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2-Inch Bands Mean Big Gains For C & L Wood Products: New Brewco Band Resaws Boost Alabama Pallet Company
C&L Wood Products: The Brewco B-800 2-inch band resaw changed Henry Bowman’s perception about band resaws; he turned to Brewco for a resaw system that has benefited his company.

By Carolee Anita Boyles
Date Posted: 4/1/2006

HARTSELLE, Alabama — Henry Bowman knows quality when he sees it, and he knows quality equipment when he uses it. So when it came time to purchase more equipment for his company, C & L Wood Products Inc., he went with a manufacturer from whom he had heard a lot of good things: Brewco.

Henry has owned C & L Wood Products since January 1996, when he purchased it from company founder Lewis Wilson. Lewis started the company
in 1975 and built it into a sound, well-run pallet manufacturing business. Eventually he decided to retire from the industry and moved out West to start a cattle ranch.

Henry is a former Navy pilot who was bored with his job in a bank. The two were brought together by Lewis’s accountant, a former Marine named James Tucker. James knew Henry through the bank and liked him, and he knew Henry didn’t like working at the bank. So when Lewis started talking about selling the company, James put Lewis and Henry together.

The result was everything all three of them could have hoped for. "I liked Lewis, and I just fell in love with the company," Henry recalled. "There’s just something about the smell of wood…the machines. It’s kind of a guy’s world."

C&L Wood Products manufactures new pallets and industrial lumber, including dunnage and other low-grade lumber products, both pine and hardwood. The dunnage and industrial lumber are sold to customers that use it for transporting pipe and heavy metals. The company also processes hardwood waste wood into mulch.

C&L Wood Products serves a number of industries and builds many different sizes and styles of pallet. "We make them for pretty much anyone we can sell to," Henry said. "I’d say our area is more heavy manufacturing. We try to stay away from grocery and food service type pallets; that area seems to be well covered by other people. We try to do odd stuff and pallets that are a little more difficult."

C&L Wood Products has developed a reputation for building almost anything. It manufactures more than 400 different kinds of pallets for customers in industries that include automotive, components manufacturing, steel fabricators, shippers and distributors. Although the company makes a few standard pallet sizes, it is more likely to make custom or odd sizes. The largest pallet the company makes is 144x84 and the smallest, 18x20.

C&L Wood Products works almost entirely with new wood. For the most part the company works with red oak and white oak along with some hickory and yellow poplar.

C&L Wood Products buys cants from sawmills in the central Tennessee region. It normally buys cants in sizes 4x6, 4x8 and 6x6. The company operates two cut-up lines to resaw the cants into deck boards, stringers, and other components.

Pallets are assembled on two Viking Turbo 505 nailing machines with Mid-Continent fasteners.

Each cut-up line begins with a Brewco cut-off saw to cut cants to the appropriate length; one line has a Brewco double-head cut-off saw and the other cut-off saw is a single-head.

Previously, the sized cant material was run through a two-head horizontal band resaw, then it was flipped over and processed through a six-head band resaw line. The cut-up lines had de-dusters for cleaning the lumber and two Pendu stackers. C&L Wood Products used to operate both cut-up lines on the day shift and one line on a second shift, five days per week.

Henry decided to change the equipment on the main cut-up line, which was running two shifts. "I was looking for ways to increase our production, but I didn’t want to run a gang saw because I didn’t want to sacrifice kerf," he said. "So I was looking at high production bandsaws."

Henry had heard some news about a new high production resaw Brewco had designed called the B-800. The concept of the B-800 was close enough for him to make a special request of Brewco.

"I asked Brewco if they would make a six-head saw with two additional resaws in the line to size each cant and reclaim a side board," he said. "Brewco said they’d try it, and it worked."

"Worked" is an understatement. The new Brewco six-head bandsaw line works so well that it doubled C & L’s production and allowed Henry to eliminate the second shift.

"We’re cutting more during one shift now than we were cutting during two shifts before on that line," said Henry, "and we’re still using bandsaws."

"Forget what you know about band resaws," Henry added. "The Brewco B-800 2-inch band resaw changed my perception of bandsaws forever. The days of wavy cuts, slow production, bands breaking throughout the day and dusty boards are now long gone."

The new Brewco B-800 resaw line created another direct benefit to Henry’s bottom line. "We’re re-sharpening the bands now instead of just throwing them away," he said. "The 1-inch bands were disposable and cost around $10 a band. Now we’re spending $60 a band, but we’re re-using them about five times before we discard them. That saves us money. So we’ve doubled our production and lowered our band cost."

