For over 30 years the leading pallet and sawmill magazine in America.
Upgraded for Growth: Lumbermen Associates and Colonial Forest Products Eliminate Bottlenecks with Pendu Machinery
Pendu Manufacturing: Both Lumbermen Associates and Colonial Forest Products turned to Pendu to boost production at their mills by eliminating bottlenecks and wasted motion. Faster, simpler, better has become the new norm after these upgrades.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 9/1/2015
Both Lumbermen Associates and Colonial Forest Products turned to Pendu to boost production at their mills by eliminating bottlenecks and wasted motion. Faster, simpler, better has become the new norm.
BRISTOL, Pennsylvania – Are you ready for growth? What area of your operation could use an upgrade so that you eliminate unnecessary steps and boost production? Lumbermen Associates in Bristol, Pennsylvania and Colonial Forest Products in Crewe, Virginia asked those questions over the last few years and have added machinery from Pendu Manufacturing to increase capacity and remove bottlenecks.
Business has been good for Lumbermen Associates and an affiliated business, Colonial Forest Products, and it became clear that some older pieces of machinery just needed to be upgraded. And both operations turned to Pendu due to the reliability of its equipment and strong commitment to customer service. Lumbermen Associates has had a long relationship with Pendu, going back at least 25 years.
Lumbermen Associates is a lumber wholesaler and lumber remanufacturing business with strong ties to the pallet industry, serving and supplying some of the leading and largest pallet manufacturing companies. And it is still growing.
The company has been in business since the 1960s and is owned by three men with family ties to the original owners: Tom Deegan, who was interviewed for this article, and his brother, Tim Deegan, and Tom Coleman. All three are active in the company. Deegan oversees operations and also has some administrative duties. His brother is sales manager for the industrial lumber division, and Tom Coleman is the sales manager for the fencing material business.
Some of the owners of Lumbermen Associates launched Colonial Forest Products 10 years ago. The facility is located about 60 miles southwest of Richmond in a region with abundant forest resources. “We wanted to take advantage of the market there,” said Tom.
Colonial Forest, cutting both hardwood and softwood, makes industrial material primarily for the pallet industry. Although the two affiliated businesses share a few customers, Colonial Forest essentially has its own customer base.
Customer-focused Approach – A Long Tradition of Machinery from Pendu
Lumbermen Associates relocated from Philadelphia to Bristol in 1990. At the time it was equipped with a Holtec package saw for cutting material to length, a Pendu gang saw for ripping, and a McDonough resaw. The company added a second Pendu gang saw about 20 years ago; it was relocated in the plant in 2012 with the addition of a Pendu multi-trim saw in front of it and the addition of a dual outfeed to a Pendu turntable or Pendu chain deck. It also is equipped with a Pacific Trail package saw for cutting lumber to length and a line of Brewer Machine and Parts equipment for trimming, ripping and resawing. Pendu supplied a custom paddle-type conveyor system for collecting scrap from the Pacific Trail package saw and feeding it to a grinder in 2001.
This year the company added a Pendu heavy-duty, single-head horizontal bandsaw along with a heavy-duty stack-n-rack with a unique design to prevent wear on the concrete plant floor. Last year its affiliated business, Colonial Forest Products, invested several hundred thousand dollars in a new Pendu saw line.
“We were just happy with all their equipment,” said Deegan, speaking of the company’s relationship with Pendu. Pendu customized the new bandsaw because Lumbermen Associates wanted one that would run the same size blades as its other horizontal bandsaws.
Pendu, based in New Holland, Pennsylvania, manufactures machinery and equipment for the pallet industry, including unscramblers and cut-off saws, multi-trim saws, band resaws and gang saws, board chamfers, notchers, and stackers. It also manufactures scragg mills and ancillary equipment for sawmills, such as edgers, slab recovery saws, trim saws and gang saws, lumber and material handling, and specialized equipment for log home components, rail ties, and crane mats. Pendu also is known for its engineering expertise and manufacturing custom machinery for the forest products industry as well as other industries.
