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All Star Forest Products – Surviving With Faith in Difficult Market
Faith and hard work has spurred All Star Forest Products growth. It focuses on developing specialty products to avoid commodity market pressures.
By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2011
JACKSON, Mississippi—Bill Price studied business management at Louisiana State University. After four years, thought, he was eager to enter the business world. As he put it, “I turned ‘pro’ my senior year.” He worked for another lumber business from 1989 until it went bankrupt in 1995.
Bill had to do something. His is a typical success story of an entrepreneur developing a successful business, mostly out of necessity. Now, All Star Forest Products, the company that Bill started and grew to maturity, is headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, has offices in Grenada and Mobile, as well as a retail yard on the Gulf coast in Pass Christian, Miss. Bill named his company All Star Forest Products after his wife Kathy’s cousin, Ivan Rodriguez, who played catcher in the major leagues and became the second youngest player in history to make the All Star Team. Like every company in the wood products industry, All Star Forest Products has struggled to survive the last few years. It has succeeded in maintaining a business level of close to $20 million a year.
In his spare time, Bill is mainly involved with his family and church. Bill, 45 years old, married his wife Kathy in 1992. After Bill met a Puerto Rican lady who was visiting her aunt for the summer, Bill’s mother predicted that he would marry the young lady. After seeing each other through a period of seven years, the two fell in love and married in 1992.
Now their two daughters play tournament tennis, and their son is on a track team. Talking with Bill and getting to know him a little better will go down as one of the most meaningful company interviews your author has enjoyed. That is saying a lot because I have had the privilege of getting to know literally hundreds of people who own forest products companies. As a fellow Christian, I always enjoy sharing the meaning of Christ in my life with other Christians. Anybody who likes to share the important things in their life with others should find Bill an easy person to talk with; I certainly did.
Bill said, “I want to share my faith in this article.” He serves on his church board. When the opportunity arises, Bill enjoys sharing his faith with others. Both Bill and I encourage readers to be open an share their personal beliefs with others any time an opportunity shows itself.
Development of All Star
All Star started in 1996 in Bill’s dining room. After three years in wholesaling lumber and panel products, Bill bought a small pallet company and remanufacturing and pallet shop. In 2006, he bought another company and expanded his physical plant from its initial 10,000 sq.ft. to 100,000 sq.ft. of storage and manufacturing space and 10,000 sq.ft. of office space.
The place that Bill first had in his sights fell through when the owner kept going up on the price. Bill said, “The Lord had a better place in mind. I had in mind what I wanted and thought I had found the ideal place. But the Lord changed my mind and provided a place that has been much better.”
All Star started primarily as a wholesaler of lumber and plywood. As he expanded, Bill became more actively involved in remanufacturing of lumber and wood products. The company has grown until today it has about 34 employees. All Star remans plywood and OSB panel products, including converting lower grades of panels into a variety of products. It does a considerable business in specialty cut-up work for construction-related applications. For example, one of its products is a cushion block, which is used in bridge construction work. All Star also makes furniture frame components.
While All Star is predominantly a reman operation, it specializes in using plywood and OSB as well as hardwood and pine for crating and industrial packaging and specialty skids. All Star focuses on specialty products and stays away from GMAs and more commodity pallet products. The company manufactures pallets and supplies pallet stock for other pallet manufacturers. For example, one of the pallets he makes is two feet wide by 24 feet long.
All Star does not heat treat pallets itself but is HT certified with TPI. He buys material that has already been properly treated. A local supplier has a heat treating chamber and heat treats some hardwood for Bill when he needs it.
All Star makes a relatively small number of pallets which utilize probably about 20% of his remanufacturing and cutup operation, probably about 5% of his total business. Other than remanufacturing, most of his business is lumber and panel wholesaling. All Star repackages and sells a lot of material. All Star considers its strength to be dealing with customers, mills, and staff. The company buys from about 15-20 different major forest products producers.
Over the past year and a half, Bill has had to rely upon his resourcefulness to look for other business. He relies heavily on his spiritual foundation in Christ.
Like many people in the lumber industry, Bill relies heavily on the best information that comes out of the industry. The Pallet Enterprise and Pallet Profile Weekly have become indispensable source of information to serious minded professional in the pallet industry. He relies upon Random Lengths and the Hardwood Market Report for much lumber information. Bill is active in several associations, including the Mississippi Lumbermens Association (MLMA) and North American Wholesale Lumber Association. He attends both of these association meetings and serves on the MLMA board.