One of the challenges to putting in a high-production band resaw system is removing sawdust from the boards. Some companies run their finished deck boards through de-dusting machines.

Henry heard from a lot of naysayers before he had the line up and running. "Everyone said that there wasn’t a de-duster on the market that would keep up," he said. "However, Brewco has a patented in-line dedusting system integrated with its floating guides. Brewco put a small port right behind the band blade, and as the wood passes through, the port blows air through the kerf to remove the sawdust. When you couple that with the cleaner cut of the 2-inch band, the results are simply amazing."

Henry asked other companies running Brewco machines how the sawdust removal feature worked for them. Answers were inconsistent. "The response was mixed, but that wasn’t good enough for me," said Henry. When he probed further, he learned that Brewco’s guide system design was recently improved to go along with the 2-inch wide bands. Also, all of the other pallet companies were using a 10-20 hp air compressor to provide the needed compressed air. Henry decided to use a 50 hp compressor. The result? Clean, dust-free lumber.

"I’m really impressed with the saw," Henry said. "It’s innovative, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything innovative come out of this industry on the saw side of things."

The company has experienced other benefits from the new Brewco machinery. Yield improved, which saves on
raw material. The gains in production also enabled Henry to control labor costs. "If you can do things faster, you can pay people more and use fewer people," he said. "That’s a better thing for everybody."

With many unskilled workers in the pallet industry earning little over the minimum wage, Henry is able to retain good employees by paying them higher wages because he can operate with fewer people. "So speed is important to me because it helps my retention of good employees," he said.

Two years ago, Henry realized improving his bottom line was his biggest challenge. His plan at that time was to maintain conservative growth in a competitive environment in what he viewed as a potentially shrinking American manufacturing base.

Moving to the Brewco B-800 2-inch resaw line has helped him with that challenge, and Henry expects to make additional changes in the plant based on the successful implementation of the new cut-up line.

The company has the greatest potential to improve efficiency in its resaw operations, said Henry, by converting more of its bandsaws to the larger Brewco B-800 machines. "We run a total of 18 bandsaws in the plant, and I’m definitely going to move toward B-800 saws over the next two or three years in the entire plant," he said. "That will allow me to push our cutting operation 10 years ahead of where it was." By the time he finishes that transition, Henry expects to be producing significantly more pallet stock and pallets with the same number of employees.

Business has been good lately, Henry noted. "Manufacturing has really been on fire recently," he said. "It seemed like the first year or so after 9/11, manufacturing had slowed down…But about a year and a half after 9/11 the dollar fell, and things really started to pop. When that happened, it allowed pallet manufacturers to get some margin back into our product."

That situation, coupled with the increase in production and efficiency from the new Brewco saws, has provided Henry an economy of scale and allowed him to price his pallets in a way that makes more sense for what his business is today. "Instead of pricing per board foot, the way pallet people usually do, I’ve changed to pricing per quantity," he said. "Smaller orders cost more, and larger orders cost less."

So far, customers have accepted
his new price structure. "No one has told us ‘no,’ and we’ve filled all our orders," he said.

At the end of the day, Henry said, bringing the new Brewco machinery
into C & L Wood Products has been positive for the company, employees and customers.

"It’s a win-win situation all the way around," he said.


Brewco a Partner to Sawmills, Pallet Plants

Brewco Inc. has been manufacturing machinery for the pallet and sawmill industries for 17 years and has sold more than 5,000 machines worldwide.

The company is led by Clarence Brewer Sr., who has 40 years of experience in sawmill machinery design.

Located in the 37 acre Brewco Industrial Park in Central City, Kty., the Brewco companies have over 100,000 square feet of manufacturing and design space and employ over 150 full-time technicians. Also located in the industrial park is Brewco Motorsports, which owns and operates two top NASCAR racecar teams.

Brewco is a leader in manufacturing horizontal band resaws for both the pallet and sawmill industry. The company offers three distinct lines of band resaws, including the powerful Brewco B-800.

Brewco also manufactures cut-up saws, vertical and horizontal sizers, board edgers, multi-trim saws, double end-trim saws, unscramblers and automated material handling equipment. The company can supply individual machines or complete lumber or component manufacturing systems.

For more information or to obtain the new 2006 Brewco product DVD, call Brewco at (800) 237-6880 or visit the Web site at www.brewcoinc.com.

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