Member Spotlight: JoeScan

Scanning hardware for sawmills has been around for decades, but have you ever thought about how it came to be?  Joey Nelson thought about it throughout his childhood.  As he grew up, he learned everything he could about sawmill optimization through his father’s business. Early scanning hardware could provide tremendous returns for mills, but the equipment was often expensive, unreliable, and difficult to use.

Joey’s interest in laser scanning for the sawmill industry grew as he studied electrical engineering at Washington State University. A few years after working on a project to develop the L-51 laser scanner for his father’s company, Joey decided to take the plunge and start his own company dedicated to creating laser scanners for sawmills that are more reliable, easier to operate, and more affordable. That company was JoeScan.

Joey built the first JoeScan JS-20 scanner in 2002. Since then, JoeScan has made a concerted effort to raise the bar for sawmill scanning. Subsequent models have increased the maximum scan rate, become easier to install and calibrate, and made sawmill scanning better.

Joey enjoys working with sawmills, saying, “Today’s sawmills are high production factories; they depend on their equipment to be accurate, reliable, and easy to use. The sawmill industry is dynamic and competitive, and that is exciting to me! Plus, logs are a major cost in producing lumber, so getting the most out of every log is critically important to be competitive.”

When you ask the average person to describe where lasers are used, their mind typically goes to the field of science or medicine.  They picture sterile, shiny rooms that protect the laser from damage. And if there is anything a sawmill is known for, being sterile certainly isn’t it. Joey has built something that defies that image, pointing out, “JoeScan focuses on key things that sawmills need, which would be technology that’s robust, tough, and rugged. Our scanners are meant to survive in sawmill environments that are brutal, dusty, have constant vibration, and of course, sawdust.”

Customer service is always top of mind at JoeScan.  “When you call JoeScan for technical support, you talk to an engineer that helped develop the product. We understand that downtime at a sawmill is costly. All of our engineers speak the ‘sawmill language. So, when a customer says they’re not getting the same proportion of FAS as they were getting before, our engineers know just what that means and how to fix it.”

Scanners are a significant investment for sawmills, and Joey respects that. “We stand behind our products,” said Joey. “We back our scanners with a five-year warranty and provide a ten-year support policy. Sawmills want to invest in technology that is going to work for quite a long time. So, if you buy a scanner from JoeScan, you know you’ll be able to have that scanner serviced for at least the next ten years.  Quality is important to us. The very first scanner we installed in a sawmill is still running. That was in 2002. It has never been sent back to us for repair. We’re in this for the long term.”

In any field dealing with technology, knowing what your customers will need in the future is vital.  You always need to be one step ahead of the curve. So, how does JoeScan achieve that?  Through their NHLA membership!  “Being in touch with our customers gives us the knowledge we need to develop products that explicitly address new problems facing sawmills. That’s one of the things we like about being a member of NHLA; we get to have these conversations with people in the hardwood industry.  It helps us to make sure we’re designing and developing the best products to meet all their needs.”

JoeScan has greatly benefited from its NHLA membership, with Joey saying, “NHLA allows us to see different perspectives from people who are very smart when it comes to solving hard problems, and we learn a lot from that. NHLA is a fun and exciting thing to be a part of. We also appreciate the educational opportunities – especially the use of webinars. We have our staff watch the webinars to learn more about the industry that we are supporting. It’s beneficial for them to take just an hour out of their day and learn some interesting background on what is important for our sawmills. The whole company can become more knowledgeable!”

Today, 22 years after JoeScan was created, it has grown to 11 employees dedicated to carving out a niche with sawmills as a resource for fast, accurate, and reliable scanning that delivers maximum performance and return on investment.

You can get in touch with JoeScan online at or via phone at 360-993-0069.