ROSBORO Shakes Up Industry with Full Framing Width Glulam
By Josh Englander
Rosboro’s Vice- President of sales and marketing, Jim Walsh.
Springfield, Ore.—Stubborn industry woes have prompted various strategic responses, from conservative downscaling to aggressive adaptation. Companies that have circled the wagons—shedding jobs, relying on fixed inventories—are waiting until the market becomes a stationary target before they make their next move. Others are dashing out of trenches guns blazing. Rosboro, one of the building sector’s glulam leaders, is deciding on the latter tactic with the introduction of X-Beam, a full framing width stock glulam in architectural appearance.
With the new product launch, the Oregon-based company is poised to shake up the engineered wood market, and consequently, rankle the competition. For every advertised benefit XBeam promises – uniformity with standard framing widths, fewer SKUs, reduced shimming on job sites – there is a corresponding, opposing argument. Other glulam manufacturers are questioning everything from the economic viability to the market demand for such a product.
“Yes, we scratched our heads when we first heard about it [XBeam],” said Dennis Huston, EWP sales manager of Boise Glulam. “Rosboro claims they won’t have to increase price, but there’s more wood fiber going into the product, so we don’t see how that’s going to work. We’ll wait and analyze the market response before we consider offering a similar product.”
In poker parlance, Rosboro is going all in, switching its entire stock of 4x and 6x glulam products to full framing width in architectural appearance. That means one set of SKUs for exposed and concealed applications, and no more job-site modifications to match traditional glulam with standard framing members. Rosboro is also marketing the fact that the greater widths and wood volume will equate to increased load-carrying capacity.
Critics aside, there may be a very influential group that applauds the decision : builders. The ones who, if the product f o l l o w s through on its claim, will reap the immediate rewards.
“This will have a big impact for me,” said Oregon builder Tony Chapman. “I prefer glulam for its consistency and strength, but there’s always been extra effort and time I spend shimming out the 3/8-inch gaps. A full-width product really simplifies things.”
Breaking Rules and Traditions
Intended for exposed or concealed applications, Rosboro X-Beam is available in a wide range of sizes including standard 3-1/2” and 5-1/2” wall framing widths.
So why hasn’t it been done before? Part of the reason is that, unlike Rosboro, not many manufacturers are operating their own sawmills and planers. That gives the company the leverage to break away from a pack that is largely invested in maintaining the status quo. In making this change to full widths, Rosboro is fundamentally altering glulam-manufacturing practices that date back more than 40 years. Naturally, Rosboro’s competitors are wary of the news.
“Frankly, we don’t think much of it,” said Bud Filler, founding partner of Filler King Company. “It’s an un-standard industry size and it creates dual inventories in distributors’ yards. Another problem is the amount of redesign it may require on hardware connections. Then there’s the added cost; someone has to pay for that extra 3/8-inch.”
Filler is likely not the only one to express concerns about increased costs – and compatibility issues. Any radical change is bound to have a ripple effect down the supply chain. However, at least one leading hardware manufacturer, Simpson Strong-Tie, does not foresee any major stumbling blocks associated with the increased standard widths.
“Simpson Strong-Tie provides a large variety of hanger sizes for glulam beams,” said a Simpson representative, “including sized for Rosboro’s 3-1/2-inch and 5-1/2-inch wide glulams.”
Looking for the Next Big Thing
Rosboro is hailing X-Beam as a breakthrough – a radical improvement in terms of convenience and efficiency. “With the sizing issue mitigated, we believe glulam becomes the premier engineered wood option,” said Jim Walsh, Rosboro senior vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s less expensive than other engineered wood products, more attractive, lighter weight, and easier to work with. We view X-Beam as the next-generation glulam.”
This is an image of the X-Beam, full framing width stock glulam in architectural appearance.
As for cost, Rosboro claims the market will dictate the price and value of the product. X-Beam’s available net widths include beams at 3 1/2-inch, 5 1/2-inch, 6 3/4-inch, and 8 3/4-inch, and columns at 3 1/2-inch x 6-inch, 5 1/2-inch x 5 1/2- inch, and 5 1/2-inch x 6-inch. It will also come in a full range of common glulam and I-joist depths.
With uncertainty still swirling around the building industry, it’s unclear whether Rosboro’s early adoption of the new product line will result in a big head start or a humbling retreat should the market reject full-width glulam. Despite the unknowns, Rosboro is embarking with confidence.
“We don’t feel it’s a big risk,” said Walsh.
“At this point, we’re not really competing against other glulam manufacturers, but rather LVL, solid sawn, LSL and steel. When we talk to the end users, they prefer glulam to all these other products – if it weren’t for the sizing problem. With XBeam, we’re delivering a product that better fits what builders need, and reducing the SKUs for our customers.”
The industry will certainly be watching Rosboro’s dance with risk and reward. If successful, the X-Beam product may signify a trend, one in which companies will try to innovate their way out of an economic downturn rather than wait for conditions to return to normal.
About the Author: Josh Englander is a freelance writer specializing in the building industry.