Production at All Star
All Star buys a lot of panel product downfall. A common panel defect is inner delamination on the inside or blows. They may cut around the defective place to make a part or put it into a product where the blow is not an issue. Because wood has so many natural variations, working with defective products is a challenge that requires attention to details and options.
In its plywood remanufacturing operations, the company uses four Lauderdale-Hamilton panel saws and two Mureen Johnson straight line rip saws to cut and rip panels. The remanufacturing processes produce panel components for pallet decks, boxes, crates, and other industrial or commercial products. The company buys mostly mill certified or utility grade plywood; it is a recognized grade below CDX, which is a common grade of plywood used extensively in building and construction. The company buys a lot of Southern Yellow Pine plywood as well as some eucalyptus and elliotti pine (slash pine), as well as Chinese birch.
All Star purchases and remanufactures both hardwood and softwood lumber. Much hardwood is repackaged for direct shipment. The company ships industrial grade hardwoods into Canada; it focuses on hardwood for mats. The company buys raw material from both large and small mills in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Georgia, including some well known large lumber companies. All Star ships throughout the South, Southeast and Mid-West with customers in over a third of the states.
In softwood lumber, All Star mostly sells low-grade #3 and #4 SYP dimension lumber, from 1x4 through 1x12 and 2x4 through 2x12. All Star also does radius decking, forming the radius edge on lumber that will subsequently be treated. It can provide radius edged decking in lengths ranging from 2 feet to 16 feet.
All Star provides a variety of lumber remanufacturing services, including resawing, cutting-to-size, ripping, custom drilling, and more. A typical remanufactured lumber product it sells is cut-to-size pine lumber for industrial applications. It sells a considerable volume of cut-to-size pine to manufacturing businesses that use it to assemble their own specialty crates or pallets.
In addition to the material that it remanufactures, All Star brokers or wholesales lumber.
Other products include pallet cut stock, including both hardwood stringers and deck boards, sold to other pallet and container manufacturing companies. It resaws a lot of hardwood cants into pallet stock. It typically cuts cants to length on its Holtec cross-cut package saw. “It’s a great saw,” said Bill. “It’s one of our most productive saws.” The Holtec saw, which is operated daily, is a mid-to-late 1980s model that was purchased used.
Sized cant material is resawn on a Baker Products three-head horizontal bandsaw system with a run-around.
The company also manufacturers notched stringers on a Morgan Saw Co. single-head notching machine.
Three chop saws are used to select-cut individual pieces of lumber to size – a Morgan Saw Co. chop saw, a Whirlwind and a Lauderdale-Hamilton. The cut-up shop has a Mureen Johnson gang-rip saw that is used for cutting stacking sticks, stringers, making banding grooves, and other operations, and a Holtec portable yard saw.
On the yard about 18-20 people run the saws and handle materials handling functions.
All specialty pallets, crates, and containers are assembled by hand using Stanley-Bostitch pneumatic nailing tools and Mid-Continent Magnum collated nails.
Saw blades are supplied by Kennesaw and cutting tools are supplied by Profile Technology.
A Williams chipper is used to process scrap material into chips for such markets as paper mills, landfills and landscape businesses.
All Star owns two 24 foot flatbed International and Ford trucks for short hauls within about 90 miles. For longer deliveries, the company uses several small trucking contractors. Most are shipped out on commercial carriers. Some customers pickup and store materials. It ships about 120 loads a month.
Two Toyota 8000 and 9000 forklifts are used to load and unload trucks. A couple of Nissan 6000 forklifts move skids and products during manufacturing stages.
Summit Insurance handles workers comp insurance. All Star supplies safety training materials including safety glasses, ear plugs, and dust masks. Employees have one week’s vacation and most of the customary holidays. All Star offers a voluntary retirement program and health insurance that employees pay half. Like many pallet companies and sawmills, employees tend to avoid benefit programs that require them to take on some of the financial responsibility.
Bill manages the office staff and makes major decisions. Bill, Mark Hoffman, and Bruce Brannan handle sales and purchasing responsibilities.
Bill said, “Most customers deal with us because they want something promptly or something unique. We do a lot of unusual, odd types of cutting jobs. For example, they drill holes with multi-bit presses into plywood and lumber for various industrial applications.
For more information about All Star’s products, call 888/240-5136.