Thursday, May 7, 2015

Blount Factory Tour

Date of the visit: May 7, 2015 
Type of event: Factory tour
Topic Learned: The process of design, development, and manufacturing of chainsaw equipment
Company visited: Blount Factory
Location: Portland, Oregon
Jay Larsen,  Global Technical Services Manager
International Fellows: Stuty Maskey (Nepal), Sarita Lama (Nepal), Miguel Sanchez (Bolivia)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, and Rick Zenn / Senior Fellow

Blount Inc is an international corporation with headquarters in the Portland area, with five production plants around the world located in Canada, Brazil, China, and two in the USA. It has two main lines of products: Forestry, Lawn, and Garden (FLAG), and Farm, Ranch, and Agriculture (FRAG). It is a very diversified and vertically integrated company that operates under ISO 9001 standards. The Portland plant employs 1,100 people with a 50/50 ratio male/female.

The plant that we visited produces almost solely chain from 1/4" to 3/4" width, about 25 miles of chain a day. The material used in the manufacturing process is steel, it can come in bricks or in rolls of different widths. The steel rolls are fed into machines that cut and bend each one of the pieces that later are assemble into a chain. The process uses a lot of energy (approx. $150k monthly electric bill) and oil to lubricate the process. Ninety percent of the oil is recycled.

Interesting Fact:

Chisel type chain was design in bio-mimicry of Timber Beetle Larva teeth.

International Fellows' Reflections:

Stuty Maskey from Nepal - Project / Use of Collaborative Governance to Manage Natural Resources
When I think of ‘forestry’ I generally think about trees, logging, forest management, recreation, wood and non-wood based products. I never paid attention to where the equipment that helped us derive several values from forests, came from. So today it was fun to get an inside look at what goes into making those tools – the design, the development and manufacturing of Chains for the Chainsaws.

The Blount factory tour was a quick two hour tour but with a lot of information on the actual production line of the Chains. The company is vertically integrated; meaning most of their high-tech machines as well as its maintenance is done in-house. So we were able to see a full operation of  chain production, in a single facility.

I was impressed to hear that in the facility there was a team of 100 engineers working on machine designs and building them. After all, better designs and safety devices save lives and prevent injuries.

I realized that a lot of engineering, technological innovation, physical labor and capital goes into converting steel into end-products like chains.  Thanks to this tour, now I know a little more!

Sarita Lama from Nepal - Project / Understanding Forest Management Practices in the Pacific NW

Chainsaw is one of the modern forest tools mainly used for felling, limbing, bucking and pruning trees. It is also used to fell snags and harvest firewood. Tree harvesting and logging in large areas is almost impossible without using a chainsaw. Among all, the neck garland like saw-chain seems as one of the most significant parts of the chainsaw. 

The history of Blount Factory shows that the innovative idea of manufacturing saw-chains came into mind to help producing modern and portable chainsaw. It has been hugely successful in producing both high quality and quantity forestry and agriculture related tools by creating jobs for hundreds of numbers of people.
Though not manufacturing, but use of chainsaw is quite necessary while managing forest in order to save time and to make sufficient use of wood material.

Miguel Sanchez from Bolivia - Project /  Forest Nurseries

Big achievements are reached with the constant improvement of basic tools. During this field trip I learned about the importance of precision, durability, and innovation when it comes out to the mass production of highly durable tools.

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