David Hogan, chief executive officer; Arvin Moeller, vice president of marketing and head of central purchasing; and Clay Hipp, president, make up the management staff at Hogan Hardwoods & Moulding.
Ruston, Louisiana—A philosopher once said, “Everything big, starts small,” which can apply to a dream, a company or a Red Oak tree and everything in between. That’s exactly what happened about 13 years ago when two 23-year-old men from Louisiana decided to open a small hardwood distribution yard in the northern part of the state.
“Clay Hipp and I were working in the melamine industry and we were calling on hardwood distribution yards in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi,” said David Hogan, chief executive officer of Hogan Hardwoods & Moulding Co. “After a while, we decided to open a small distribution yard in Ruston. At first we were marketing plastic laminate and began adding hardwood lumber, plywood and some mouldings.”
The two worked in a 3,500-square-foot building and soon had to add an 8,000-square-foot addition after hiring Arvin Moeller, a vice president of the company. Moeller had plenty of experience working in the hardwood industry and used that knowledge to increase the hardwood side of the business.
And increase they did.
The firm recently completed construction on new company headquarters, located in Ruston, La.
Today, just 13 short years after opening, it might be easier to list what Hogan Hardwoods & Moulding does not handle than what they do. In addition to the sprawling Ruston headquarters, they operate 10 distribution yards located in Ruston, Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana; Jacksonville and Little Rock, Arkansas; Austin, Grand Prairie and Houston, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Combined, there is 1 million square feet of warehouse space, over 500 employees, 102 over the road trucks and sales that should exceed $200 million this year.
In early 2004, Hogan purchased five distribution yards from Frank Paxton Lumber Co. The company also purchased a Willamette plywood plant and transferred all of its manufacturing and moulding operations to that 44-acre site. The hub facility is equipped with a rail spur allowing for six cars to be loaded or unloaded at a time. Dry kilns were also installed.
“Each yard has mainly the same set of equipment,” Hipp said. “We are running Newman 282 or 382 planers with a material handling system.”
All eight moulders at Hogan’s central manufacturing facility are equipped with automated infeed and outfeed material handling systems.
The moulding operations in Austin, Grand Prairie and Little Rock are all equipped with primarily Weinig moulders. The Ruston operation has eight Weinig moulders and a custom moulding tool room, with more than 8,000 profiles in stock.
The company officials all agree that one of the keys to its success is vendor relations.
“We definitely pride ourselves in our relationships with our vendors,” Hipp said. “Also our commitment and loyalty that we have with our vendors is almost to a fault sometimes. We will stick with them when the market is up or down—we are with them for the long haul.”
Over the years, Hipp and Hogan have worked to diversify the company’s offerings according to the market changes in order to better serve their customers. One way they have done this is by creating Hogan Hardwoods International, a division of the company, which Moeller manages, that is devoted to imported species that the firm offers.
“We offer African hardwoods—mainly Mahogany and Sapele—but we have all the species,” Moeller said. “We do a lot of business on the coast of South America also.”
Some of the species that Hogan International offers are Afrormosia, Aniegre, Bloodwood, Jatoba, Black and White Limba, Obeche, Purpleheart, Sapele and Zebrawood.
The firm has four dry kilns at the Ruston location.
Most of the species are brought into the United States, either green or air-dried, and shipped to Hogan International’s concentration yard and dry kilns in Simsboro, Louisiana. The lumber is then graded and air-dried until the moisture content is at 30 percent or less. Following this process, the lumber is kiln-dried, re-inspected and sorted.
Hogan said that his company’s inventory of Mahogany is the largest in the country. And loyalty plays a part in that aspect of the company as well.
“We have a partnership with someone who does our procurement of Mahogany, and that relationship goes back ten years,” Hogan said.
In addition to their imported items, the company’s domestic product list is long and distinguished. Hogan Hardwoods & Mouldings handles every North American hardwood species, hardwood plywood, mouldings, doors, windows, etc.
“We buy everything from Southern Yellow Pine for the retail operation in Ruston, to laminated and solid hardwood flooring for our hardwood side,” Hogan said. “We buy nearly every product manufactured from hardwood whether it’s stair parts or carvings, just about anything.”
Hardwood lumber awaits processing into mouldings at Hogan’s central manufacturing facility.
Hogan’s procurement comes from all over North America, in fact, all over the world. Every location shares the $35 million inventory. To keep track of the inventory and to move it from one location to another, the company utilizes the hub and spoke system of distribution with the Ruston facility being the hub.
Hogan runs a truck to every yard, every week and also operates a server where all the locations can check inventory.
“For example, we had 16/4 Ash at our location in Austin and had an order in Arkansas for 100 board feet,” Hipp said. “We sent the order to Arkansas in the same week.”
That system really helped the company grow in the beginning because it allowed for better use of its working capital and to not duplicate inventory.
“It gives us an advantage to our customers because we have the availability there for our customers,” Hogan said.
Hogan definitely has a business approach that is unique and flexible, but it is also creative, which is very uncommon with companies its size.
“We don’t have a cookie cutter approach to business,” Hipp said. “Several months ago, we spent a weekend running billets for a baseball bat manufacturer. We didn’t think that we would be in the billet business, but a customer wanted it.
“As we were sending out the specs for the billets to a mill, one of our front office guys said he had done billets before,” Hipp explained. “He spent the weekend manufacturing billets because the bat manufacturer wanted a certain texture and wanted knots in the barrel, but not in the handle. The bat manufacturer was ecstatic.”
Through growth and acquisitions, Hogan has also hired very good employees.
Hogan has a fleet of 102 over-the-road delivery trucks.
“Recruiting and hiring the right employees has helped our growth tremendously,” Hogan said. “We are very fortunate to have Louisiana Tech right here in Ruston and other area colleges that we can hire from. Those graduates know when they come to work for us they have big opportunities.”
Hogan Hardwoods has a very diverse customer base, primarily custom cabinet shops, millwork facilities and retail lumber yards.
“Like with our vendors, we also have a very strong commitment to our customers,” Hipp said. “We have 102 DOT regulated trucks and everywhere we go, we go twice a week. So every customer that we service gets twice a week delivery off a Hogan-owned curtain-sided delivery truck.”
That makes for a strong commitment to customer service, when the cost of owning and operating those trucks comes into play.
“There are many distributors out there that don’t have their own trucks and are dependent on common carriers,” Hogan said. “Our customers can depend on us because we are running our own trucks and we are going to be there for them, now and in the future.”
With such an exciting short history, what could possibly be in the future for Hogan Hardwoods & Moulding? In the next six months, the company is unveiling a package tracking system.
“It will be through our website and will be interactive,” Hipp said. “It will be equipped with a GPS system. It will enable us to sign off on our tickets out in the field and tie it back in with the system. It will also allow for individual accountability. The customer will know exactly where their order is and we will be able to track trucks and assist in sales.”
Hogan Hardwoods International offers exotic and imported Hardwoods.
In a nutshell, it will be technology that takes the company to the next level.
“We need to become more efficient, but still maintain our service and deliver the highest quality products, and technology will help us do it,” Hogan said.
In addition, the headquarters staff recently moved into a 20,000-square-foot office that will allow the entire staff to be together allowing for better communications.
When the philosopher said everything big starts small, he probably concluded that becoming big was slow and methodical, not with Hogan Hardwoods & Moulding. If the next 13 years are anything like the first, the company will certainly have a tremendous impact on the hardwood forest products industry.
“We want to become the number one distributor in the country and the one-stop shopping place for woodworkers across the country,” Hogan concluded.