Upper grade Redwood is pictured in dry storage at California Redwood Co. The company expects to move 200 million board feet of both Redwood and Douglas Fir this year.
CALIFORNIA REDWOOD COMPANY Repositions, Ups Ante With New Product
By Clare Adrian
Arcata, Calif.–A Redwood log, bucked, sliced, squared into lumber or remanufactured into any usable shape, never loses its intrinsic qualities. The same principle applies to The California Redwood Company, based here. A new marketing strategy was developed at the firm to reposition the company’s competencies already in place and to invigorate demand for innovative new Redwood products. Yet, there’s no changing the attributes that have unfolded during the company’s rich 120-year lumber production history. At its core, and continuing today, are the same family and community roots and commitment to the environment.
The company has long been known as a reliable source of Redwood, which traditionally sold itself, commented Vice President and General Manager Carl Schoenhofer. “It has natural decay resistance. It’s durable, dimensionally stable, perfectly suited for outdoor projects, and when compared to composites during focus groups, Redwood wins hands down for beauty and aesthetics, too.” Rather than promote the Redwood attributes with abandon and follow the tendency in the industry to step up production in meeting demand, The California Redwood Company has strategically distributed lumber to areas where Redwood qualities are perfectly suited. Disinterested in mere market share gain, even if demand is great, the firm’s policy is to resist cutting down more trees than is sustainable. Instead, said Schoenhofer, “We looked at what consumers wanted and developed new products to meet their unique needs.”
A truckload of lumber is loaded and ready for shipment from California Redwood Co.
As of 2010, the company zeroed in on enhanced product quality. Primarily focused on every aspect of decking ratings, improvements were made to the drying process, to grading and to fine surfacing of all products, cataloged into the Heritage Collection and the California Series. In addition, the product lines were repositioned with the introduction of two new decking profiles within the now premium Heritage Collection.
The Summit profile was upgraded from a dimension board to a specialty premium product. The new decking board with a slightly crowned surface is designed to shed water, though not crowned so much as to notice it when walked upon. The beveled sides are cut at an angle so that leaves and debris that typically wedge between boards fall between the cracks. And water, the natural enemy of wood, runs over the edge into a channel and onto the ground.
The Meridian profile, a 5-quarter deck board, is not a new concept to the industry except that The California Redwood Company now offers it in the Redwood species.
California Redwood Company in Arcata, Calif., this year has focused on enhanced product quality, said a spokesman at the firm.
The repositioning was bolstered by a thorough marketing campaign, including a website facelift, creation and placement of 6-foot tall point of sale displays, image messaging, brochures, mini-sample decks in the retail outlets, and deck clinics to train retail staff on the qualities and merits of Redwood. Instead of selling only to distributors, field reps were hired to liaison with consumers, to create pullthrough demand for retailers, and offer customer education on Redwood as a premium product.
The California Redwood Company is a subsidiary of Green Diamond Resource Company, the second largest timberland owner in California. The second-growth logging operation occupies 430,000 acres of the Redwood timber region, a 400-mile long strip of coastline that stretches up to the Oregon border and extends inland only 15 miles, where the coastal trees absorb moisture from the area fog.
The two companies had been integrated together until 2001, when The California Redwood Company and Green Diamond split management of sawmill and land. Today, the two operate hand in hand – timber supplier and sawmill – to supply the market with expediency and continuity of service and product. Sol Simpson founded the original company in 1890. Back then, the firm was named Simpson Logging Company in Washington State. Following an expansion into California in 1945 and a change in name only, the company remains a family-run business by descendants of Simpson.
Planting nearly one million trees per year, Green Diamond grows many more trees than it harvests, operating within a sustainability model that complies with two California Habitat Conservation Plans. Green Diamond employs a number of experts who work in tandem with federal and state government to voluntarily implement conservation and habitat plans. In addition, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified both Green Diamond timberland and The California Redwood Company sawmills.
Pictured is Redwood at the company being staged for kiln drying.
Two separate facilities support the operation on an overall footprint of nearly 700 acres. On a 500-acre tract at Korbel, the primary facility consists of the log deck, sawmill, drying yard and 13 kilns, which are fueled by residuals and sawdust created by the manufacturing process.
A re-manufacturing facility and the administrative offices are located at Brainard on an 85-acre parcel in Humboldt Bay, where a high grade of lumber is sorted, dried, surfaced and manufactured into products such as 6X6 beams specified by architects to be exposed in homes, for siding, interior wainscoting, and 4X4s for play playground equipment, sold at the Korbel location.
Logs transported to the mill upon large loaders are debarked and cut into various decking lengths, using a 6-foot diameter circular buck saw. From a process called bucking, they proceed to the log quad, which makes several cuts in 6-to 30-inch in diameter logs at once. Larger logs are sliced one at a time on a head rig to pull the best grade from each length. Resaws and edgers remove the log wane from the lumber and defects are trimmed off. Lumber products are sorted by dimensions, which range from 1X4 up to 2X12, and for specific product, 4X4, 4X6 and 6X6s. The company also uses Douglas Fir to manufacture product in 2X4 through 2X12 dimension lumber and 3X4 to 4X12 timbers.
Decking boards in either species are then grouped by length in units for uniform packaging and are loaded into kilns for five to seven days, or taken to the air drying yard, depending on the species, for four to eight months. Once dried to a 15 percent moisture content, the lumber is returned to the planer and/or funneled to the remanufacturing plant, for final planing, grading, and sorting. Finished product is then packaged and distributed nationwide, yet the market demand for the lumber is most prominent in the 13 western states.
The afflicted economy has softened the market and curtailed production at the mill, explained Schoenhofer. “The plant has a 300 million board foot capacity and operates at half capacity at this time. We expect to move 200 million board feet of lumber of both Redwood and Douglas Fir. This is purchased from the parent company, Green Diamond, and also from smaller land owners. ”
Schoenhofer has been with the company since 2000. He grew up in the community and worked in lumber mills to finance his college education. He gained experience in finance at other companies. When he arrived at The California Redwood Company, he worked as the business development analyst and later moved into operations. He also managed the Korbel sawmill until 2007.
At California Redwood Company, boards are sorted by dimension, which range from 1x4 up to 2x12, and for specific product, 4x4, 4x6 and 6x6. Also, Douglas Fir boards range from 2x4 through 2x12 dimension lumber and 3x4 to 4x12 timbers.
As vice president and general manager, Schoenhofer has been instrumental in the company’s repositioning, yet acknowledges the quiet fortitude of the company all along as a reliable and sustainable operation. “We remained fairly quiet, and just kept doing what is right,” he said. “We now tell our story of having renewable sustainable products, taking care of the land and providing jobs for the community. We have our own resource timber base, experience in manufacturing, and now new strength of being more market-focused and on building a new brand.”