Walnut Creek Planing has expanded the definition of lean manufacturing. The Millersburg, OH-based wood products manufacturer has literally removed the waste from its production process ­­— and turned it into a profit-generating enterprise.

Founded in 1998 by Dwight Kratzer, WCP produces a variety of hardwood components. Stair parts comprise approximately 60 percent of its sales, with dowels at 15 percent, mouldings 10 percent and door stiles 8 percent. The remaining 7 percent is through sales of its Eco-Brick briquettes, which the company produces from the approximately 30 tons of wood waste generated per day.

“We felt it would be a great way to add value to our waste stream and go green at the same time as well as add a few extra jobs,” Vice President Kenric Kratzer said of the company’s decision to purchase the RUF 1100 briquetter. “We are able to produce a very dense product which makes great burn times and heat output. Our biggest hurdle to overcome was to educate the public about the product and its advantages, but for us the best way to sell product was to give out free samples and the ‘proof was in the pudding’.”

Prior to the transition, WCP’s wood waste was sold for animal bedding, “so this was value-added,” Kratzer adds.

Value-Added, Lean Manufacturing

Adding value to its products, while improving profitability and sustainability, is nothing new for WCP. Verified as a sustainable manufacturer by Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc., the company also is a long-time advocate of lean manufacturing.

In addition, Kratzer says, “WCP has integrated a complete ERP software solution from Global Shop Solutions that has taken our lean manufacturing to a complete new level. We are able to keep real-time data and tracking of all orders as they go through the shop with exact costing — everything from cash flow management and payroll to lumber grading and inventory tracking. This has allowed us to improve quality on the smallest order to largest order, with improved on-time shipment as well as fill rates.”

The addition of a state-of-the-art dry kiln facility in Winesburg, OH, in 2007 enabled WCP to vertically integrate its production process and improve turnaround time. Lumber is brought to the dry kiln facility and graded by the company’s NHLA-certified graders before being recorded to inventory using the Global Shop Solutions custom tally software. The lumber is air dried and stored in sheds until it is kiln dried in one of six Nova dry kilns, which have a capacity of 300,000 board feet. “We are able to dry with the care we need to get quality second to none,” Kratzer says. “This also allows us to purchase our lumber when the price is right. We can buy in large lots and handle and store the lumber with the care it needs to maintain top quality.”

Inside the 90,000-square-foot, climate-controlled facility, the kiln dried lumber is run through the rough mill. The lumber is planed on a self-centering Timesavers TBOK 25 and then optimized for width and defects before being ripped on the Eagle Ripmaster, Kratzer explains. “We then run it through a WoodEye scanner, feeding two Grecon 350 optimizing chop saws. The lengths and widths are then sorted and stacked and placed on inventory for immediate or future use.”

For the manufacture of the stair treads, the component blanks are glued and clamped on one of three Taylor glue clamps, including a Taylor 80 section glue clamp, and then moulded on a (Stiles Machinery) Kentwood HS612 moulder before being sanded “to perfection” on one of four Timesavers top and bottom sanding lines. Blanks for balusters are cut to length on one of the company’s double-end tenoners before being moulded on one of four Weinig moulders.

Blanks for the handrails are fingerjointed using a Western Pneumatics high-speed line or the customized Industrial fingerjointer, capable of joining 6- to 12-foot pieces together. The parts are then glued and moulded, Kratzer says.

Machining for the handrail fittings is done on an SCM Routech R-200 XM Robot 5-axis CNC router. “This gives us the option to run anything from standard style fittings to custom parts with great ease and accuracy,” Kratzer adds.

Kratzer says WCP prides itself on its fast turnaround and attention to quality. Also distinguishing it, he adds, is “our ability to adapt to our customers needs and wishes, as well as running lean and being competitive with our price.”

Waste Not

In addition to its hardwood components, Walnut Creek Planing offers Eco-Bricks, an additive-free pressed

briquette made from kiln-dried hardwood sawdust. Using a RUF 1100 briquetter to compress sawdust with 24,000 pounds of pressure, the bricks are twice as dense as cordwood while emitting 52 percent less particulate matter in the air, according to WCP.

The company says the bricks are an environmentally friendly alternative to fuel oil and coal and can be used in wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, outdoor fire pits, etc. For information, visit EcoBrick.net.

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