Lumbermen Associates Expands To Meet Growing Demand for Industrial Products: Pennsylvania Remanufacturer Adds New Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle Gang Saw
Lumbermen Associates: Pennsylvania-based company started as brokers of cargo lumber and has grown to four divisions; growth has been achieved by meeting needs of customers, suppliers.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 7/1/2006
BRISTOL, Pennsylvania —When you arrive at the yard of Lumbermen Associates Inc., there is a bustle of activity: trucks lining up to pick up material, lumber being loaded, suppliers’ trucks arriving, and rail cars being offloaded.
Inside, 14 salesmen are making calls, impromptu meetings are going on continuously, and people are calling out questions across cubicles. Yet, there is a sense that everyone knows his role and enjoys working together.
Lumbermen Associates started as brokers of cargo lumber from offices in the Philadelphia area. Now it has four major divisions, 55 employees, a fleet of 10 trucks, 15 acres filled with inventory, and a fully equipped remanufacturing facility.
Growth and profitability has been achieved by meeting the needs of customers and suppliers alike. The ideas of partnering and solving problems started with the founder, Coates Coleman III. The second generation of owners — Tom Deegan, president, Tim Deegan, vice president, and Tom Coleman, vice president — has not wandered far from their fathers’ formula for success.
Coates founded the business in 1961 with two partners. It was operated as a privately held wholesaler until the early 1970s. In 1975 Lumbermen Associates was acquired by Warner Co. of Philadelphia, a publicly traded building products distributor. Coates met his future partner, Tom Deegan Jr., a CPA who was controller of Warner’s multiple building product companies.
Four years later, Coates and Tom had the opportunity to purchase Lumbermen Associates. Their different skills were a good business marriage. Coates took the marketing and operations responsibilities, and Tom utilized his skills in accounting, administration and negotiating. The partners worked together to grow the business for over 20 years until Tom retired eight years ago. Coates continues to come into the office on a regular basis although he is semi-retired.
Remanufacturing and adding value have been the anchor of Lumbermen Associates’ success. It can supply lumber to meet customer requirements by cross-cutting to length, ripping, adding a
The company moved in 1990 to its current site in Bristol, Penn. The facility is situated on the Northeast corridor railroad line and is within a few miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 95 corridor. This location enables Lumbermen Associates to take delivery of lumber via rail and provides efficient shipping access to the entire mid-Atlantic region.
As a full-service wholesale distribution business, Lumbermen Associates has extended its trading radius to most of the Eastern U.S. Its yellow tagged lumber can be found in a variety of industries, such as steel and aluminum, plastics, cast iron pipe, pallets and containers, exporters, equipment manufacturers, wood treating, and paper and glass companies.
Lumbermen Associates is busy keeping pace with the increasing demand for its industrial lumber products. The company recently added production capacity and efficiency with its investment in a custom Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle gang saw. Material is cut to length, proceeds to the gang saw or is finished with a horizontal bandsaw before the stock heads to a rotating table or 25-foot green chain. The new Brewer gang saw provides faster production, which translates into quicker response time for customers. The company’s remanufacturing plant also is equipped with a Brewer multi-trim saw, two Pendu gang saws, a Holtec cross-cut package saw, a Pacific Trail package cross-cut saw, a McDonough 54-inch vertical band resaw, a pop-up saw, and a MarSal gothic top machine. The plant operates one shift.
Besides 40,000 square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space, Lumbermen Associates is in the process of constructing a new building that will add 25,000 square feet for more storage. The new building was designed with one side open in order to increase efficiency in storage and retrieval operations.
The oldest of the company’s four major divisions is the industrial division, which produces a steady stream of products for a diverse customer base, including 1x4 and 1x6 in such softwood grades as economy and utility (#3) and low-grade hardwoods. The product mix is as diverse as the customer base.
To produce industrial lumber products, Lumbermen Associates buys Southern Yellow Pine throughout the South, spruce from the Northeast and Canada, and hardwood cants and lumber from the South and mid-Atlantic regions.
The shed division supplies lumber and wood panels for small outdoor buildings, including sheds, garages, gazebos and other structures. The division started out supplying siding and treated 4x4 to shed builders in Lancaster, Penn. It has expanded to supply sheathing for roofs and floors, European spruce studs, shingles, and a variety of sidings. Lumbermen Associates also distributes DuraTemp siding, an exterior siding that is an all-veneer plywood product with a hardboard-face ply, and Louisiana Pacific’s Smart Siding, which is specially treated OSB, paper-embossed to resemble cedar siding. The shed division can supply customers with everything but windows. The market also has expanded geographically from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New England, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Building trust is a key ingredient in partnering and bringing together suppliers and customers. For example, Lumbermen Associates organizes an annual breakfast for the shed division and its customers and suppliers. At the January 2006 breakfast, 150 people attended, including more than 60 builders, to discuss how their businesses could be better served by Lumbermen Associates.
The retail division serves local independent home centers. Like the shed division, it supplies a considerable volume of European spruce dimension lumber. As much as a third of the European spruce is sold directly from Eastern ports; Lumbermen Associates picks up the material at ports in Baltimore, Norfolk, Va., and Wilmington, Del., and delivers it to customers throughout the East Coast. The retail division also supplies high grade spruce and pine 4/4, 5/4 and stepping products.
