Wynndel sawmill thrives under Canfor ownership

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  • Nov. 23, 2016 2:00 p.m.

Since being acquired by Canfor Corporation last April, WynnWood (formerly Wynndel Box & Lumber Ltd.) has grown at a steady pace, and is now running two shifts with four ten-hour days a week.

“We went to two shifts in September after hiring and training additional staff,” CEO Michael Combs said last week. Since the acquisition, which promised to provide the producer of high quality one-inch board products with a steady supply of appropriate logs, 42 new employees have been added.

All employees’ situations have improved, Combs added, because Canfor has a better benefits package.

The Wynndel sawmill grows in other ways, too. A newly installed drying kiln “has worked out terrifically” and a new kiln boiler is now being installed at a cost of about $700,000. An automated lumber grader—“a really cool machine”—is slated to be installed next spring.

“This is a significant investment and is not a job replacement technology,” Combs said. Instead, it maximizes the use of each log as it moves through the mill.

More changes are planned as capital expenditures are approved, including a rearrangement and expansion of the log yard, which no longer sits nearly empty at times, as it has in the past. The larger availability of high quality logs has addressed that problem.

“We have a list of capital improvements that runs into the millions,” Combs said. “But those plans have to fit into the priorities of Canfor at the time.”

Of course it is one thing to increase production, but sales also have to increase to justify the added costs.

“Our sales have increased by more than 25 per cent in 2016,” he said. “It goes back to a sustainable influx of logs. Before the sale, we couldn’t go out looking for new business, but now we are able to team up with the Canfor sales team to expand into new markets in countries like China, Korea and Mexico. We can add new markets because we know we can still supply our existing customer base as well.”

With the volume of logs arriving at the mill having doubled since the acquisition, “We think there is enough market out there to continue to increase production.”

“Our team has done a terrific job at meeting and exceeding Canfor’s expectations,” he said, pointing out that the local management team was largely assembled from the existing employee pool. The team remained intact after the acquisition.

“And Canfor has exceeded our expectations, too,” he added. The Canadian-owned corporation wants to learn from WynnWood, which Combs said makes the best white wood boards in the world.

“I know that’s a big claim,” he smiled. “But I am confident it’s true, and so are our employees.”

He looks back on the acquisition process, and the negotiations involved to make the family of owners confident that the sale would mean continuity and opportunity for workers and the Creston Valley economy.

“They (Canfor) brought a lot to the table,” he said. “But they have a lot to learn from us, too.”

 

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