A Carolina plant takes pride in its OSB
ELKIN, N.C. — The Weyerhaeuser mill in Elkin, N.C., is a classic Made-in-the-USA manufacturing story.
Raw material in the form of “stumpage” — the mill executive’s term for “logs”— lines up at one end of the 186 million-sq.-ft. facility. Rolling out at the other end are neatly stacked and wrapped pallets of Weyerhaeuser Edge OSB, as well as Weyerhaeuser Edge Gold (photo 1).
(The regular Edge product guarantees: “No delamination.” The Edge Gold guarantees: “No sanding. No delamination.”)
The Elkin facility is one of several OSB manufacturing locations Weyerhaeuser operates across the country. Others are in Louisiana, Michigan and West Virginia. The Elkin plant’s highly automated, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week manufacturing process employs more than 133 people.
One of those employees is Chris Phillips, the plant’s technical team leader who recently led a group of visitors on a walk-through tour. Speaking through a radio system to overcome the noise of the machinery, Phillips showed off the plant’s ability to shred the logs, treat them with adhesive, orient the strands — one of many technical marvels in Elkin — and stamp them into shape (photo 4).
“This is not flakeboard,” Phillips said, bristling at the derogatory term. “It is an engineered product, engineered to give the customer a product that will work.”
He ticked off the attributes that the plant carefully measures and controls: thickness, moisture content and orientation of the strands — all governed by another insider term, “PCL” or “process control logic” (photo 3).
To a first-time visitor, the row of logs awaiting their turn for the assembly line seemed impressively massive (photo 2). However, Phillips explained that the row of stumpage was relatively low, the result of rainy weather in previous days, which prevented trucks from harvest.
The plant opened in 1986 and has since grown to about twice its original size. Running at full capacity, the mill handles about 1,800 tons of stumpage per day. Still, it’s considered a small to medium-sized facility, by Weyerhaeuser standards.
Amid all the stumpage, a clear sustainability story also plays out at the mill. The facility is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. It also gives back seedlings to private land owners who supply full-grown trees. Since 1997, Weyerhaeuser has given away some 5 million seedlings.
The plant also creates a lot of bark. Bark isn’t a strong enough ingredient for its OSB product. As a result, the bark is sold off to landscape companies as mulch.
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A little package with big messages
Without some key elements of the packaging, the Little Big Shot has — in the words of its chief marketer and ambassador David Kurrasch — no shot at winning over the consumer during that all-important, first-impression in the aisle.
About the size of a golf ball, the brass nozzle with a ball-bearing control mechanism benefits from a blister pack that simulates the nozzle in action. The packaging shows one end of the nozzle attached to a hose, while the other end shoots a powerful spray of water.
The package also tells the story of performance, conservation and — perhaps most significantly — a Made-in-the-USA story with the added emotional power of “assembled by disabled U.S. veterans.”
“We didn’t set out by saying, ‘Let’s have a veteran built product to use as a marketing strategy,’” Kurrasch told HCN. “We feel very fortunate to have found the veteran groups to work with us. And we wanted to help put people to work.”
Kurrasch, the entrepreneur and founder of K-CO Innovations, said the first objective was to find the right suppliers to turn the brass in the United States. Research lead to two: Alger Manufacturing in Ontario, Calif., and Avanti Engineering of Glendale Heights, Ill.
Two factories were necessary to meet the in-season volume of 50,000 nozzles per week, he said. Assembly takes place in sheltered workshops of veterans hospitals in Long Beach, Calif., and, more recently, Milwaukee.
An immediate marketing challenge for the product was to make clear to the customer that it was a nozzle, and not a coupler or some other form of hardware.
“Typically, hose nozzles have handles,” Kurrasch said. “They have dials, they’re much bigger than this. They look different. The package had to tell people from 4 ft. away that it is a hose nozzle.”
The success the nozzle has had at Bed Bath & Beyond indicates the packaging’s success as an impulse purchase. “People don’t tend go into Bed Bath & Beyond looking to buy a hose nozzle,” he said.
Kurrasch says the veterans, many of whom are disabled beyond the ability to find work elsewhere, are precise and engaged in the assembly of the product. And the message on the package — though not aggressive — resonates with consumers.
“I’ve heard stories from people who didn’t have a need for a new nozzle, but they wanted to support a product that was providing jobs for veterans,” Kurrasch said.
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There’s no place like home
The good news for American manufacturing is that companies love to say that they’re Made in the USA. The bad news is that many say so without really meaning it. Even while demand accelerates for homegrown products, the FCC requirements for advertising Made-in-USA products remain shrouded in ambiguity. So long as they’re “all or virtually all” made in the United States, they qualify, but HCN’s February Made-in-USA survey found that as much as 48% of the home improvement industry doesn’t think the standard is clear and easy to follow, with an additional 36.7% voting neutral on the issue.
