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Oregon Panel Maker Adapts to Change
North Douglas Wood Products adds finger-jointing line with Conception RP System
By Donna Gordon Blankinship
Date Posted: 3/17/2004
The managers of this south
Take the challenge of competition from
“The Chinese have come into the world marketplace in a strong way in the last few years,” said Mike.
Instead of trying to compete against Chinese companies that had advantages
“The first 17 years of our existence, our largest customers were always off shore,” said Mike. “Just in the last three years, our largest customers are actually in the
They are still working with some of the same exotic woods, but the difference is that now it is brought to
North Douglas Wood Products, founded in 1984, has had to re-invent itself several times during its relatively short history in order to adapt to changing markets.
“Our outlook is that probably the worst is behind us,” said Mike. “We have gone from feast to famine several times in the history of this company. The product line, the customer base, the resources have drastically changed many times. We have realized you can’t count on anything staying stable for very long. You’ve always got to be looking for that next customer, that next product, all the time. If you’ve got that mind set, it’s no more of a challenge than you’re up to.”
A certain part of the management team’s perseverance is rooted in its civic mindedness. The managers feel a civic responsibility to make the company thrive and prosper because it is one of the largest employers — about 40 workers — in a small town.
“The determination of our management to continue to find innovative ways to service customers and keep the business alive is very important to our small town,” said Mike. The management team also is strongly committed to the forest products industry, he added.
North Douglas Wood Products is a firm believer in efficiency in its manufacturing operations, and the company consistently invests in leading edge technology. It has used several different finger-jointing systems over the years. When new technology offers significant advantages, the company spends considerable time researching it to determine if it should make a new machinery investment.
A little more than a year ago
The Conception RP system provided solutions to challenges that were a concern with previous finger-jointing systems. “Everybody who builds finger-jointers is building a quality machine,” said Mike. However, they make different approaches to overcoming the challenges of the finger-jointing process.
The Conception RP CRP 2000 system provided a machinery solution that
Another reason that
Conception RP made good on its promise. “The machine was up and running in a few days, and we were getting production speed in about a week,” said Mike.
The learning curve for machine operators to master the new technology was a little longer than for a less sophisticated system. However, once the employees learned the new equipment, they were as sold on it as their managers, said Mike.
The Conception RP CRP 2000 finger-jointing line is designed for both hardwood and softwood operations. It takes blocks from 41/2 to 36 inches long and from 11/2 to 8 inches wide. The automatic lug loading module uses a belt transfer and indexing mechanism to automatically feed incoming blocks, pre-sorted by width, into the shaper. It features adjustable speed with variable frequency electric drive. A laser measuring system detects any blocks under the minimum length.
The machine has two high precision cutter head spindles that are driven by a 20 hp electric motor with adjustable speeds up to 4800 rpm. Each of the two profiling sections has a trim saw with a 10-inch blade and two scoring saws with 8-inch blades; they are mounted on the individual high precision spindles. A 10 hp electric motor drives the saws via a flat belt at a fixed speed of 6000 rpm. Digital readouts are provided for the saw and spindle adjustments.
The glue system ensures a precise deposit of cold set adhesive. It can glue up to 200 pieces per minute and is guided by a programmable logic controller.
The automatic corner transfer changes the material flow direction through 90 degrees to transfer the cut blocks into the assembly machine. Maximum capacity is 160 pieces per minute.
The flexibility and speed of the machine have been two of its biggest advantages, according to Mike. “It can really fly,” he said. With its speed, the company uses the Conception RP line for high volume jobs and its second production line for smaller runs.
Originally, most of
The company later added a metric equivalent for overseas customers, then began making edge-glued solid wood panels in a variety of sizes for customers. The panels are sanded on both surfaces and graded for one- or two-side usage, depending on customer requirements.
Business really started to pick up when Weyerhaeuser asked the company to do some work for its Springfield, Ore. mill, taking all the smaller pieces of wood and finger-jointing them into panels.
North Douglas always has seen part of its role as helping to conserve natural resources and improving the environment, noted Mike — using wood that may have ended up in landfill or on a wood pile and making it into something useful and beautiful. Growing up in the
“There’s an ongoing concern in this country especially but world-wide that there is a finite source (of wood) out there,” said Mike. Although wood fiber is a renewable natural resource, unlike some other natural resources, “The better we can use that, the better our standard of living,” said Mike. “We can also make more money by not being wasteful.”
It has taken some time to educate consumers and furniture manufacturers about the value of engineered wood products, Mike observed. However, they seem to be embracing the idea of using every part of the tree and that engineered wood can provide more strength and stability.
The business relationship with Weyerhaeuser was a profitable partnership for both companies. Weyerhaeuser retained ownership of the wood raw material and finished product and paid
“We found ourselves with excess capacity and went out to find some new customers,” said Mike. “At least half of our business now is that type of thing, where we bring in other people’s wood and process it and they sell it.”
Most of the finger-jointing services that
“This week we’re working on Jelutong from
Not only does
Some customers come to
The company’s biggest challenge in the future will be continuing to adapt to the changing world market place, said Mike. “It used to be that your customers were largely within 500 to 1,000 miles of where you were. Now they are up to 10,000 miles away and have opportunities to buy products from around the world.”
Nevertheless, Mike is optimistic about the future because the
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