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Industrial Wood Resource Systems Focuses on Fast, Timely Service: Georgia Lumber Remanufacturer Supplies Industrial Wood Products
Industrial Wood Resource Systems: Georgia lumber remanufacturer focuses on fast, timely service in supplying customers for industrial lumber products in the metropolitan Atlanta market.
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Date Posted: 5/1/2006
GAINESVILLE, Georgia — Industrial Wood Resource Systems has found a niche in one of the commerce centers of the new South.
Located in Gainesville, about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, the company has found an ongoing need for industrial wood products of many kinds. The business is growing yearly as owner Jimmy Jordan identifies and targets specific markets across north Georgia.
“We distribute industrial grade lumber in the metro Atlanta area,” said Jimmy. “We service accounts that use less than a trailer-load quantity and require some special service, whether that means it’s cut to size or just in time inventory because they have limited space for the material that they need.”
Jimmy has been in the wood products industry since 1966. After attending the University of Georgia, he began work with a regional distributor of lumber and forest products in southwest Atlanta. He liked the lumber business and stayed in it, working for several wholesale lumber companies over the years until 1983, when he opened the doors of Industrial Wood Resource Systems (IWRS).
“At that time we were an office wholesale operation,” Jimmy recalled. “We bought and sold lumber and shipped it wholesale, like a broker.”
Three years later, with an economic turndown in the lumber industry, Jimmy saw the need to service industrial lumber customers in the region a little differently. He approached companies that needed lumber cut to size or had other special needs and found ways to meet their requirements.
“I went to companies that used lumber in an industrial sense, as opposed to a retail lumber yard or a truss manufacturer,” he said. “We’ve been doing that ever since. Every year the jacket fits us a little better. We’ve added machinery over the years and moved into our current facility in 2002.” Industrial Wood is situated on 10 acres and has 13,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space. The company has grown to 14 employees, including Jimmy’s daughter, Natalie Baxter, who does the bookkeeping.
“We run our own trucks to service our accounts,” Jimmy said. “We run two, short flatbed trucks and three trailers. The trucks are an International and Chevrolet, and the tractor-trailers are Freightliners and another International.”
A combination of geography and transportation infrastructure combine to make the Atlanta region a good marketplace for the kind of service and products that IWRS supplies.
“Because of the geography, it’s a distribution point,” he noted. “Plus you have a lot of regional offices located in Atlanta. It’s become a hub of transportation, and that’s helped us a great deal. It’s worked greatly to our benefit.”
Jimmy has not focused on any particular segment of customers among industrial wood users. Rather, he has remained open to market possibilities to serve a cross-section of businesses with similar lumber requirements. IWRS customers include diverse companies.
“We sell to a variety of industrial lumber users that need cut-to-size lumber and plywood,” he said. “We sell to anyone who needs lumber to crate up their product to ship it.”
IWRS has lumber remanufacturing operations. The company buys mainly low-grade softwood lumber from mills throughout the Southeast, including International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, Weyerhaeuser, Georgia Forest Products, Gilman and others that are independently owned. “It’s all kiln-dried and dressed material,” Jimmy explained. The company typically buys Southern Yellow Pine 2x4 and 2x6 from 8 to 12 feet long.
“We bring it in and cut it up to the various sizes that our customers require,” said Jimmy. “Then we either warehouse that material or we ship it to them as they need it.”
IWRS is equipped with a Baker Products horizontal band resaw, two Mureen Johnson multi-gang rip saws, and a Lauderdale-Hamilton pop-up saw. Jimmy described the Baker resaw and Murren Johnson gang rip as “workhorses that just keep on producing.” His other machinery also performs well, he indicated.
About 80 percent of the company’s lumber products are sold to companies that use it to build a box, crate or pallet for products they ship. “They’ll use our cut-to-size lumber so they don’t have to contend with the cutting and the dust,” said Jimmy. “We send them a bundle quantity of lumber cut to a particular size, and all they have to do is assemble it around the unit and ship it to wherever it’s going.”
