The quest to remain competitive is what drives Northland Forest Products Inc. to continuously improve its manufacturing operation. Founded in 1979 by Dick and Shari Pyle, the Shakopee, MN-based hardwood moulding and dimension lumber manufacturer has invested more than $1.4 million in new technology over the past 30 months to grow its productivity and profitability.
The strategy has paid off. According to President Dick Pyle, Northland Forest Products’ profits have continued to grow despite the economic downturn — and without any layoffs of full-time employees. New technology also has helped the company to significantly reduce its turnaround time on lineal mouldings — by 70 percent — from 10 days down to three.
In recognition of its efforts, Northland Forest Products recently was awarded a 2012 WMIA Wooden Globe for “Commitment to Excellence through Technology and Innovation.”
Inherent in its commitment to product excellence and competitiveness was Northland Forest Products’ revamping of its manufacturing process. Pyle says this was a direct response to the shifting paradigm of the marketplace.
“To survive, you have to look at changing. We were sitting with all this high production equipment ready to go, but large production runs were no longer in demand by our primary customers [cabinet manufacturers and retail lumberyards],” Pyle says. “In order to keep going, we realized we had to approach the market differently.”
Shorter, custom runs was the answer. Pyle says the company used its capital and “retooled to play into these smaller runs. We’re ready to take on business as it comes back.”
Pyle notes moulding sales now comprise 60 percent of his business, while sales of S4S hardwood dimension lumber are 40 percent of Northland Forest Products’ revenues. “Before the downturn it was flipped,” he says.
Primary species offered by the company include: red oak, poplar, maple, cherry, alder and hickory. Northland Forest Products is also a distributor for red grandis. There are no minimum quantities on runs.
Unique to Northland Forest Products’ manufacturing process is its use of the MillVision Pro 2.0 software system to track production — at anytime — from anywhere that has cellular phone/internet access.