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NOC Code: NOC Code: 9431 Occupation: Sawmill machine operators
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Sawmill machine operators operate, monitor and control automated lumber mill equipment to saw timber logs into rough lumber; saw, trim and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes; and saw or split shingles and shakes. They are employed in sawmills and planing mills. Sawmill machine operators operate, monitor and control automated lumber mill equipment to saw timber logs into rough lumber; saw, trim and plane rough lumber into dressed lumber of various sizes; and saw or split shingles and shakes. They are employed in sawmills and planing mills.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
  • Scroll down the page to get information on career planning, education and training, and employment and volunteer opportunities.

Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Reading 1 2 3
Writing Writing 1
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3
Digital Technology Digital Technology 1
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2 3
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1 2 3
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2 3
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2


  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.


Reading
  • Read announcements on the bulletin board. (1)
  • Read the minutes of safety meetings. (2)
  • Read letters about requirements for special orders, such as for the Japanese market. (2)
  • Read memos about company policies, changes in company procedures or safety issues. (2)
  • Read equipment manuals, such as the planer manual, to learn about setup and maintenance procedures. (3)
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Writing
  • Complete downtime reports recording when equipment was shutdown and the reasons. (1)
  • Write in a logbook to record maintenance and repairs done and to leave messages for the next shift. (1)
  • Complete a work order for repairs indicating the nature of the problem and the part that is broken. (1)
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Document Use
  • Read identification labels on a dozen different breaker boxes that control conveyors, saws, and other equipment. (1)
  • Read weekly shift schedules to know which days and shifts to work. (2)
  • Read production reports which show the number of board feet of lumber cut per grade, in order to assess your production rate. (2)
  • Read a computer monitor screen to know about problems on the line, such as conveyor 2 being blocked at position "x", or a log being too short. (2)
  • Read tables with specifications for settings on the planer. (2)
  • Read production information on computer screens, such as infeed speed, net value of lumber that can be cut from logs, reject totals for each saw and norms not to be exceeded. This information is in table and graph format. (3)
  • Complete a "log quality" form which lists 16 different types of defects in logs. Record the number of logs that have each type of defect, the extent of the defect, plus comments. (3)
  • Look at computer screens that show pictures of a log along its length and faces. The screens show a cut pattern for maximizing value from the log. Operators correct the computer's pattern if there are log defects that the computer has not registered. (3)
  • Read production sheets indicating the priority cuts wanted from each lot of wood. The sheets include codes and abbreviations specifying log type and dimensions, and lumber dimensions and quantities. Include special instructions such as "target 121 mm sqrs. over 106 mm". Operators interpret the files to be able to make quick decisions about how to cut logs to fill orders and maximize the value from each log in the lot. (3)
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Digital Technology
  • Use computer-assisted design, manufacture or machining. Use computer controls to adjust equipment settings, or read computer displays of log dimensions, production data and grade markings on lumber. (1)
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Oral Communication
  • Warn the chipperman that a piece with a flared (wide) end is coming down the line, so that the chipperman can prepare and avoid having a pile up of debris to clean up. (1)
  • Listen or watch for signals from other workers that they are entering the operators' sawing area. Give and receive signals that all is clear for starting equipment or stopping equipment. (1)
  • Discuss with the edgerman and trimmer what dimensions of lumber should be cut from certain cants, to avoid mismanufacturing the lumber. (1)
  • Ask the yardman or foreperson for clarification about the quantity and dimensions of lumber to cut to avoid cutting the wrong size. (1)
  • Discuss equipment problems with a millwright, describe the location and nature of the problem, brainstorm solutions and learn how to carry out repairs. Clear information means less downtime. (2)
  • Sometimes discuss custom cut patterns with customers to learn exactly what they want. (2)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Measure the dimensions of finished boards to check that they are to specifications. (1)