The Pendu process is designed to make the setup as easy as possible so you can be up and running very quickly. Its engineering services include meetings with customers in the design phase of a new system. Pendu conducts test runs at its plant — with customers present and using the customer’s materials — to ensure the system functions properly. Pendu also is quick to respond to provide service for its machinery and equipment. (For more information, see Pendu’s website at www.pendu.com.)
“They’re just a good, honest, local company,” said Deegan.
When Lumbermen Associates had a few issues with their new Pendu horizontal bandsaw, they called on the manufacturer for some assistance. A Pendu technician was at the Lumbermen Associates plant in two hours, recalled Deegan. “It’s nice that they’re local,” he added, and Pendu’s staff is very responsive.
“And they make good equipment,” he added. The Pendu gang saw they purchased in 1989 “runs like a champ,” he said.
The variety of equipment gives Lumbermen Associates the ability to perform one to three tasks at a given machine or line of machines, for cutting to length, ripping, and resawing. With its Pendu line, for example, a cant can be cut to length and the pieces gang-sawn into deck boards or stringers. Two-inch material, such as 2x4, 2x6 and 2x8 pine, would go through the Brewer line to be cut to length, gang-ripped and resawn.
The company’s plant turns out stringer blanks; it is not equipped for notching stingers. The company has looked at investing in notching machines in the past. However, “It never seems to make financial sense,” said Deegan.
Colonial Adding the Right Equipment to Improve Production
For years the Colonial Forest facility had run with a tremendous amount of back and forth movement to compensate for machinery inefficiencies.
Al Anderson, the plant manager for Colonial Forest, explained, “Under the old approach, we had to hand feed in four foot, cut-to-length material into the gang saw. And when we ran long lengths through the old Cornell, we had to take it over to the package saw to cut the final dimension.”
This line, one of several at the Colonial Forest plant, produces dunnage, bracing and guides for a variety of applications including packs of lumber. It processes both low-grade pine and hardwood.
Anderson boasted, “The Pendu system more than doubled production and made it easier to keep up with each load.”
This new Pendu system was installed last year and it starts with an infeed section where the strands are close enough that it can efficiently move 4-18 foot material. Anderson said, “The four foot pine is much cheaper to buy when you can get it.”
Cants move up the chain and are dropped on the waterfall and then move up onto a dealer deck. The material is fed out onto a set of rollers that even ends up the cants.
The wood goes through a Pendu multi-head trim saw where you can cut it to whatever length you need. Then it moves forward onto the roll case into the Pendu gang saw. If the material coming out is six foot or longer, you have a stop there. And you have a set of catch up chains that feed the longer units onto an outside feed deck. The lumber is then dumped into carts. If the material is shorter than six feet, it is carried out to a turntable where it is hand stacked into four-sided carts.
One unique change that Pendu added was a vibrating conveyor underneath to ensure short chunks of wood are moved away from the dust collection system.
Anderson explained, “When you run a gang saw, especially with low-grade pine, you get pieces that break off into chunks from time to time. And those would get sucked up into the pipe of the dust system from time to time.”
The conveyor eliminates these pieces of wood from clogging up the dust system by carrying them off to be ground up in a hog. Pendu had to spend considerable effort working with the conveyor supplier to ensure everything would work well.
Before the finished line shipped, it was assembled at the Pendu facility in Pennsylvania and Anderson was able to see it run. This made the setup process much easier and allowed Pendu to fix any kinks before the system left the factory.
Anderson claimed the new line took only 3-5 days to setup and start running. He added that this line has freed up his package saw and made it easier to meet customer time demands.
Anderson commented, “From a plant logistics standpoint, this new Pendu system is great. It allows us to run faster and has also made everything simpler.”