HCN decided to do a bit of the hard work for its readers by coming up with this short list of Made-in-USA products by companies with a stake in championing the cause. Here, you’ll see goods ranging from all-natural dog treats to insulation, all 100% American-made. After all, as Adams Manufacturing CEO and founder Bill Adams puts it, being “deeply committed to American innovation — and to the idea of making products that enrich people’s lives … is what Made in USA is really all about.”
Leviton Decora Switches and Wallplates
Leviton has been U.S.-based since the turn of the last century, and today, half of its home electrical department is certified Made in the USA. Its Decora switches, wall-plates and receptacles are all manufactured in Morganton, N.C. (leviton.com)
Savino Wine Saver
This All-American concept goes even further in its localization: founder Scott Tavenner was born and raised in California’s wine country, which gave him the right set of eyes to appraise the age-old problem of wine preservation. The Savino Wine Saver, made in Mountain View, Calif., creates a physical barrier between the wine and the oxygen, creating a discernible difference in taste within as little as 12 hours — though it’ll keep for much longer. (savinowine.com)
Weyerhaeuser Hardwood Edge
Touted as the industry’s first OSB floor panel engineered for use under hardwood floors, Hardwood Edge is made in Elkin, N.C., with locally sourced wood and then distributed in Virginia and the Carolinas, where the stable, high-density subfloor can best serve the needs of the humid region. Weyerhaeuser says it developed the product based on years of research and close work with local builders and contractors. (weyerhaeuser.com)
Estwing Pro Claw Roofing, Siding, Construction Bar
Drop-forged from fine tool steel, this all-purpose tool hails from Rockford, Ill., is pro enough for contractors but is user-friendly enough for the DIYer. The bar has a 2.5-in. fulcrum on one blade for an advantage in removing shingles, downspouts, gutters and nails. (estwing.com)
Yost 31C, 3-1/2-in. Combination Pipe and Bench Vise
Here’s a gripping proposition: an all-American-made line of vises with multiple custom options. This one, made at company headquarters in Holland, Mich., features an interlocking swivel base and 65,000 PSI tensile ductile iron body parts. (yostvises.com)
LoggerHead Tools Bionic Wrench
American-made lifetime guarantee aside, this wrench (hailing from Palos Park, Ill.) gets points for its creative and unusual design. Think of it as adjustable wrench meets pliers, with patented Bionic Grip technology to distribute force equally and multiply gripping power. (loggerheadtools.com)
DeckWise Hidden Deck Fasteners
There’s little doubt that DeckWise’s fasteners hail from Bradenton, Fla. The patented design is made to hold up stronger in humid, tropical-storm-prone regions by allowing the decking material to expand and contract. The result is a structural soundness that’s up to three times stronger than other deck fastening systems, with no unsightly or dangerous screws sticking out. (deckwise.com)
Manufactured at the company’s Racine, Wis., plant, CalStar bricks use up to 81% less energy and generate up to 84% less CO2 than products that use clay, Portland cement or firing techniques. The bricks are made up of 37% post-industrial recycled material and bear all the good qualities of their traditional counterparts, as the testimonials would have it. (calstarproducts.com)
Pawtriotic Natural Dog Treats
Winner of the National Hardware Show All-American Award for Best New Product, these oven-baked treats come from a human food safety certified facility in Monroe, Wash., and feature real American dogs on their packaging. (pawtriotictreats.com)
Bode Man Hanger
When hardware and design combine, one gets the Man Hanger, a heavy-duty clothes hanger made from construction-site rebar. Assuming most customers don’t wear suits made of iron (but just in case they do), the design element puts this item in the industrial-chic league. And they’re all hand-bent (and made) in the mountains of Arizona. (bodegoods.com)
Bully Tools Long-Handled Mud Shovel
In celebration of the Steubenville, Ohio, company’s American-made tradition, this mud shovel states its case with a commemorative perforated design. Minus the flourishes, this hardy shovel features a 14-gauge steel head and ferrule and wood-reinforced fiberglass handle. (bullytools.com)
Tub O’ Towels All Purpose Wipes
The self-described “wipes on steroids” contain nine cleaning agents in each supersized 10-in. by 12-in. scrubbing towel. These brawny wipes are 100% made in Cleveland and fit to tackle rustbelt-worthy jobs (such as cleaning motorcycle parts). What’s more, the low-VOC solution is biodegradable. (tubotowels.com)
Adams RealComfort Adirondack Chair
Adams Manufacturing is so committed to its status as a certified Made-in-the-USA company, it hired a professional Lincoln impersonator to greet visitors at its National Hardware Show booth. Here, an employee hammers in patented SafetyGrip feet onto an Adirondack chair at the company’s Portersville, Pa., headquarters. (adamsmfg.com)
HandyDeck is a supplier of
HandyDeck is a supplier of interlocking deck tiles and commercial style pavers.
i like it and
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But you can find
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