Oak Scraps Get a Second Life

Fingerjointing technology helps Eagle Industries optimize material yields.

By Phillip Meeks

     
Eagle Industries LLC

Bowling Green, KY

www.eagle-ind.com

Eagle Industries’ sales have more than doubled since 1997 and reached $70 million last year. The 12-year-old company specializes in manufacturing promotional oak furniture for the home. It operates out of a 650,000-square-foot facility and employs more than 750 employees.

Three Keys

1. Fingerjointing allows Eagle to turn waste oak into value-added exterior furniture components.

2. Initial consumer acceptance of its fingerjointed children’s furniture pieces led Eagle to expand this part of its business.

3. Eagle’s trucking subsidiary and the company’s Albany, OR, assembly plant help fulfill orders placed by 3,500 retailers throughout the United States and Canada.

 
   
     

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

Eagle Industries benefits from having a close-knit relation with its trucking subsidiary, Eagle Transportation. The transport company puts 50 tractors and more than 100 trailers on the road. Controller Bill Garrison says Eagle Industries will ship product to more than 3,500 retail stores located throughout the United States and Canada.

     
 
Eagle Industries’ entry into fingerjointed oak products was in children’s bedroom furniture. The initial success led to the development of other products.  
     

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.

Bolstering Production

While the company has undergone tremendous growth over the past 10 years, only within the last four years or so has it made serious investments in computerized technology. Recent purchases include a Gabbiani angular panel saw and three Morbidelli point-to-point machines from SCM Group USA, and CNC glass cutting, grooving, beveling and edging equipment.

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.

     
 
Fingerjointed oak strips exit the Omga FJL 180 SA fingerjointing line. The line can process 3,000 to 5,000 linear board feet during a 10-hour shift.  
     

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

Most of the wood Eagle uses is harvested in the nearby Appalachian highlands. Prior to having fingerjointing capabilities, Eagle marketed waste blocks to charcoal manufacturers in its region. With the process in play, wood waste is greatly reduced and a larger selection of oak case goods is placed on the market, serving as a link between high quality and high affordability.

“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.”

     
 
Eagle assembles its furniture to order to reduce the need for carrying inventory.  
     

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 an attempt to make the affordability of its furniture even more pronounced, Eagle avoids large inventories, choosing rather to service specific orders and ship them as soon as possible. Once again, the transportation side of the company helps make this a more easily accomplished goal.

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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