Component specialist  Contact Industries has been successful by moving from commodity to custom products. The company makes 12,500 total parts for about 150 customers, and may make as many as 3,500 different parts in a month.

"Everybody has seen order quantity go down and complexity go up. We've had to do that to adapt in this business," says Bob Horton, vice president of manufacturing.

Contact doesn't sell cut stock and doesn't want to be in a commodity business.

"We want to be in the business of adding value," Horton says. "Ten years ago, we were 80 percent commodity and 20 percent special order. So far this year, we're 94 percent special and 6 percent commodity.

"In the future, we'll add value by doing more coatings and taking advantage of developments in films and foils. High performance exterior is a key growth area for us."

If Contact hadn't been able to switch from commodity to custom, the company wouldn't be here, says Pete Himes, sales manager.

Contact Industries offers many different components, but Himes says the company is known for its profile wrapping and variety of films, substrates and adhesives. The company previously was known as Contact Lumber, a name that doesn't fit today because it makes parts that may have no wood in them, such as stainable vinyl film over an aluminum extrusion.

"One of the keys to our profile wrapping is controlling the whole process," Horton says. "We have strong wood, veneer and adhesive technology. We do a lot of testing for customers and we can guide them to go to a better core or high performance glue, for example, to achieve what they want. And we have a very good system for quality assurance checks."

Contact has done continuous improvement in an organized manner since the early 1990s, Horton says. Some manufacturing cells are very specialized and are dedicated to certain products, while others are flexible and can do a wide variety of jobs.

Rough mill, fingerjointing, veneer

Contact Industries employs 390 on an 80-acre site in Prineville, in central Oregon, with 575,000 square feet of space in three main plants. The three primary functions are rough mill and fingerjointing, a large veneer processing operation, and assembly and manufacturing, which includes profile wrapping.

Horton says that Contact has used the business slowdown to improve its manufacturing processes. The company spends $1.5 to $5 million a year in capital improvements.

"In order to be a job shop, we have to adjust to what our customers want, so sometimes that means setting up new lines or new cells."

Contact does a lot of one-time orders and is often the sole parts provider, so the company has to have a materials strategy to make sure the right raw materials are on hand.

Ponderosa pine accounts for about 70 percent of volume, and 10 percent is radiata from New Zealand and Chile. Nearly all ponderosa pine and radiata is fingerjointed. Laminated veneer lumber, known as LVL, features plies running in the same direction, perpendicular to the surface, and accounts for 16 percent of volume. LVL can produce a very straight, stable door. Only about 4 percent is made up of hardwood and veneer, but these account for a large share of value. Contact is FSC chain-of-custody certified, important for its work in architectural markets.

Contact's rough mill in Prineville comprises two independent but similar cut lines, handling 5/4 lumber on one side and 6/4 on the other. The lines include a rip saw, automatic sorting and fingerjointing.

Contact has a wide range of veneering capabilities. Dry lumber is brought in and placed in autoclaves for up to several hours depending on species, then veneer is sliced with a Marunaka flatline slicer. Once sliced, pieces are redried by putting them through Marunaka veneer driers.

A second Marunaka SL-250V veneer slicer, Josting double-end clipper, Kuper equipment for joining pieces, Huser machine for producing a staggered veneer fingerjoint and Duespohl machine for adding fleece to the veneer are also used here. For wrapping, Contact uses Duespohl machines almost exclusively.

A new Kuhlmeyer five-head sanding system brings veneer surfaces down to customer specified grit levels and is used with a Carter Inspecto high-definition light. The five-head machine replaces a four-head sander and produces a better final finish and tolerances of about one thousandth of an inch.

The Prineville operation also has several Viet sanders, two SCMI double-end tenonersm, five Leadermac moulders and nine Weinig moulders.

Most of Contact's gluing is done with RF glue. Some glues do not behave well in an RF oven, so Contact set up a cold pressing process to make laminated door components.

Himes says a new  Deimco and  Dubois lineal flatline finishing cell incorporates the latest technology for finishing components. The spray booths feature multiple spray heads and are designed for flexibility. Topcoats, clearcoats, UV, water-based or solvent can be applied. Pieces 12 inches wide and up to 18 feet long can be coated. "If you can do the finishing, the product is ready to use out of the box," Himes says.

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