wood products sector employs about 60,000 individuals and contributes $6.1 billion annually to the economy of the state.

For additional information on the ECHO software, contact Dr. Steele at (662) 325-8083, or by e-mail at

Forest Products