Coming of Age
Quietly Becoming a Bigger Player in the
Door Manufacturing Business
by SAMANTHA CARPENTER
Located in the small town of Shawano, Wis., Heritage Veneered Products (HVP) has been producing doors for eight years. HVP is a division of Owens Forest Products (OFP), a 28 year-old privately-held company based in Duluth, Minn.
OFP purchased select assets of the idled Heritage Hardwoods in 1992, and that same year with the assistance of a seasoned workforce from the previous company, the new division of HVP emerged, said Pam Rades, general manager of HVP.
HVP immediately began producing door jambs and door parts in a leased facility formally occupied by Heritage Hardwoods. Approximately 24 months later, HVP moved from the leased building to a 70,000 square-foot manufacturing facility on 17 acres owned by OFP. Over the next two years, two more additions were added to this facility, which now encompasses 210,000-plus square feet, said Rades. HVP currently employs more than 150 people within its manufacturing facility and administrative offices.
In 1994, HVP switched from making door jambs and parts to the actual assembly of stile and rail, raised-panel door slabs. It currently markets the doors under the brand name Woodport. In addition to the engineered door division, OFP has a flooring division which manufacturers hardwood flooring branded under the name Plank Floor. The flooring division shares manufacturing space with HVP in Shawano and currently employs 32 full-time employees.
This room showcases the Woodport flat-panel interior door.
“Today, HVP offers engineered raised-panel, flat-panel and French interior doors in five natural wood species (oak, maple, cherry, birch and poplar). [The company also sells] the medium density fiberboard paint-grade option on the Woodport door, as well as an O.E.M. product to select private-label customers,” said Jim Daniels, sales and marketing manager.
HVP’s door products utilize select North American hardwoods and veneers and environmentally-friendly engineered substrates, said Daniels.
To produce its doors, HVP currently runs one full shift, five days a week from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with over 120 direct-labor personnel and maintenance staff, said Rades. “Our second shift is a specialty shift operating with nearly 20 direct-labor personnel and a maintenance staff, ten-hour days, four days a week,” said Rades. “Due to order activity presently, however, we are spending some overtime and have occasional Saturday workdays.”
HVP’s beveled French door.
HVP’s most recent addition to its manufacturing facility is an automated slab assembly machine for its bi-fold door line, designed and manufactured exclusively for HVP, said Gast.
Asked how the company solves problems with its machinery, Rades, said, “We lean very heavily on a well-trained maintenance staff. We are not afforded back-up machines at every workstation, so dysfunctional machines must be repaired quickly, requiring a large ‘spare parts on the shelf’ inventory. Fortunately, though not the best production tools, some machines can be cross-functional, i.e., radio frequency presses, tenoners, etc.”
Asked what kind of quality-control procedures are used in the HVP manufacturing process, Jeff Hartman, production manager, said, “Quality control is an on-going practice at each workstation of each department. Each department can be viewed as an internal customer. All work must meet requirements before it can pass on to the next process. Every machine operator or assistant is responsible for quality control. The end product is thoroughly inspected by two individuals before it is passed on to the shipping department.”
Does HVP usually work with one-step or two-step jobbers/dealers?
Daniels said, “We prefer two-step distribution with our branded product line. We have a few one-step customers, but only to ensure availability in certain areas where the needs arise. We find our two-step distribution process coupled with private-label accounts the best avenue to attain the national coverage we desire while providing consistent and sustainable order flow.”
Daniels added that when working with one-step and two-step customers, they are serviced with the same quality of products in the same lead times. Minor and subtle differences exist that are not uncommon between manufacturers and different levels of customers.
Asked if there is anything special the company does to nurture its customer relationships, Daniels said, “We have a program know as ‘Get to know the Customer.’ On a regular basis, a team of our production staff will travel to our distributors to learn more about their needs and how we can better service them. On most trips, the team will visit with our customer, our customer’s customer [and so on down the chain]. This exposure to the distribution process has helped improve our quality, our material handling and order processing.”
To help jobbers/dealers merchandise HVP products, all traditional merchandising and point-of-purchase materials are utilized, such as product literature, product displays/samples, press releases, ad sharing, branded clothing, websites and in-field call assistance from HVP staff, said Daniels. “Our complete library of product photography and artwork is available for use by our distributors in producing their in-house sales and pricing catalogs,” said Daniels.
HVP also participates in many annual trade shows at both the local and national level, including the annual convention of the National Sash and Door Jobbers Association.
HVP’s classic two-panel door.
Asked if there is anything else about HVP that she would like to add, Rades, said, “HVP is really a people-driven company, both for our employees and for our customers. All decisions are heavily weighed for the impact, long and short term, they will have on all aspects of our people assets. We have programs and processes in place to insure the success of both groups.”
Jeff Hartman, production manager, echoes Rades remarks. “This company has a great workforce. The mix of individuals to a common goal contributes to our success. Although all opinions are not shared alike, the collective opinions as a whole give us the opportunity to see everything at different angles. We very seriously give consideration to all suggestions. These are the opinions and suggestions that make this team grow, improve and succeed together,” said Hartman.
To help with retention, HVP has started a program where new employees are assigned a mentor and placed in a training program to encourage the advancement of their skill level and make the transition in becoming an empowered team member, said Rades. All employees participate in a bonus program based on the profitability and success of the company. Each month, an update meeting is held for all employees, with a meal provided by HVP, where news and views are shared from various team members. At these meetings, topics—such as customer satisfaction, production and profitability statistics, health and safety issues and other human resources issues—are openly discussed and reviewed, said Rades.
HVP’s traditional four-panel door.
How does HVP stack up in its customers’ eyes? Tom Quinn, vice president of sales for Alliance Wholesalers Inc. of Alliance, Ohio, said, “I think they are one of the finest manufacturers that I work with. I think they are easy to deal with and they are quietly becoming one the largest hardwood producers in the United States. And the flat-panel door line is becoming a fast-moving trend in the Midwest.”
Tom Weidler, vice president of purchasing for Midwest Jobbers Inc. of St. Charles, Ill., said, “We have a very well-rounded relationship with Heritage Veneered Products. They have five hardwood species and three MDF product lines which all sell very well in the market place.”
Over the last eight years, you may not have heard much about Heritage Veneered Products, but as Quinn said this company is quietly becoming a player and definitely one to look for in the future.
Samantha Carpenter is the editor of SHELTER magazine.
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