Jeff Johnson is Timber Products’ new Vice President of Composites and Strategic Planning. We’re excited to welcome him to the team as we integrate the particle board division of SierraPine (operating as Ampine, a division of Timber Products Company) into our particle board offerings. We recently caught up with Jeff to talk about trends, applications and what’s in store for 2016.
How has particle board production and its use changed in the past few years?
Johnson: In the past 15 years, particle board production has shifted to bigger platforms in order to capture the efficiencies related to economies of scale. What I think is unique and a big advantage to Martell and Medford is that these plants, through their leadership, have been positioned to service products for specific applications. We concentrate on door core, environmentally-friendly green product and specialty applications like moisture-resistant and fire-resistant—which means we don’t compete for the commodity business as much.
How do you see particle board production continuing to change in 2016 and moving forward?
Johnson: I see customers continuing to look at low-to-no-formaldehyde products and a continued trend of matching specific products with specific customer needs. There will always be a large commodity market, but for Timber Products, I see plenty of room for a customer-focused and product-focused channels.
What are some of your favorite applications for particle board? In what areas do you think it's underutilized?
Johnson: From the kitchen to your desk, to the door you just walked through and the shelves in your garage, particle board is found in products we see and use every day. My favorite applications are the ones where the board is used in a product and completely transformed, like a nice door in your home or a mahogany-veneered panel in a downtown high-rise. On the other end of the spectrum, I also like to see the panel raw with a urethane finish in clothing store display tables or coffee shop cabinets. This way you get to see the real panel construction.
Tell us more about your team. How do your staff and processes differentiate you in the particle board industry?
Johnson: Our particle board team is made up of strong industry people. I first worked with Karla Randle, who was on our sales team back in 1992, and I think her knowledge of West Coast customers is a great asset. Mark Herbert, Steve Mulholland, and Bob Brown all have longtime connections and great relationships with our customers. Dave Pope and Terry Velasco are strong general managers and good leaders. Like Karla, I’ve known Dave since the mid-1990’s, and it has been good to reconnect with him in this business.
Take us behind the scenes of the particle board division—what projects and/or initiatives are you excited about for 2016?
Johnson: Our Medford and Martell plants both took on significant projects in 2015. Medford installed and started their optimizer line, and as the year progressed so did the process line. By year-end, it was up to design capacity and continues to set records. We look to 2016 to continue realizing the value to our customers and operations.
Martell installed the capability to make Fire-Resistant (FR) panels. We started shipping late in the second quarter and continue to build this product segment. We see the FR product as a great architectural core for panels going into all types of settings and selling across the U.S. I feel certain when customers use our panel, they will begin to find ways to replace MDF in the same application. I think 2016 brings us a lot of opportunity in both of these fields. That opportunity combined with the capabilities our plants have to meet our customers' needs, means we can only succeed.
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