Diversified Product Line Has Served Lumbermen Associates Well
Located about 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia, Lumbermen Associates, which surpassed $100 million in sales in 2014, has four business segments. The industrial lumber part of the business, which serves the pallet and container industry and some other industries, is the biggest segment and accounts for about 50% of sales.
The next-largest segment is one that provides material to businesses — mainly the Amish — that build sheds. Lumbermen’s Associates supplies everything —except windows — needed to build a shed, including studs, treated lumber, plywood, and roofing shingles. This market represents about 20 percent of the company’s revenues.
The company has another business segment that supplies fencing material to contractors and businesses that specialize in building or installing fences. Lumbermen’s Associates buys railcar-loads of cedar material and treated lumber and other material for its fencing business and remanufactures it into components. The company also has expanded this segment by distributing aluminum, PVC and other non-wood fencing material. The fencing segment accounts for about 15 percent of its business.
The fourth business segment consists of lumber products sold to local retail lumber yards, which accounts for about 15% of sales.
About two-thirds of the material the company purchases comes into its yard; the other one-third is shipped directly from mills to Lumbermen Associates customers.
In the industrial lumber side of the business, Lumbermen Associates has about 50 customers in the pallet and container industry. They include some of the pallet industry’s best-known manufacturers, including John Rock Inc., J.F. Rohrbaugh & Co Inc. and Remmey – The Pallet Company, all also based in Pennsylvania. Lumbermen Associates serves customers mainly within a 150-mile radius.
“Pallet guys are busy,” said Deegan. It’s a huge market for us right now.”
Although Pennsylvania is known for its hardwood forests, Lumbermen Associates supplies mostly softwood components to the pallet industry, yellow pine or spruce deck boards and stringers. Industrial hardwood components are supplied mainly to the steel industry for blocking.
Lumbermen Associates has an array of lumber remanufacturing equipment enabling it to cut raw material to any size and make any type of component. However, most deck boards and stringers produced for the pallet industry are for standard sizes of pallets, such as GMA pallets. Occasionally the company gets orders for different sizes. “We can make anything,” noted Deegan.
The company’s industrial products division promotes its rough or S4S mixed hardwood material, 1-inch to 4-inch lumber in various widths, as well as No. 2, No. 3 and Economy spruce No. 3 and No. 4 yellow pine that ranges from 1x3 to 8x8. It specializes in 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch mixed hardwoods cut to length, and aspen pallet stock. The company also offers plywood and OSB panels and cut-to-size panels.
Lumbermen Associates has two rail sidings and can unload five or six railcars per day. Most of the sawmills the company relies on are located in Canada or Maine for softwood and in Pennsylvania or the Maryland Eastern Shore for hardwood.
The company currently is using a lot of 3-inch and 4-inch hemlock cants and 2-inch pine lumber in lengths typically ranging from 8-16 feet. It buys mixed hardwood cants from mills on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Tom Deegan is 52 and his brother is 49; Tom Coleman is a few years older. All three men began working in the business when they were in high school or college, Deegan indicated, performing such work as pulling lumber and stacking lumber by hand. “That’s a good way to learn,” he said.
The business originally was owned by their fathers, Coates Coleman and Thomas Deegan, both deceased. Coates owned the business before selling it to the Warner Company, which took it public and then shed the business. Coates and Thomas, both working for Warner, decided to buy it.
The company was impacted by the recession of recent years, but it weathered it easily, according to Deegan. In fact, it actually benefited, he explained. “I think everyone was affected” by the economic slowdown, he recalled. Revenues and profits were down, but not that significantly that required the company to lay off any employees. “We were obviously slower,” said Deegan. “We cut some overtime. Other than that, we just kept plugging along.”
Both Lumbermen Associates and Colonial Forest have found strong markets and forged growing businesses. And they discovered that a key component for future growth was optimizing their facility and eliminating bottlenecks. How can the right piece of machinery make a big difference for your operation?
Pendu Manufacturing can help you prepare for growth just like it has done for these two sawmills.