NEWVIEW OKLAHOMA Turns An Insightful Vision Into Pine Product
By Clare Adrian
Employees of NewView Oklahoma turn 200,000 board feet of No.1 or Better Southern Yellow Pine into 30,000 plus wood chocks per year.
Oklahoma City, Okla. –The highly skilled workforce at NewView Oklahoma that processes Southern Yellow Pine into chocks to keep grounded aircraft in place for the U.S. Military knows the value of a safe secure mooring. Some 87% of the company’s employees are visually impaired in varying degrees.
“It’s a matter of training and machine modification,” said Thomas Larson, communications and community outreach specialist for the company, which is the leading employer of the blind and vision impaired in Oklahoma, and the only private agency offering specialized services for people living with vision loss.
Accounts payable/payroll manager, Christian Gorshing, has been purchasing upwards of 200,000 board feet of certified Southern Yellow Pine annually, No. 1 or Better to produce 30,000 plus units of product in recent years.
Formerly known as the Oklahoma League for the Blind, the mission of New View remains the same, which is to empower people who are blind and vision impaired to achieve their maximum level of independence through employment, rehabilitation and community outreach, a substantiated goal since 1949. Top priority for the original six founding board of directors, blind themselves, was promoting independence through in-house job training for dependably contracted jobs, which was successfully secured and maintained with government and private industries.
From the first government contract to manufacture rubber door mats from old automobile tire strips to another long-term partnership formed in 1956 with Tinker Air Force Base sorting jet engine parts, the company’s reputation for excellence has attracted a bevy of diverse contracts over the years from wooden ladder manufacturing, to parking meter repair, creating in-flight dining packets, assembling telephone terminal blocks and rebuilding jet engine parts for Tinker Field.
Wheel chocks are a consumable item as they get broken and weathered, so production is steady at NewView.
The current wheel chock contract was secured with Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma in the 70s, and today NewView Oklahoma is the primary supplier of wheel chocks for the U.S. Military airplanes through the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, shipping them to bases worldwide. Other commercial contracts include WW Granger.
Wheel chocks are a consumable item as they get broken and weathered so production is steady, said plant manager, Dale Mauk, who oversees the various operations underway in the 53,000 square foot manufacturing space of the organization’s fifth home. One time known as the world’s most beautiful brewery, the 5-story, 156,000-square-foot edifice started out as Progress Brewing Co., in 1959, was sold to Lone Star Brewing Co., and in 1973 sold to Oklahoma League for the Blind now NewView, for $1.00!
NewView immediately began renovating the first two floors, though leaving a Bavarian village chalet-style taproom on the first floor to serve as a conference room. The 3rd and 4th floors remain empty while the 5th is leased out to a tenant. The Vision Rehabilitation division is located at a building that is more accessible and visible to the general public. Established in the late 60s and the only one in the State, the center serves over 1000 blind individuals per year.
Mauk explained that their chock clients considered switching to blocks made of a composite material. However, the urethane version is more lightweight and reportedly does serious damage to aircraft, sliding out from under the wheels during wind storms and not holding them in place.
The NewView lead time provided to clients for made-to-order chocks includes the 4 to 6 weeks it takes to get lumber in from mills in Arkansas, through brokers such as Continental Timber and Paul P. Bellenger. Much of the time it takes to drying the chocks to a 20-25% moisture content to reduce chances of them cracking. To manufacture four different sizes of chocks, Gorshing orders 4X6X12 and 6X8X14, the latter which is hard to come by, said Mauk.
Formerly known as the Oklahoma League for the Blind, the mission of NewView remains the same, which is to empower people who are blind and vision impaired to achieve their maximum level of independence through employment, rehabilitation and community outreach.
Chocks are manufactured to military standards, mostly using Dewalt radial arm saws, extensively modified with special guards and fail-safe pneumatic air actuator cylinder systems. “We also take great care in moving equipment because the workers get used to it being arranged in a certain way,” said Mauk.
A truckload of 14-footers shipped to the plant are soon fed into the cutoff saw to be cut to length, then to a miter saw for 45-degree bevel cuts on both sides of the wood, and onto the conveyor to two dado saws. One cuts a 1” notch through the chock and another flattens the top. The drill press pierces a ¾” hole through the chock on one end and it’s on to the paint process, for a coat of primer followed by high visibility, safety yellow paint. When dry, a cotton rope length is knotted through the hole for carrying and pulling the chocks away from the aircraft. Chocks are banded in pairs, one for the front and back wheels each, and palleted for shipment.
The manufacturing department at the NewView facility employs 50 to 55 workers. Others run switchboard communications for multiple air force bases across the country. NewView provides more than 100 jobs with a full array of benefits from full retirement to medical. Several employees have been employed through the organization for upwards of 20 years. Richard and Betty Rocha, have worked in the vinyl shower curtain department for close to 40 years.
Workers are cross-trained and depending on workloads, shift amongst departments. “We’d rather disperse employees to other departments rather than send them home because of no work,” said Mauk.
The company’s goal is to continue growing and provide more jobs for the blind people of Oklahoma. “We’re in discussion to expand and have an aggressive forecast for the future,” said Mauk. The manufacturing floor is divided into four primary industrial units, each capable of expanding and adapting to add new products and services. The tools and methods used for hose production, repair and maintenance, industrial woodworking, kitting, and vinyl conversion can be converted or combined to produce a wide variety of complementary products and services.
NewView, which is a member of the Oklahoma Lumberman’s Association, shows the wheel chocks and other products at various trade shows across the country.
Mauk said there is general excitement at the plant regarding a recently purchased C&C machine. “It will open new avenues of what we can make with 4X6s. “We’re experimenting with turning scraps of wood into useful products.
NewView contact information is 405- 232-4644 and through the website, www.newviewoklahoma.org.