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Midway Mill resumes operations after a maintenance-mandated shutdown

Vaagen Fibre Canada’s Midway Mill is back in operation following a recent maintenance shutdown. — Submitted photo

After a four-week long shutdown to repair and restore mill equipment, Vaagen Fibre Canada’s Midway Mill is back in operation.

The shutdown started April 4, and was a way to conduct a thorough check-up on the health of all the machinery and ensure a smooth-running operation for the remainder of the year, said Plant Manager Darryl Reekie.

“The biggest thing is that some of the repairs and projects cannot be done while we are in operation. So now that it is complete, we fire up on May 2. We started turning on equipment last week and running different pieces, and doing test runs, but the plan is to be back on our normal production routine by May 4,” said Reekie.

Vaagen Fibre Canada’s Midway Mill is located off Highway 3, 55 kilometers west of Grand Forks.

Despite the shutdown, all workers were on-hand and there were no layoffs. From those taking apart pieces, to welding to assisting with fire watch and providing expert advice, everyone came together to make this a successful shutdow.

“By being conscientious the rest of the year and watching out for how much we spend for hours and all that, it has allowed us to keep everyone on during this time. Financially, it’s a challenge because we don’t make any lumber through the shutdown, so everything is at a 100 per cent cost, but the maintenance work is absolutely worth it,” emphasized Reekie.

Reekie noted that not only did they take on larger projects that required disassembly, replacing parts, cleanup, putting in new parts and the final assembly, but they also refreshed the mill with a fresh coat of paint.

“We could paint while we are running but guaranteed someone’s going to get their handprint on some railing. So, we take this opportunity to just get everything freshened up, make it look nice, cheerful. It is just a better atmosphere to work in,” Reekie added.

Dan Macmaster, Fibre Manager at Vaagen Fibre Canada, expressed his enthusiasm at the work undertaken during the shutdown.

“Our workers have done a fantastic job on making sure that every piece of equipment and machinery is in top shape and running smoothly. Not just that, they have even given a face-lift to the mill through a nice paint job,” said Macmaster.

“These shutdowns are always such a great way to reboot the mill operations, and I am so proud of the team we have here at the Midway mill.

Reekie, who has been with the mill for six years, said that while a major reason for the shutdown was maintenance, it also gave the employees a chance to undertake individual projects to improve efficiency.

“We have started following the Lean management style and we have some employees who wanted to do their own projects to make their work centres better, whether it be for improving quality or for better efficiency. We strive to help make our employees’ work lives better,” said Reekie.

“We call them experiments. In an experiment, you try something, if it doesn’t work, it wasn’t a failure, but you learned something new and so you try something else.

"During this year’s shutdown, the mill had numerous employees working on their work centres, trying to make improvements.

“There are things they believe they can do to make their work more efficient for them and their coworkers. Taking this opportunity is worth it,” noted Reekie.

“The shutdown helps us increase our overall efficiency, and the quality of the way the equipment runs with less wear and tear. This time we’ve spent, will also improve the quality for the workers, because the job will get a little bit easier for them with smoother-running machinery.”

About Vaagen Fibre Canada

From woodlands to mill to market, Vaagen Fibre Canada specializes in efficiently processing small diameter logs into high quality dimensional lumber. Using innovation, technology, and collaboration, they focus on quality, efficiency, safety, and waste utilization with a focus on Sustainable Forestry and Supporting Rural B.C. Communities. Vaagen Fibre Canada is based in the rural community of Midway in the Boundary region of British Columbia employing 88 local workers and an additional 100 people through direct contracting.