Industrial Wood Products Specializes in Special Orders
Industrial Wood Products: North Carolina company supplied by Holtec and Newman is known for specialty industrial wood components, quality, custom cutting and packaging.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 12/1/2000
CLIMAX, North Carolina — Orders for special wood components require special attention.
In the industrial wood products realm, a customer may need components that are precision end trimmed, perhaps with additional special cuts, such as a groove for banding. A certain level of wane or knots may be specified. The customer also may want his order packaged in a certain way.
Those kind of special considerations are the specialty of Industrial Wood Products. And it is not unusual for production staff to check every other piece — or every piece — in order to ensure they meet tolerances.
"We’re a good place to go if you have highly specialized order," said Joe Godfrey, sales manager of Industrial Wood Products. The company is known for odd-sized and very specialized industrial wood components, attention to detail and quality control, and providing custom cutting and packaging.
Industrial Wood Products was originally founded as Welcome Lumber Co. — in Welcome, N.C. — in 1979. The business started with one resaw. Since its inception it has served customers in the pallet industry.
The company moved in 1983 about a 30-minute drive to the small town of Climax. The community is located just south of Greensboro, about 60 miles from the Virginia state line and roughly in the middle of North Carolina as the state runs east to west.
Industrial Wood Products had annual sales in the fiscal year that just ended of about $11.5 million, up slightly from the previous year. About 75-80% of sales are through office wholesalers.
The company’s operations are conducted on about 65 acres of land. It has two office buildings and nine sheds for storing lumber and its remanufacturing operations. It also has a large maintenance shop.
One of the office buildings is only a little over a year old. Within it is a large conference room dedicated to hourly employees, a break room with microwave ovens and snack machines, and a large restroom. "That was a big step for us," said Joe, whose title doesn’t really indicate everything he does. In addition to doing most of the selling, he buys the raw material, schedules production and makes shipping arrangements.
The number of employees fluctuates somewhat but the company has about 55 working in one shift.
The co-owners of the company are Johnny Hall, president, and Lee Ashburn, who recently finished serving a one-year term as chairman of the governing board of the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association.
Johnny hosts an annual auction and golf tournament to benefit the Log-a-Load for Kids campaign. In the past two years the fund-raising activities have collected over $450,000.
Their activities on behalf of the forest products industry are unusual given the size of the company, according to Joe. "We’re a small company," he said, "but we are extremely proud of the leadership role that our management has taken on behalf of the wood products industry."
In addition to serving the wooden packaging industry (pallets, crates and containers), Industrial Wood Products also serves the retail lumber industry, reel manufacturers, storage building manufacturers, ‘big box’ retail stores, and other businesses. Wooden packaging gets the lion’s share of the business, however: 70% of its business is shipping components.
Industrial Wood Products will provide custom remanufacturing services to a customer’s lumber or provide stock and cut it to customer specs. Volume is split about 50-50 among customers who supply their own stock or buy stock from Industrial Wood Products.
The company serves customers mainly in the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. "That’s where the bulk of our product goes," said Joe.
A high percentage of the company’s sales come through office wholesalers. "They’ll come to me and say, ‘I’ve got a customer using a product four and half inches wide, and he wants a groove cut in it and notched on both ends — what can you do?’ That’s when we get creative." Joe will figure out what material the company can start with and how it can be remanufactured on what equipment to make the desired component. "The more specialized the piece, the better fit it is with our company."
The company buys raw material roughly within a 200-mile radius — southern Virginia and the Carolinas. Although the company works predominantly with Southern yellow pine, it occasionally resaws hardwood cants.
The most common raw material the company works with is 1x6, followed by 2x4. "We inventory 2 million board feet of low-grade lumber," said Joe. The company buys 1x4, 1x6 and 1x8 in lengths ranging from 4 feet to 16 feet and special orders in lengths of 18 feet and 20 feet. Industrial Wood Products also inventories 2x4, 2x6, 2x8, 2x10 and 2x12.
Industrial Wood Products, which is certified by the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau to grade and stamp lumber, is in the process of starting a dry kiln operation. Heretofore it has air-dried some rough green lumber. The company bought a used gas-fired kiln with a capacity of 80,000 board feet and is awaiting permits to begin running it. "The dry kiln should open up new opportunities for us," said Joe.
For the pallet industry, Industrial Wood Products supplies almost exclusively Southern yellow pine cut stock — deck boards and stringers.
Over the years the company typically has bought used machinery at auction. It will buy a piece of equipment and reorganize some operations around the addition or develop a new market for material that it can make.
One of the latest additions was a Holtec package saw acquired new in 1994. The company has liked it so much that a second Holtec was scheduled to be installed in October. "We try to use the Holtec as much as possible," said Joe.
One benefit of the Holtec that has been particularly noteworthy to the company is that the machine helps to control labor costs. "What I like about the Holtec is that it requires one man," said Joe. A multi-trim saw may require a crew of six or more, Joe noted — two to feed and four to pull. "One problem we have is maintaining a labor force," he said. "Climax is a rural area."
Pallet components are also manufactured on the company’s two McDonough resaws, a Wood-Mizer two-head horizontal band resaw, and five Newman KM-16 multi-trim saws. Industrial Wood Products generally resaws material first and then cuts it to size. The company has a Hazlethorn notching machine for notching stringers.
The Newman KM-16 multi-trim saws are used mainly for cutting deck boards to size. "We’ll also do grading at the trim saws," said Joe. For example, the company sometimes uses the Newman KM-16 multi-trims to cut 16-foot 2x4 into 4-foot sections. The pieces will be conveyed to a turntable where workers will pull ‘web’ stock — material to be used for making trusses.
The company also is equipped with a pair of Yates-American planers, a J.M. Nash tenoner, a Wadkin moulder, and two SEM gang rip saws.
The company’s ‘new’ planer was built in the mid-1940s. It is used primarily for surfacing rough stock that has air-dried for about a year. The other Yates-American is equipped with a profiler that allows them to do specialty cuts, such as strapping grooves.
The company also does a good volume of work splitting 2x8 to 2x4 and pattern work. It does a large volume of splitting 2x material to 1x.
"We’re a small board producer," said Joe, "but what we tend to do is specialty work — low-wane boards, for example. We can pull to specific grades and make specialty packaging components."
"We’re not out there making one-by-six-by-12, trying to be the cheapest guy around," he added. A typical customer order would be for a low-wane product, precision end-trimmed, solid knots "no bigger than a Skoal can," and put in half-packs with edge protectors. "That’s the kind of order we can fill," said Joe. "Something with strings attached to it."
Another thing that sets the company apart is its attention to quality, said Joe. "We have a very good reputation for consistency on resawn thickness. If thick and thin is a problem, you need to come to us." The resaws are self-centering, and Industrial Wood Products has a worker at each saw, checking frequently for thickness tolerance compliance.
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