Green approach improves profits, reduces waste
By Jack Petree
October 15, 2009 | 7:00 pm CDT

James Brackin, owner of Dream Kitchens and Baths in Cottonwood, Ala., was frustrated by the production slowdowns, diminished profits and excess waste created because face materials were unavailable at any price in the sizes needed for his custom cabinet shop. The solution to Brackin's problem came when Five Mile Custom Wood Products & Millworks began production nearby.

Prior to Five Mile's setting up shop next door, Dream Kitchens and Baths faced the same problem many cabinetmakers confront in creating custom work while using lumber available through the traditional supply chain. Brackin purchased random width S2S material that required ripping and sanding before use, a time-consuming process that often included significant material waste.

Five Mile Custom Wood Products & Millworks changed all that for Dream Kitchens and Baths. Using lumber produced on environmentally sensitive thin-kerf sawmills and then processed using precision moulding equipment purchased from the same company that manufactures the sawmills, Five Mile provides Brackin with S4S products milled to the exact sizes his firm requires.

"Now," Brackin says, "Because I can get the precise sizes I need at a very competitive price, I save both time and money. I have increased production speed by 10 to 20 percent and eliminated the waste without sacrificing quality."

Green approach pays off

Five Mile Custom Wood Products & Millworks came into being as part of a detailed business plan developed by owner and founder, Al Messer. After nearly four decades as a manager in textile manufacturing, Messer desired to settle near his Florida roots and to employ his skills in something he enjoyed.

Messer was impressed years earlier when he had contracted a thin-kerf portable sawmill to mill lumber from his own logs and noticed both the environmental and the business potential inherent in the process. Based on that experience, he planned a "vertically integrated," environmentally sensitive business that would convert raw logs into finished products, including custom mouldings. The thin kerf allows for maximum yield from raw lumber because more wood is converted to useable boards and less to sawdust.

Necessary equipment

Messer's concept was to take advantage of the abilities of a Wood-Mizer LT70 thin-kerf portable sawmill he'd purchased to mill the under-used forest resource in his area, then process the resulting lumber into high-value, quality wood products in demand by customers like Dream Kitchens and Baths.

Messer went to Wood-Mizer's industrial division, AWMV, for a moulder with the flexibility, capacity and economy he needed. "I chose the six spindled machine because it met my criteria, the initial investment was significantly less than would have been necessary utilizing other options and it was backed by the company's reputation for customer service and reliability," he comments.

Making adjustments

While experience has caused Messer to adjust his business plan to some extent, the idea of focusing almost exclusively on milling, drying and processing local cypress, pine and native hardwoods has shown merit. The adjustment came because cabinetmakers sometimes prefer northern hardwoods over local woods.

To ensure his customers' success, Messer has begun to purchase kiln-dried, random S2S stock from a wholesaler in Kentucky, where thin-kerf sawmilling is also becoming more prevalent, and is converting it to S4S materials and custom moulding for his growing customer base.

Over the past quarter century, an entire sub-industry based on equipment like the Wood-Mizer sawmill/molder combination Messer owns has come into being. As a result, cabinetmakers like Brackin are able to source specialty materials locally, enhance profitability and quality, and contribute to efforts to produce products in a more environmentally sensitive manner than in the past.

Today, the two firms are demonstrating that a green approach to creating wood products can enhance the environment, reduce costs and increase profitability.

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