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Arizona Lumber Company Takes on Custom Industrial Products
Holtec System Adds Versatility, Production to Specialty Company

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 11/30/2004

CHANDLER, Arizona -- Richard South launched Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies Inc. in 1997. But even before he formed the company, Richard was working with wood.

            “I just started doing work for people on the side,” said Richard. “Prior to starting this, I was a general contractor. It got to the point where I couldn’t do both.”

            The pace of orders for wood products kept growing, and the contracting business was going strong, too. Richard could not do it all. And he chose the lumber industry.

            Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies makes components for manufacturers of pallets, trusses, and for industries ranging from furniture to mining. If a customer comes to Richard with a need, he can probably make it. “We’re a lumber remanufacturing company,” he explained. The company also makes a small volume of custom pallets.

            In the last year, Richard added a machine that has proven to be very important to improving the speed and versatility of the company’s operations. He invested in a Holtec Selecut® V package cross-cut saw.

            Richard evaluated a number of package saws from different suppliers. “I went and looked at all the other saws available,” he said. He was impressed with the speed and cutting tolerances of the Holtec system.

            “When we have large volumes of lumber to cut,” said Richard, the cutting job goes to the Holtec. One application where the Holtec is particularly useful, he explained, is for precision end-trimming studs. Builders require supplies of lumber in various lengths in order to meet ever-changing building designs. Knowing the construction industry from having once been part of it, Richard understands firsthand how much lumber quality counts.

            Holtec promises a cutting accuracy within plus or minus one millimeter (0.040-inch). In addition, with the Holtec’s programmable memory the operator can store frequently used cutting instructions and call them into service rapidly.

            Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies buys mainly rough boards and dimension lumber as well as cants, which make up about 60% of its raw material. Pine and Douglas fir species predominate, but there is some hemlock fir among the incoming lumber. The company buys green and dry material, depending on order requirements. The company buys 8x8, 4x6 and 4x4 cants in random lengths, either pine or Douglas fir; cants usually are remanufactured into industrial lumber products.

            The Holtec Selecut V joined an equipment line-up that includes a Samuel Kent Baker Inc. two-head bandsaw system, five Go-Fast band resaws and five Whirlwind chop saws. Richard started the business with one Whirlwind chop saw and added machines as the business grew. He kept adding Whirlwind chop saws, he said, because they work well and have proven to be reliable and durable. The Go-Fast bandsaws also are strong performers, he said. “They’re a really easy saw to work with, and they’re easy to work on.”

            When Richard talks about the maintenance needs of equipment, he speaks with exceptional knowledge. “I was a helicopter mechanic in the Army, a crew chief for Cobras,” he explained. His own mechanical expertise and abundant business experience equip Richard for evaluating machinery and equipment for his company.

            At the company’s operations in Chandler, Ariz., there are three buildings with about 12,000 square feet under roof on three acres. The facilities include a welding and fabricating shop. Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies has another location in nearby Coolidge, about 34 miles away, where a fourth building houses moulding and planing operations. There are 13 employees at the Chandler location and three employees at the Coolidge location.

            One of the newest employees is Brad South, Richard’s oldest son. Brad was in the Marine Corps for five years. When he returned from Iraq last year, Brad accepted his father’s offer to try working in the wood products industry.

            Now, Brad enjoys the wood products industry as much as his father. “He just took to it,” said Richard. Both Brad and Richard take stints at running the Holtec Selecut V.

            There is no typical product run at Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies. For instance, most of the company’s pallets are odd size, custom pallets ordered in quantities of 100 or less. Richard’s company has made pallets ranging from 16 inches square to more than 8 feet wide by 22 feet long.

            Orders on any given day for pallets and pallet components dictate how much the company’s operations will be oriented to the pallet industry.

            To give an example of a run that might involve the new Holtec Selecut V, Richard offered a scenario. “We would get some 4x8 cants, random lengths,” he said. The Holtec would be used to cut the cants to the correct length. Then they would be moved by forklift to a Go-Fast resaw to be resawn into1x4 deck boards. The finished deck boards are bundled together and banded. Some customers supply bar code labels they want affixed to their orders, particularly for precision end-trimmed lumber.

            While any saw shop can service his saw chains, Richard relies on Holtec to service them; the saw chains are sent to Holtec USA Corp. in Brandon, Fla. for re-sharpening. “We send back a chain a week,” he said. “They do a great job.”

            For band saw blades, the company turns to Echols Saw in Phoenix, Ariz. for new blades and to Valley Saw, also in Phoenix, for blade service.

            Holtec has provided strong support and service for the Selecut V, said Richard, and has been very attentive to him as a customer. “They’ll call every month or so,” he explained, to check on the machine’s performance. “Holtec is quick to respond” if there is any question, he said. Holtec recently sent a technician to make an on-site visit for a gratis ‘tune-up.’

            In addition to his newer equipment, Richard has some veteran machines in use, including two older gang rip saws, a Lobo Machinery Corp. planer and a moulder. The moulder is used for tongue-and-groove operations and industrial grade pattern cutting; it also is used for making log home siding and trim for log home construction.

            A native of Tempe, Ariz., Richard decided to set up his company in Chandler, a city of 100,000 residents 17 miles southeast of Phoenix. Known as a hub for the electronics industry, Chandler is also a winter resort. Most customers of Ocotillo Lumber and Building Supplies Inc. are within a 300-mile radius of Chandler. All trucking is contracted.

            Richard has built several homes over the years, all of them wood. Still, when he was growing up, he did not plan on working in the wood products industry.

            Richard got into the building trades “out of necessity” and continued on the path because he liked it. “I hung sheet rock” for years, he said. “Then I got a license and started building houses.”

            It was in his role as a building contractor that Richard began to work with wood. For example, if he needed trim material for a job, he found the quickest way to get it was to trim the material on site.

            Joining the wood products industry has been a good decision. “I enjoy the people,” said Richard.

            Holtec matches saw chains for various cutting applications. Equipped with the proper saw chain, Holtec package cross-cut saw systems also can be used for logs and large timbers, paper, gypsum plates, chipboard, plastics, and graphite rods. The ‘V’ in the Selecut V name refers to the variable cutting capability of the machine.

            The Holtec Selecut V has an optional waste evacuation system and can be combined with marking and packaging systems.

            Holtec offers other crosscut saw systems in the V series. They share an important feature: They enter a unit of lumber at a canted angle, which smoothes the entry, and then they swivel to a horizontal plane when they reach the programmed cutting depth. As a result, bottom layers of lumber may be left uncut, and it is easier to cut shorter packages of lumber.

            The top-to-bottom stroke speed of the V series is 55 seconds under optimum conditions. The speed varies, of course, with the species and lumber dimension.

            The saw chain used in the Holtec V series saws is trademarked under the name Scratcher®. The Holtec R-12 Double Stellite® guide bar assembly that maintains the precision cutting is also trademarked. For industrial applications, Holtec supplies V series saws of almost any type of kerf and bar assembly, including thin-kerf 0.375-inch.

            Holtec designed the Selecut V to be a flexible machine in many ways. Multiple packages can be loaded at one time because the Selecut has a fixed frame. In addition, Holtec has designed the machine to grow with a company. It is possible to start out with a manually controlled machine and upgrade later to programmable controls as volume entering the package saw grows with the size of a company.

            “The Holtec is the best package saw out there,” said Richard. “We’ve had minimal breakdowns.”

            When Richard takes time away from his business, he often gets away from the desert. “I like to fish,” he said. And he has a sports fishing boat moored in San Diego. In coming months, he plans to travel to Mazatlán, Mexico to fish.

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