President and owner, Jim Russell, stands next to a full truck load of closet rod shipping to a distributor.
Russell Manufacturing Maintains Flexibility
By Clare Adrian
Hubbard, Ore.—Having a sense of when a change is needed is one thing, but to actively make the change is a risk that many are unwilling to take. Jim Russell has walked out on that limb enough times to attribute flexibility for change as one of his strengths, and for the company to have a healthy growth rate of 13 percent per year.
For 20 years now, Russell has been developing the knack for manufacturing mixed runs of vertical grain casing and base patterns, hand rails, beaded ceilings and balusters in the amount that a customer says he needs. And if not, Russell can change on a dime. Full rounds are the company’s specialty, ranging from ¾-inch to 3 inches, including smooth, reeded and fluted profiles, producing approximately 500,000 linear feet of round stock monthly, and up to 1 million linear feet per month during peak periods.
New Weinig Hydromat moulder (200 RPM) for high-speed production, which consumes an average of 28 million board feet per day.
s known for full rounds, from coast to coast. “There are probably about 90,000 lineal feet made per day,” he stated.
The business started with Russell coming home from his job as a cable television line technician and tinkering with wood in the garage. Eventually, he decided to quit his job and begin crafting wood cabinets. He opened Russell Woodworking, turning out mostly commercial and residential cabinetry. But, when the market changed and became more automated and shipments from overseas increased, Russell altered his course—advancing into producing moulding, changing the product line and incorporating his company.
“Over the course of a year, employees who were there to build cabinets got another job, and we geared up to run moulding,” he recalled.
As the markets continually changed, Russell adapted. “Then one of our customers asked if we could run a small quantity of full rounds on a custom basis, we were happy to comply,” he said. “That small order grew into units, followed by truckloads. Soon, it became the main product, and it still is today. I estimate we have run in the area of 20 million linear feet of 1 and 5/16-inch full round material in the last 15 years.”
Russell’s woodworking adventure started out in the Thousand Oaks area of California, and after the tr
Martha Carillo and Joel Barrientos run another Weinig moulder in the hand rail department.
ansformation to manufacturing, was moved to Oregon—first the Portland area, then to Canby, and eventually the size of the operation warranted purchasing a property and building a custom facility. Russell bought land just off the Highway 99E truck route and just four miles from I-5 in Hubbard in 2002. The proximity to major shipping arteries is a major plus for moving material in and out of the facility.
The operation consists of a 12,000-square-foot enclosed drive-through warehouse, which accommodates the loading and unloading of trucks in inclement weather. There is an adjacent 15,000-square-foot mill. The company’s two large Hyster forklifts shuttle raw material through the north side of the building and finished product out the south, utilized and poly-wrapped to be staged for shipping.
Russell has developed a system and infrastructure that successfully and flexibly supplies mixed runs of mouldings to various distribution markets and lumber wholesalers coast to coast. Though he purchases approximately 5 million board feet per year, the stockpile at any one given time is kept at only 125,000 board feet, shipped in daily on subcontracted trucks. Most of the l
View of the packaging department where all freshly milled product is unitized and readied for shipment.
umber, which is 90 percent Douglas Fir and 10 percent Hemlock, is purchased green from sawmills on the West Coast betw een British Columbia and Redding, Calif., and as far east as Montana. It is trucked to be kiln-dried, pulled and graded to facilities in Eugene and Troutdale, Ore., then inventoried and hauled in curtain van-enclosed trailers, daily or as needed, to the Russell plant.
From just a few dimensions of lumber, in tallies eight to 20 feet long, Russell can make all the possible patterns that the industry wants. With three of the latest modeled Weinig moulders, changeover can occur in less than an hour, whereas the older models could take up to a whole day to reset a pattern.
“We can make these changeovers, make smaller runs more frequently and it doesn’t interfere with the layout of the plant or the material handling,” Russell said. “Our type of material handling unit accommodates any size of moulding up to 12 inches wide.”
A five-year rule governs the longevity of machinery at the Russell plant, except for the forklifts. A resaw was rece
Weinig Hydromat material handling unit with a trim station adjacent.
ntly retired for a new Baker. In addition to it and the three Weinig moulders, wood is processed through on a select gang ripsaw, a Mereen - Johnson resaw, Kimwood resaw, Weinig profile grinders and a Weinig Greycon optimizer. Within a framework of flexibility, conditions that do not change at Russell Manufacturing are maintenance of the infrastructure. Russell is an avid believer in maintaining machinery in optimum working order.
The people behind the controls of the machinery compromise the strength of the company. One person each operates the machinery within the three machine centers, each with three unique moulding capabilities. Every morning, clipboard in hand, Russell reviews the goals for the day in each center and talks to them about the customers’ concerns on length, structure and quality. Tom Nizzi, who has been foreman at the plant for seven years, oversees the areas through the week, checking the tolerances on the three machine centers, supervising the runs and the changes that customers may dictate at any time.
The schedule for each machine goes out about a month on each machine center, explained Russell.
A fluted dowel pattern run, which are built in the packaging department.
“It’s only a hard schedule for the week because customers could call and change the order,” he said. “As we get closer to the day that we’re milling, the schedule gets more finite. That’s why I only talk to center operators every week about what we’re doing. With the flexibility in having that unique inventory, that common type of lumber, the same lumber with 85 percent of our patterns, we just keep using the same lumber and make necessary changes on the setup of the machines. We tell the employees why we’re doing what we’re doing because if you tell a guy you’re going to run full rounds for a week and change it the next day, he doesn’t know why.”
Besides providing workers with a competitive benefits package, Russell demonstrates how much he respects his workers’ ideas by encouraging creativity.
“If they can show me a better way, our new way is their way. If my way is better, we’ll use it until they come up with a better way,” Russell commented. “They sometimes give the most off-the-wall ideas and I think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ Different people have different perspectives and I’m definitely open to how to do things more proficiently.”
Some Douglas Fir blanks headed to the Hydromat.
Finished units ready for shipment inside Russell’s covered loading area.