  • Set the bed plate and balance the planer according to specifications and within allowed clearances. (1)
  • Calculate how many boards of various lengths should be cut to fill an order. For example, given an order for 1000 linear feet of 2 x 6 feet, operators calculate the best combination of 8 to 16 foot lengths to cut, taking into consideration the positioning of defects in the lumber. (2)
  • When carrying out repairs or helping the saw filer, use calipers to measure sawplate thickness or shaft sizes to 1/1000 of an inch. (3)
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Data Analysis
  • Read production reports that tally the number of pieces cut of each dimension, volumes of lumber and of waste, and downtimes by cause. Read the figures to monitor how efficiently cutting is being done and if production is on track in comparison to normal ranges. (1)
  • Read on a computer screen the net value of lumber that can be cut from a log when it is held in various positions, to decide which position will produce the highest value. (1)
  • Calculate the average amount of moisture using moisture meter readings from 100 boards. (2)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the length of lumber going through the planer and adjust the backstops accordingly. (1)
  • Estimate how much steel and how many bearings to purchase for upcoming jobs. (2)
  • Constantly estimate the number of pieces of lumber to cut out of a log in order to maximize the value from the log and meet order specifications. These estimates are based on the log's size, shape and quality. (3)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Most sawmill machine operators perform repetitive tasks quickly to keep up with a fast moving automated production line. (1)
  • Head sawyers, as "quarterback" of the line, set the pace for other operators. Planers sometimes have leeway in how they sequence jobs to minimize setting adjustments. (2)
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Decision Making
  • Decide when to change or sharpen blades and knives, trying to get the most out of them without causing damage to products or equipment. (1)
  • Constantly make fast decisions about the condition of boards (size, straightness, defects), to judge if they should be allowed to go through the saw or planer. (1)
  • Decide when to shut down for repairs, based on how serious the problem is and how feasible it is to carry on until the next break. (2)
  • Constantly make decisions about what sizes of lumber to cut slabs into, based on the size and quality of the slab and what dimensions have been ordered. Make decisions quickly to keep up with the flow of wood on the conveyor. Wrong decisions could waste wood and require resawing. (2)
  • Decide to correct the computer's choice of cutting pattern based on your own assessment of how to get the most value from the log. (3)
  • Follow cut priorities specified for each deck of logs, making fast decisions about which of those cuts should be made from each log. Each high-grade cut could equal thousands of dollars. A head sawyer's cutting decisions can cause a mill to make a significant profit from the logs or to merely break even. (3)
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Problem Solving
  • Catch and correct computer errors. For example, if two logs are very close to each other the computer may register them as one and choose the wrong cut pattern. Manipulate and slow the carriage to separate the logs. (1)
  • Saws or conveyors have become jammed with pieces of wood. Clear the jammed wood either manually or by using controls. Care is needed to avoid injury. (1)
  • A branch or sliver is caught in the saw slot. Try to catch the problem early and clear debris from around the saw before friction causes the blade to heat and buckle. (1)
  • Deal with "trouble logs", ones that are misshapen or might have rocks embedded in them. Figure out how to trim the logs so that they are maneuverable on the carriage, lose the least value and don't damage the blade or jam the carriage. It may be necessary to lockout the headrig at the electrical panel and manually clear a jam. (2)
  • There are boards that don't meet specifications. Figure out why and make adjustments to the saw or planer. (2)
  • A "double up" has occurred where one board rides up on another board while going through the planer and causes the planer to jam. Stop the planer to determine the cause, possibly tracing it to a board with a sniped end that the infeed operator let go through. (2)
  • Mechanical problems have occurred. Troubleshooting can range from performing routine tasks such as changing fuses or belts, to resolving complex problems such as helping the millwright and supervisor to make up the parts needed for upgrading a planer. (3)
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Finding Information
  • Ask the foreperson for clarification about lumber orders. (1)
  • Consult the millwright or foreperson for help with solving an equipment problem. (2)
  • Contact other mills to ask why a machine is operating in a particular way. (2)
  • Consult a planer manual to troubleshoot mechanical problems. (2)
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