Mill's Pride in the Beginning

Editor's note: The following Editorial and feature article on Mill's Pride were originally published in Wood & Wood Products' March 1990 issue. A follow-up Editorial and article appears in the April 1998 issue. It should be noted that Mill's Pride aborted plans to produce its own particleboard within a couple years of the March 1990 issue's release.

 

Editorial: How's This for Openers?

BY RICH CHRISTIANSON

If seeing is believing, then I believe that I have recently seen one of, if not the most, impressive manufacturing start-up in North American woodworking history.

Developed to the tune of about $75 million, DWP's state-of-he-art facility in Waverly, Ohio, is a vertically integrated operation, which by year's end will give the company a measure of self-sufficiency equalled by few other U.S. woodworking companies. Its in-house operations will include the capability to manufacture particleboard, and to double-side laminate or veneer these panels.

The company's highly-automated panel processing plant, featuring five feed-through production lines for sizing, squaring, edgebanding, drilling and postforming panels, is designed to produce 30,000 ready-to-assemble cabinets a week under the auspices of only 13 men for each of two shifts.

DWP's cost efficiencies are not limited to materials handling savings. Wood offal from its rough mill, rather than being hogged, is fingerjointed into long boards for use in cabinet door production or for sale as truck flooring, countertops and other product applications. Sawdust and wood scraps that are too small to be fingerjointed, fuel a boiler system that provides process heat for finishing and dry kilns, and helps power turbines that cogenerate enough electricity to save the company an estimated $1,000 per day in electrical costs.

Bold marketing strategy
Manufacturing is only half of the Mill's Pride story. The other half involves the interesting marketing strategy the company has plotted to reach its ambitious goal of $60 million in annual cabinet sales by 1992.

Knowing that it would be difficult to quickly enlist a national network of distribution through kitchen and batch showcases, the company has opted to break with tradition and sell its RTA products -- under the name "Mill's Pride" -- through home centers and mass merchandise stores. As Ray Wilkinson, DWP's production director explains it, "We're trying to bring something fresh to this market. If we sold rigid units, what more could we offer? The competitive pressures just drive prices and profit margins lower and lower."

Taking into account its manufacturing efficiencies and increased consumer acceptance of RTA products, the company believes it timing is right to become an overnight sensation in home improvement arena. According to Bill Graves, a Mill's Pride spokesman, a good portion of the company's hopes for success hinges on its ability to expand the cabinet market and not just stealing market share from better established players.

Because a typical Mill's Pride galley of L-shaped kitchen composed of 10 boxes is prices to retail for less than $1,000, Graves says he believes the company's products will have "a certain mass appeal" among the growing number of American homeowners who look to save money by tackling home improvement projects themselves. "Once a consumer comes to realize that a kitchen is simply composed of a series of individual boxes, then I think he begins to realize that it is not that monumental of a project to redo his own kitchen."

This is only a snapshot portrait of DWP and its cabinet division, Mill's Pride. Greater detail of this new woodworking giant's origins, operations and aspirations can be found in our exclusive story that follows.

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