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Botkin Lumber Continues Growth; New Georgia Site Is Fourth Plant
G-Tek Industries Supplies Custom Planer, Other Machines
By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 5/1/2004
Precision and purpose guide all the business endeavors of Botkin Lumber. For example, Albert knew exactly the capability he wanted to see in a new planer. "We had low-grade 1x6 – waney -- and had to make a high-grade product," he said. He needed a custom-made planer to remove the wane.
Looking for a company that could design the two side-head planers he needed, Albert settled on G-Tek Industries in
The two side-head planers from G-Tek have been in service at Botkin Lumber for about a year. "They're the fastest, most productive units that I know of out there," said Albert. The G-Tek planer removes the wane from the 1x6, remanufacturing the material into a “very square 1x4,” said Albert.
In the course of the last year, Botkin has purchased nine machines from G-Tek. Besides the two side-head planers, the company is equipped with three G-Tek band resaws and four G-Tek chamfering machines.
The person on the front line of using the G-Tek equipment is Jeff Hampton, production manager at the
Jeff also likes the fail-safe feature built into the G-Tek side-head planer. Adjusting the speed requires an Allen wrench. Since the machine speed cannot be changed without that extra effort, operators are less likely to accelerate or slow down without careful consideration. A steady feed and production speed are "better than herky-jerky movement" in terms of both productivity and safety, said Jeff.
Albert and Jeff emphasized how helpful G-Tek was in making changes to the outfeed of the side-head planers. "They modified the outfeed" to speed it up, said Jeff. To do so, G-Tek "put lugs up closer. Instead of 60 inches apart, they made them 40 inches," said Jeff.
Besides the excellent performance it gives, the G-Tek side-head planer shares other important characteristics with all the G-Tek machines that Botkin Lumber purchased, said Jeff. "It's very heavy-duty equipment," he explained. "And it's very easy to work on."
Botkin Lumber is equipped with machinery and equipment from other well-known suppliers to the pallet and sawmill industries.
For example, the company recently received an auto block stacker and block cut-up line from Samuel Kent Baker Inc. A few years ago Samuel Kent Baker Inc., also designed and manufactured machinery and equipment to provide automated material and lumber handling systems for Botkin Lumber. The company also runs a custom Samuel Kent Baker Inc. Blockhead band resaw and three custom multi-trim saws.
Botkin Lumber plants are also equipped with a complete cut-up line supplied by Froedge, Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle chamfering machines and band resaws, Baker Products band resaws and other equipment, G. Wine Sales ML2 automatic board stackers, and Whirl-Wind chop saws.
Jeff has been working in the forest products industry for 17 years. He knows the importance of using quality equipment in order to keep downtime and maintenance costs low. Botkin Lumber does all its own maintenance.
Albert is the son-in-law of Robert Botkin, one of the earlier owners of Botkin Lumber. Karen Cleve, Albert's wife, is vice president of the company and works in accounting.
The company still retains the strong family root that took hold in the early 1930s. Jennifer Blum and
Botkin Lumber takes very seriously its role in the community. Businesses that create jobs are part of what keep communities thriving, Albert noted. Consequently, Albert was very happy to be able to open a production facility for Botkin Lumber in
The facility in the Peach Tree State joins the three other plants of Botkin Lumber – the Missouri plants in Cape Girardeau and Farmington (Farmington is about 50 miles northwest of Cape Girardeau) and another in Taylorville, Ill.
Botkin Lumber Co. started out in the Ozark region of the Show Me State. In the 1950s, it moved to
Over the course of its history, Botkin Lumber has changed its focus. It now works nearly exclusively with Southern yellow pine (SYP). (The company buys a small volume of hardwood material for custom pallets and containers.)
About 25 truckloads of SYP arrive at Botkin Lumber daily from mills that span a region from
The SYP lumber is surfaced and remanufactured to increase grade recovery. For example, 2x6 is split into 1x6. "We have customers for every grade," said Albert. "We have about a 99 percent recovery."
The company generates very little waste material. In fact, its operations are so efficient there is no need to grind scrap wood. Short blocks are sold to a fingerjointing customer. Shavings and sawdust are sold to another company for eventual use as livestock bedding. At each Botkin plant, a firebox surrounded by water burns sawdust for a radiator system that heats the building.
Several years ago, Botkin Lumber automated its plants. The cut-up operations at all plants are so automated that Albert likes to say there are very few fingerprints on the lumber. Material that cannot be remanufactured to higher grade is cut into pallet stock. The company uses some of its pallet cut stock and sells the remainder to pallet manufacturers.
Botkin Lumber was named the Outstanding Wood Products Business of the Year in 2003 by the Missouri Forest Products Association. The award was presented to Albert in recognition of his achievements in products, workforce safety, efficiency, and the environment.
Botkin Lumber received a grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development in 2003 to facilitate expansion at its
"It's a matching grant," explained Jennifer, and "it's been really helpful” in developing and sustaining a strong workforce. Leadership training and vendor training were part of the scope. The Missouri Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education consulted with Botkin Lumber on workforce training and development. Bev Hickman of
"We grew so fast," said Jennifer. "We were losing the feeling of being a small, family-owned business." The grant allowed Botkin Lumber to do some strategic planning and worker training, all within the context of "taking care of customers" and "taking care of quality" as the key components of its mission, she explained.
Working collaboratively with the community is part of the Botkin Lumber philosophy. Albert said that the entire experience of opening a fourth Botkin Lumber plant in
"The state of
"They helped us find a facility," he continued. "They had an engineer take CAD drawings of existing facilities" to illustrate mechanical layout and other factors in order to help Botkin Lumber determine how the buildings could be adapted.
What made the experience bittersweet at the same time, said Albert, were recent job losses that
Albert does not mince words about
As he sought to add another plant, Albert found a lot of empty industrial buildings. "I found a lot of plants in
"Our country was established because of manufacturing," said Albert, who laments that every industry seems to be affected by the move to cheap offshore labor. He is particularly concerned about the decades-old timber planted in the Southeast that is slated for harvest soon.
"There's a huge amount of timber, millions and millions of acres," Albert noted, that was planted 10 to 20 years ago. Now it is on a collision course with lumber being imported from other countries.
Albert sees outsourcing as exceedingly shortsighted and devastating to the fabric of communities and the nation. He plans to continue to lead by example, building a company that adds jobs in the U. S.
"The city of
Albert regrets that Botkin Lumber will not be able to replace all the jobs lost by the Bassett move. "We may be able to replace one-third of the jobs over three years," he said.
G-Tek Industries Offers Experience
Launched in January 2003, G-Tek Industries in
"Darren has been building and designing pallet equipment for over 20 years,” said Brad. “David has over 15 years experience in pallet plant layout." Along with Brad, the company has more than 60 years of experience in designing, building, selling and servicing pallet and sawmill equipment.
"Our business plan is pretty simple," said Brad. "We are a small company by design," working to keep "operational and overhead costs very low" in order to offer "affordable prices."
G-Tek Industries offers gang saws, cut-off saws, bandsaws, complete board lines and grade systems, cut-off saws, stackers, notchers, chamfers, unscramblers, conveyors, and other machinery and equipment. The company also sells reconditioned and used machinery and equipment.
Customer needs drive machinery and equipment design at G-Tek Industries. "We custom-build a lot of the equipment," said Brad. "We take their input."
G-Tek has a staff of 14 technicians building machinery, and they have lengthy experience, according to Brad. “They’ve been making machinery a long time.”
A graduate of
For more information, contact G-Tek at (270) 377-3017 or visit the Web site at www.gtekindustries.com.