The Midway sawmill is resuming operations after a four-week shutdown.

Midway Mill resumes operations

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

The Midway Mill is re-opening this week after a four-week shutdown for maintenance.

A press release from Vaagen Fibre on Monday said 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.”

“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 Plant Manager Darryl Reekie.

The Midway Mill directly employs 70 workers and contracts another 45 between Grand Forks and Osoyoos,

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 shutdown.

“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 said 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.

“Our workers have done a fantastic job on making sure that every piece of equipment and machinery is in top shape and running smoothly,” said Dan Macmaster, Fibre Manager at Vaagen Fibre Canada. “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.”

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.”