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After 25 years of unwavering service, the first ever Fortress Technology metal detector – serial number 0001 – has been replaced with a younger but equally robust model. In the ultimate sign of equipment longevity and reliability, the original lumber metal detector remained fully functional until switchover day last autumn. 

During its 25-year lifespan, the rugged Fortress Technology lumber metal detector inspected roughly 500 million timber board feet at the US-based Toney Lumber Company. President of the family-run yellow pine sawmill, Roger Melvin, cites business continuity as the primary driver for making the new capital investment.

Come rain or shine, the long-lasting metal detector, located outdoors under a sloping roof, has endured heat waves, snow blizzards, driving rain and damaging hurricane winds.  Yet the machine, which was only upgraded from analogue to digital in 2017, continued to reliably identify and kick out between 10 and 30 logs daily that presented with an embedded metal contaminant.

Inspecting 16ft and 12ft logs before debarking and processing up to 20 million board feet of decking, quality stair treads and stringers annually, Toney Lumber estimates that their upstream legacy metal detector paid for itself well within the first year of installation. Mostly by abating damage to expensive sawmill equipment. The company anticipates a similar, if not faster, ROI with its newest Fortress metal detector installed in November 2021. 

Exceeding expectations

Finding metal in a log can be challenging. Especially given the mix of contaminants that can range from screws, spikes, signs from fences, barbed wire and even bullets. With up to 30 logs rejected daily for metal contaminants, the savings soon add up.

Fortress founder Steve Gidman was there on the ground when the first metal detector went in quarter of a century ago. In that moment, Steve never envisioned a metal detector could last 25+ years in a sawmill environment. “It’s such a rugged application and being beaten up every day as well as being exposed to the elements. The logs are so immense and everything’s shaking as the log is conveyed down the line and through the detector,” he recalls. 

Seeding the Fortress sustainability concept

Securing a reorder to install another Fortress Technology metal detector during the company’s 25th year was especially poignant for Gidman.  “Toney Lumber played a big part in our development, taking calls from other customers to report on the functionality and performance of our systems. Their endorsements have been a huge help for a young company when building an international reputation for product inspection technologies,” he recounts.

Reflecting on an exciting journey from literally hand assembling circuit boards for the lumber company’s metal detector at his kitchen table and building the detector in his family garage, the inspection pioneer concedes that he didn’t anticipate the machine lasting more than 10 years. “We were wrong. Nobody touched that system for over a decade. It lasted 21 years before it got its first upgrade from a Pinpoint to a Phantom, and it’s still functioning 25 years later” divulges Gidman.

Throughout the years of robust growth and expansions, Gidman always revels in recollecting this first ever install. “During the testing on site the alarm went off on the second log being inspected and the belt stopped. It was a bit surprising. Visually there was no metal present. Removed from the conveyor the log was cut open. Sparks flew off the chainsaw, confirming the presence of a metal fragment,” expands the Fortress founder.

The slice removed by the North Carolina sawmill continues to take pride of place in the parent company’s Toronto HQ.

Gidman continues: “Hearing someone at the sawmill state that the system just paid for itself there and then was a ‘happy dance moment’. It was a good omen of things to come for Fortress.”

Sustainability has been front and centre of the Fortress proposition since the company’s inception, notes European Managing Director Phil Brown.

Phil expands: “Whether it’s a super-sized industrial metal detector or a highly sensitive food inspection machine, all Fortress parts are designed with future proofing in mind. For a well-maintained machine to still be performing 25 years on is definitely the ultimate sign of responsible and sustainable stewardship.”

The Infinite Inspection pledge is Fortress Technology’s unique selling point. To this day it continues to be valued by every single customer across the globe.