IWRS products include lumber with banding grooves so a product or unit load can be stabilized with straps or bands. The company also supplies a small volume of treated lumber products for the landscape industry, including 6x6 timbers for retaining walls.
About 5%-10% of the company’s business is lumber sold to truss manufacturers, according to Jimmy. “In 2004 we installed an Alpine Engineered Products Inc. Web Pro to cut floor truss webs,” he said, “and we’ve been pursuing cutting components for floor trusses. We supply truss manufacturers in and around the Atlanta area.” The Alpine machine is another workhorse, he said, and Alpine has provided very good technical support.
IWRS cuts about 1.75 million board feet of lumber monthly. “Back in 1986, we were probably doing between 200,000 and 300,000 board feet a month,” said Jimmy. “So it’s increased a lot over the years.”
The most important benefit the company has to offer customers is its ability to service them quickly and when they need it, said Jimmy. “It’s our just-in-time capability,” he said. “We’ve had some of the same customers, day in and day out, for 15 to 16 years. We hang our hat on doing what the customer needs and getting material to him when he needs it and how he needs it done.”
One factor that enhances the company’s ability to do that well is a fleet of little Moffett fork lifts; there is one on every truck.
“We can bring the material to the customer, unload it, and put it into their warehouse,” Jimmy said. “The customer doesn’t have to worry about getting their driver or their fork lift out to unload the material. We can do it all.”
IWRS staff also will take inventory of what a customer has in the customer’s warehouse. That way Jimmy knows when a customer is running low on something.
“Because we concentrate on their business by keeping an eye on their inventory, they don’t have to worry about running out of something they need,” he said. “We keep their inventory at the level they want it so they don’t have what I call ‘the scenario of 5 o’clock Friday afternoon,’ when John walks in the back door and says, ‘Hey, we got any more of these? We’re going to be working all weekend and this is the last one.’ We try to take that pressure off our clientele by keeping an eye on their inventory and being at their doorstep, replenishing their inventory as the last piece of something is being used.”
Because IWRS is already using small pieces of lumber, the company doesn’t generate a lot of waste. Trim ends and other scrap material are processed, and the wood grindings are sold for horse bedding or boiler fuel.
“We don’t even worry with that part of it,” Jimmy said. “We contract that out to a company that supplies us with the trailer we need to blow it into, and they dispose of it.”
Jimmy is considering the feasibility of adding fingerjointing operations later this year, which would allow him to make a product with the scrap pieces of wood.
Even though IWRS has a well-developed clientele, Jimmy doesn’t sit back and wait for new customers to come to him. He’s constantly on the lookout for new business.
“We’re always prospecting for new business and new things to do,” he said. “One of the things we found that way was the web components for the truss industry. We prospect through cold calls, through our mailing lists and through referrals — that’s the best way. Our customers refer us to someone else who in turn calls us.”
Jimmy said his biggest challenge in the next few years will be raw material. “So many mills are upgrading machinery that they’re not getting the percentage of the low-grade material that we’re buying,” he said. “Some of them are going from 20 percent down to 15 or even 10 percent low-grade material that they want to get rid of but that we use. Their goal is to produce zero of that, so a lot of mills are putting in machinery that have helped to eliminate that product.” Greater efficiency at the sawmill level and higher production of more valuable grade lumber means a reduced supply of raw material for IWRS.
However, Jimmy’s company is flexible, and he does not view this challenge as being one he cannot overcome.
“Our mix of customers has changed over the last three or four years, and I see that we’ll probably do more in the truss industry over the next few years,” he said. “We’re in a growth mode, so I think that in the next five years about 25 percent of our business will be going to the truss manufacturers and the other 75 percent to the industrial side of the business. I don’t want to lose any market share, but I think we’ll have grown the truss side of our business.”
As a result, Jimmy expects to be buying more material from the mills that supply him.
The best part of being in the industry, he said, is the people he meets and fascination of overcoming and solving problems for his customers.
“I really enjoy helping them through the process and trying to find solutions to their logistics packaging and transportation packaging needs,” he said.