At around a million board feet per day, the Sierra Pacific lumber mill and co-generation plant is one of the top five producers of soft lumber in the nation. Located in Junction City, its acres of moving parts run 20 hours a day and are a marvel of automation and efficiency.
In order to keep the mill churning out lumber and energy, Sierra Pacific has a crew of around 30 highly specialized people who are directly responsible for the maintenance of the plant. They are the whistle chasers and millwrights. The oilers and the electricians. Their jobs are dirty, noisy and demanding. And while each man performs his own specific task, they have common cause: To prevent or minimize down time.
“Down time for us is a big deal,” said Division Manager Matt Taborski, who helped build the facility. “Our maintenance department is our single biggest department, manpower-wise, in the plant. It’s that important.”
To that end, the millwrights are like doctors, diagnosing problems and making fixes. And if the millwrights are the doctors, then the whistle chasers are the paramedics, rushing to the scene of a problem and doing whatever it takes to get the mill running again.
The following is a day-in-the-life photo essay of the millwrights and whistle chasers of the Sierra Pacific mill.