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Wynndel looks to improve breakdown equipment

With a recent investment in value-added equipment under its belt, Wynndel Box & Lumber is likely going to be looking at improving its main breakdown equipment in the not too distant future. The most recent addition in the mill came in 1992, with a new Linck sash gang saw replacing the 34-year-old SAF-56 Linck gang saw.

In addition to the doublecut headrig and gang, it has resaw equipment, a chop line, two planers and three steam kilns. This produces the boards used to manufacture their main line of textured trim and siding products. “There are some things on the horizon,” says Jack Wigen. “One thing is to do something different with the sawmill to take the medium-sized logs and to process them away from the headrig.”

They’d like to have a higher production alternative for small logs over their conventional chip ‘n saw set up. On the sales side, Wynndel is very close to the US, but it continues to actively pursue other markets. “We think the best business practice is to be widely diversified because there’s always a chance of one market flopping.” They experienced this first-hand with the collapse of the Japanese market. “We thought we were doing well, everyone was exporting to Japan,” Jack explains.

Like a lot of BC producers, they got pre-occupied with the booming Japanese market in the mid-1990s and were shipping far more than usual into there. “We didn’t know it then, but that was also the time period that was used to decide how much lumber quota for the US was allocated to each Canadian company,” says Jack.

Low interest rates help Canadian lumber producers

lan Greenspan has probably never heard of Wynndel Box & Lumber in southwestern British Columbia, but the powerful chair of the of the US Federal Reserve Bank has proven to be Wynndel’s—and one of the Canadian lumber industry’s—best friends in the past two years with its low interest rate policy. In an effort to keep the US economy from slipping into a tailspin, Greenspan lowered the benchmark US interest rate an unprecedented 11 times last year.

The all-important prime interest rate is at its lowest level since 1965. This has, in turn, driven interest rates on mortgages to low levels not seen in decades. The net effect is that the US home building industry, though it saw some setbacks following the September 11 attacks, has weathered the downturn fairly well so far. As a result, lumber demand has not collapsed, although prices are very far from where Canadian mills would like to see them.

And for Wynndel, which has been selling trim and fascia product into the US for more than 30 years, it’s not as much a matter that things are booming, but that markets could be much worse. Even though the US was stuck in a recession in 2001, sales of new homes climbed to an all-time high. A record 900,000 new single-family homes were sold during the year, beating the record of 886,000 set in 1998. The 2001 figure represented a 2.6 per cent increase from sales in 2000. Some American homebuilders are very busy.

Toll Brothers Inc, one of the leading builders of luxury homes in the US, reported its tenth consecutive year of record revenues in 2001 and its eleventh consecutive year of record contracts. The company said that based on their year-end backlog, which was down 1.6 per cent compared to a year ago, and current contracts signed, fiscal 2002’s first three quarters, while probably not another record, should be very strong.

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