-- Architectural millwork firm The James Wood Co. revealed a 50,000-square-foot expansion and a newly patented wood door-frame moulding affixed with a new patent pending technology, as the Wood Component Manufacturers Assn. began local plant tours as part of its annual fall meeting on Monday.

WCMA members also visited Brodart Furniture in nearby McElhattan, PA, which also completed a 50,000-square-foot expansion a month ago, bringing its 150-employee operation up to a total 197,000 square feet. Brodart makes high-quality furnishings for the education, library and other markets, manufacturing metal and wood components in its sprawling factory.

Included in the tour were all facets of the Brodart operation, from incoming materials to shipping. Highlights included an IDM Activa BT-2048 PUR bander, an automated spray coating chamber, metal fabricating and coating, milling, sanding, CNC drilling and panel saws, and a mix of hand inspection and automated processes for Brodart's products, much of it produced in high-grade hardwood maple and oak.

 Brodart Furniture's 50,000 sq.ft. expansion
 Millwork on James Wood Onsrud Panel Pro

Brodart's recent expansion allows it to offer a new free service - "build to hold" - so that education and school library customers can order in advance, then take delivery when schools are in session. Brodart director of manufacturing Doug Lang said the effort should even out the peaks and valleys of production, which now tops out just before schools open.

Brodart marketing manager Lucas Fanning sadded that the company keeps up on trends in design for school and library furnishings by attending trade shows and through its dealer orders. He noted a decrease in demand for "child-size" furnishings and more demand for larger furnishings.

"What we are seeing is less of the small sizes, as schools strive to be more accommodating to all types of students," Fanning said. He also said  he is the company is experiencing increased demand for collaborative work spaces for office projects.

WCMA also visited the timber manufacturing operations of Wheeland Lumber, a fourth generation business that is driving its nine dry kilns with a boiler fed by an automated wood waste collection system. President Ray Wheeland said labor costs and availability have become a concern, as the discovery of massive gas shale reserves in central Pennsylvania has created demand for workers.

"It is greatly impacting our industry," said Wheeland. "It's hard to keep up with wages." The oil workers make $15 per hour or more and are offered large amounts of overtime.

Wheeland is able to heat its kilns with wood waste, which is also in demand for the pellet fuel manufacturers. "There are seven or eight pellet mills in our area," he noted.

At James Wood Company, vice president Marc Annicelli recounted the company's current expansion moves, set in motion before the downturn. While it saw a decade of growth, said Annicelli, 2009 and 2010 have not been a good business period for the firm. One indication: a popular product was a casino-caliber poker table wrapped in leather with metal footstands. The company used to ship 1,000 per month. With the decline in fortunes of Atlantic City and Las Vegas, demand for this product has declined.

"The stresses we've had economically have forced us to do things better," Annicelli said. "We try not to overreact." As a result, plans for the 50,000-square-foot expansion have continued, with the location being equipped and prepared for operation. Originally James Wood planned on a 10,000-square-foot expansion but found it could acquire an existing plant less expensively.

Annicelli also detailed his firm's "lean manufacturing" approach. "We have a world-class lean manufacturing program," he said. "But we go about our program quietly; down on the floor with direct labor we are not as loud." The continuous improvement approach embraces "trying to make it easier to do things right, and harder to do it wrong," Annicelli said. "And we try to invest in our people."

During the first day's sessions, WCMA held its board elections. Lewis Lumber Products' Keith Atherholt is president; Bradford Dimension Specialties' Steve Sabatini is vice president; Chris Watson of Conestoga Wood Specialties is immediate past president; and the board now includes:

  • Keith Malmstadt, Great Lake Woods
  • Paul Eastman, Kane Hardwood
  • Tim McIntyre, Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers
  • Guy Morin, Giguere & Morin Inc.
  • Sid Anderson III, Anderson Wood
  • Greg Fitzpatrick, Fitzpatrick & Weller

October 5 tours for the fall meeting are scheduled to Dwight Lewis Lumber; Lewis Lumber Products; and John Savoy & Son. Find out more at www.woodcomponents.org

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.