The fence division caters to fence contractors and retailers. Lumbermen Associates distributes fence panels and components to contractors who install fencing for residential and commercial customers. The Lumbermen Associates inventory includes fencing material made of white cedar, Western red cedar, treated Southern yellow pine and spruce. Lumbermen Associates entered into an exclusive agreement this year with J.D. Irving to distribute white cedar material.
Lumbermen Associates has long term relationships with domestic and international mills. For example, J.D. Irving has been a primary supplier of spruce, pine and hardwoods for over 20 years.
Lumbermen Associates has been importing European spruce from Austria, Germany, Sweden and Latvia for six years. The company typically imports 2x3, 2x4 and 2x6 in lengths ranging from 6-16 feet. Tim Deegan, head purchasing agent Gregg Garrison, and salesman Dean Fry recently visited numerous European mills of Stora Enso, the third largest lumber producer in the world.
Lumbermen Associates ships about 18 million board feet of lumber products monthly, according to Tom Deegan.
Lumbermen Associates buys low-grade lumber, dimension yellow pine, spruce, hemlock and aspen, and hardwood cants. While most of the material is shipped to their yard by trucks, increasingly more raw material is delivered by rail. The company brings rail cars to its siding and unloads about 12 cars per week.
The company also buys a large volume of certified, stamped heat-treated lumber to be sold for export packaging applications.
The lumber remanufacturing operations process hardwood cants and spruce and pine lumber to make pallet boards, crating material, dunnage and other industrial lumber products. The Holtec and Pacific Trail package cross-cut saws are operated by a two-man team that makes pallet stock, precision end-trimmed floor joists, and other products.
The new Brewer gang saw has been a good fit and complement to the other equipment and has provided additional capacity to meet increasing demand. “Brewer provided full support” during installation of the newest gang saw, said Tim.
All wood fiber is utilized. Scrap wood is processed on-site by two Weima-American grinders. Some of the grindings are for boiler fuel to heat the plant and offices, and the remainder is sold.
Guy Brown does much of the plant machinery and saw blade maintenance; Lumbermen Associates also relies on S&D Saw and Tool Co. of Shamokin, Penn. for blade service.
Remanufacturing lumber and adding value to lumber have endured as the core of the business at Lumbermen Associates even as the company has diversified. The company emphasizes lasting relationships with customers and suppliers that are built on quality products and responsiveness.
All the principals know the business of Lumbermen Associates thoroughly. They more or less grew up in the lumber business. As their fathers were building a strong business foundation, their sons were working in the mill and studying business at college.
“We all worked in the remanufacturing side” before going into sales and eventually into management, said Tim, speaking about himself, Tom Deegan and Tom Coleman.
A native of Pennsylvania, Tim has been working with Lumbermen Associates full-time since 1989, when he completed his bachelor’s degree in business at Cabrini College. Later he earned his MBA at LaSalle College. In his free time he enjoys being with his three young children and also playing golf.
Tom Deegan earned an undergraduate degree in accounting at LaSalle College and later an MBA with an emphasis in finance. He has been leading the company as president since the mid 1990s and overseas operations, administration, personnel and more. He has overseen the expansion program for the last several years and has the company poised for even greater growth in the near future. He and his wife have four children and several years ago adopted a daughter from China.
Tom Coleman joined Lumbermen Associates in 1985 after working for Lindenmeyr Paper Co. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bucknell University and recently completed Drexel University’s executive MBA program at nights. Tom runs the fence division, marine piling sales and handles the sale of treated timbers for municipalities, such as guard rails, sign posts and boardwalk material. He has two teen sons and enjoys helping the local volunteer fire department.
Rounding out the management team is the chief financial officer, Brian Cassel. He is a CPA who joined Lumbermen Associates in 2002, bringing over 20 years of experience in public accounting and a privately held company distribution. Brian is responsible for overall financial management.
Lumbermen Associates is a large family affair. Most of the 55 employees have worked for quite a number of years and have a lot of independence and responsibility. The office personnel have been with Lumbermen Associates for an average of over 18 years; Ellen Street has been office manager since 1962, beginning with Coates Coleman. Likewise, the sales team has been together for a long time, with most of them joining the company over 10 years ago. The environment is upbeat and positive with a can-do attitude to solving challenges. Clearly, the employees are a key ingredient to the company’s success.
Three of the principals, Tom Deegan, Tim Deegan and Tom Coleman, have partnered with Tom Palmer and Al Anderson in an affiliated company, Colonial Forest Products Inc. in Crewe, Va. Colonial is also a lumber remanufacturing business. The Virginia plant is equipped with a Yates-American planer, Holtec cross-cut saw, McDonough resaw and Cornell (now Pendu) gang saw. Colonial supplies many industrial businesses, local wood treaters, shed builders, and retail customers as a wholesaler and remanufacturer.
The link between Colonial Forest Products and Lumbermen Associates enhances service and expands the trading radius. The company has realized speedier deliveries and has been able to add some new operations and products, such as tongue and groove and planing.
Lumbermen Associates belongs to the North American Wholesale Association (NAWLA) and the American Fence Association (AFA), and the principals are active in the organizations. For example, Tom Deegan has served in recent years on the board of NAWLA. The company also supports the Temperate Forest Foundation, which promotes forest products and sustainable forest management.
Lumbermen Associates continues to make steady investments in order to increase efficiency, improve quality and fulfill the needs of customers. The principals and the management team are well-equipped by their education and experience to lead the business into the future.
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