Oak Scraps Get a Second Life
Fingerjointing technology helps Eagle Industries optimize material yields.
By Phillip Meeks
Fingerjointing is far more common in the softwood industry than in the hardwood sector where a ready market for fingerjointed studs, profile-wrapped components and other products has long existed.
Yet, not only is Eagle Industries LLC of Bowling Green, KY, fingerjointing oak, it is using the “lumber” made from this reclaimed wood on the exposed carcasses of the promotional furniture it manufactures and sells throughout North America.
The success of these efforts is evident in the tremendous growth the 12-year-old company has experienced. Annual sales reached more than $70 million last year, more than double those of 1997. That kind of growth has helped make the company a regular fixture of Wood & Wood Products’ annual WOOD 100 Report of fast growing companies.
According to Eagle executives, fingerjointing helps Eagle kill two birds with one stone: It reduces disposal costs and increases lumber yield. In addition, fingerjointing allows the company to offer consumers solid wood products — curio cabinets, hutches, home office furniture, gun cabinets and more — at attractive prices.
Small Stores Add Up Big
Facility Manager Joe Werner says most of the retail outlets Eagle sells through are “mom and pop” operations. Yet, the numbers ultimately add up. Collectively those small retailers will help Eagle Industries sell approximately 300,000 pieces of furniture this year, according to Garrison.
The company’s shipping abilities are further enhanced by its Albany, OR, facility where furniture components machined in Bowling Green are assembled, finished and then shipped to customers in the Pacific Northwest. The assembly plant saves Eagle Industries the cost of hauling assembled furniture over long distances and reduces the instances of freight damage.
In addition, sanding capacity has been improved and lumber sorting capabilities have been expanded with the addition of four kickers to each of the company’s Turbo Wonder Saws; each formerly had eight. To help maximize these technological advantages, Eagle is working with the Kentucky Wood Products Competitiveness Corp. to train many of its 750 employees.
Each of the above mentioned investments have helped Eagle achieve its great growth. Yet, one element that has had a particularly major impact on the company’s manufacturing prowess, and which has helped it put higher-grade furniture directly into the hands of a wider range of consumers, is its Omga FJL 180 SA fingerjointing line.
According to Werner, a “hobo” line of products is manufactured from 10-foot boards of fingerjointed oak pieces. Each piece ranges in length from 6 inches to 48 inches. He says the fingerjointing line can process between 3,000 and 5,000 linear feet of board during a 10-hour shift, depending on the width of the pieces.
Fingerjointing Adds Value
“The original intent of the fingerjointer was to make use of some of the scrap off the dimension line,” explains Werner. “It was intended, at first, to be used to create internal or structural parts. Then we decided to make children’s bedroom outfits to test the market. It went over extremely well and was expanded to an entertainment center, desk and microwave hutch for the kitchen. Another big reason for the success is that customers get a solid wood product for the price of one made with plywood.”
Where such an end product might have been undesirable in the past, current trends dictate some consumers’ preference for the fingerjointed look, and Eagle Industries has played a key role in the marketplace’s acceptance of externally visible fingerjointed material.
Achieving Self Reliance
In addition to having its own trucking unit, Eagle’s dependence on outside sources is minimized in other ways. The company manufactures most of its own components, including the decorative glass panels used to adorn the various styles of dining room hutches, curio and gun cabinets and entertainment centers it offers.
Garrison says he believes one of the company’s greatest strengths is its ability to respond very quickly to the marketplace. For this reason, there are no set-in-stone plans for Eagle’s future. Instead, he says growth will be determined solely by a maintaining a solid understanding of customer needs. It is a classic example of the correlation between adaptability and survival.
“We’re just going to continue trying to do what we do,” says Garrison, “which is manufacture a value-oriented product for the consumer. It’s good furniture at a moderate price that they can afford. If we do that, then things will take care of themselves.”
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