An image of Oregon-Canadian’s kiln with a charge of Clear lumber.
OREGON-CANADIAN—Producing Innovative Products Since 1977
By Wayne Miller
North Plains, Ore.—Established in 1977 by Wayne Holm, Oregon-Canadian Forest Products Inc., produces approximately 2.5 million board feet per month of tropical hardwoods, Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar Clears. The firm exports approximately 25 percent of their high grade Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar and Hemlock.
Before opening his own operation Holm worked for a major corporation in the forest products industry. It was during this time of his life that he began planning his future. “Over the course of my time at two different companies in the industry, I decided on what I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do,” he said.
In the beginning, some of their processes were done by other companies. By 1980 Holm said they decided to lease more property and perform those services in-house. “We were having certain things done in a millwork operation. But we wanted to have control of how those processes were done, so they’d meet our own standards. We knew what we wanted to apply to the production and quality of the material, and we made it work.”
12x12 Clear Western Red Cedar
And ‘work’ it did—fast forward 30 years—the business continued to grow and Oregon-Canadian not only owns the property they were leasing in 1980, today the firm produces up to 40 million board feet per year. “Our operations now employ over 140 people and include our 25-acre facility in North Plains, Oregon, a plant in Newberry, South Carolina, as well as Oregon-Canadian Europe Limited based in Manchester, England. Obviously we grew and expanded and were able to make a success at it,” Holm explained.
“Our species have expanded from the original days of mostly Douglas Fir and a little bit of Hemlock to a substantial amount of Hemlock, a substantial amount of Cedar, and some hardwoods, all of which supplement our Douglas Fir production,” Holm continued. “Today there are some other competitors out there but no one else has the inventory, equipment or the personnel to do all the market services that we can provide.”
Wayne Holm attributes his successes to a multitude of things. “The key elements in our success have been and still are: quality, knowledgeable people, an old-fashioned traditional attitude about what kind of business we do and who we do it with and strength in our relationships with our sawmills.
An aerial view of Oregon-Canadian’s facilities.
“We’ve had a number of excellent employees over the years, many of whom have gone on to run their own businesses,” he said. “We have always operated our company in a relatively open communication system where we try to share with everybody how things need to be done. From the basic standards and ethics we want—to how we evaluate, how we manage, what we want to do, communication plays a huge role in our business.
“The most important factor is to have sawmill relationships that allow you to have the right raw material and as sawmills have changed from bigger log to smaller log, the number of mills that would cut or develop Clear lumber has reduced substantially. We’ve developed a system that is devoted to consistency and quality. There are several other remanufacturers, some of whom own their own material, some who work for others and do an excellent job. But they’re doing work for other people. Our priorities are different, we’re in a situation where we’re able to control what goes on and who we work with.”
A significant statement of longevity in an era of challenging economic struggles, Oregon-Canadian recently made an investment of $2.5 million in updating and improving their operation. Holm’s son, Mike said, “Continuous improvement is something we strive for. If we can find a piece of equipment, that will make us more efficient, and save a few dollars—that’s what we invest in. We recently installed a new fuel-fired boiler system so that we can utilize our own wood waste to heat our dry kilns versus using natural gas.”
With about 6 million board feet of softwood lumber on the ground about 80 percent of Oregon-Canadian’s products are sold in North America.
Large Douglas Fir timbers staged for a kiln.
“One of the things we’ve done to adjust to the economic conditions of today is we added two major product lines to become a more valuable supplier to our customers,” Mike noted. “Along with a few tropical species, our Doug Fir and Hemlock, we’ve now added a full line of Western Red Cedar Clears and a line of kiln-dried timbers.”
And as the needs of the market change, Oregon-Canadian modifies its operating methods to accommodate their customers. We used to run on 4-6 week order files, and rarely would we have more than one customer per truckload. We now will have several trucks per week that may have as many as 4-5 customers per truck,” Mike continued. “It is a little more expensive but we’ve managed to adapt and continue to be of service to our customers and we always will.”
Oregon-Canadian primarily serves wholesale distribution and industrial accounts. “We also do business with the big boxes—not a lot, but it is a component of our business,” Wayne Holm said. “I think you have to have multiple components in order to be able to adapt and change in times like these.”
The firm sources its products primarily from the Pacific Northwest. “Most of our raw material comes from Northern California through Canada,” Wayne Holm said.
Clear Western Red Cedar on Oregon-Canadian’s Resaw chain.
When asked what he believes kept Oregon-Canadian Forest Products in business all of these years, he said, “Timing has a lot to do with everything. The growth and expansion of our company came at a time when other sawmills were downsizing and our company was known as the place people could ship their lumber to and get a better value for it than in the commodity markets. Every single year our business has changed on some level. Whether it’s the product mix we carry, different species—we’ve done things differently every year.
“The major contributing elements of managing any business are having good people who have the intelligence and personalities that fit with the general program.” Oregon-Canadian Forest Products Inc. is a member of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA), International Wood Products Association (IWPA), National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and the Western Wood Products Association (WWPA).
Oregon-Canadian Forest Products also supports responsible forest management. To demonstrate this, the firm has maintained Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain-of-Custody certification since 2001. For more information visit www.ocfp.com.
Clear vertical grain Western Red Cedar being packaged for shipment.