National Hardwood Magazine

 
 
 

November 2013 Feature Story

 

Standing (Left to Right): Gordon McIlvain, Alan McIlvain Jr., (Sitting) Jordan McIlvain, Alan (Lan) McIlvain III, and Weld McIlvain, Alan McIlvain Co., Marcus Hook, PA
Alan McIlvain Company Advances With 7th Generation Onboard

By Paul Miller Jr.

Marcus Hook, PA—The Alan McIlvain Company, headquartered here, has a rich history of distributing and importing Hardwood lumber and manufacturing mouldings for over 210 years.

The company keeps over 5 million board feet of domestic and imported Hardwood and softwood lumber in stock. Species include rift and quartered White Oak, Walnut, Cherry and Maple on the domestic side and imports in Sapele, African Mahogany, Spanish Cedar and Ipe.

As they continue to offer long-time and new customers quality service and products through new technology, the family-owned company also makes perhaps a larger investment—time.

Kiln-dried lumber moves to the grading line from the kiln.
“As our generation starts to transition into key roles, we’re not just working here, we’re actually taking the reins of the company,” Weld McIlvain explained. Part of the seventh generation of McIlvains to operate the company, Weld is the current Distribution Manager and Gordon McIlvain’s first son, Jordan McIlvain, also Gordon’s son, is over sales and purchasing. “The idea of this transition is to shift workloads from 90 percent our fathers and 10 percent ours, to 90 percent ours and 10 percent our fathers before they leave. This affords us the opportunity to have them on hand as we transition.”

He continued, “We have a lot of things that are changing right now. The technology updates that we’ve made in the past have been expanded upon. We’re generally pretty flexible to things. If something works, it sticks and if it doesn’t work, we’re all very comfortable eliminating it quickly so that we can utilize that energy to try something else that will work.

“None of the changes we’re making are radical—we’re going to continue to offer quality lumber and lumber products.”

Moulder operators check the details of a custom moulding order.
Current Operations Manager Alan McIlvain Jr.’s son, Alan ‘Lan’ McIlvain III, offered, “Since the recession started, the market has changed. We fill more customized orders for sizes and sorts and smaller orders. We’ve been able to adapt to that by having the right technology in place. We installed an entirely new rip system that makes changeovers and managing smaller more detailed orders much easier. Some people have the tendency to fight the direction that the market is going, we’ve embraced it. We said, ‘this is what our customer wants’, now figure out how to continue to profit from it and there’s our focus.”

With 275,000 square feet of warehouse space, Alan McIlvain Co. is equipped with a 30-bin MIC sorter, a Softac laser/scanner/optimizer, a GBI automatic stick placing stacker and five Weinig moulders, equipped to accommodate up to 12-inch profiles. The company’s American Wood Dryer dry kilns have a capacity of 500,000 board feet. Today the company stocks more than 20,000 profile knives and has custom grinding machinery at its facility, offering the capability to produce the most challenging custom moulding orders.

As to the many changes that Alan McIlvain Company has made over the past few years Lan explained, “We’re more data driven than ever before. That’s probably the largest change that the 2006 LumberTrack™ installation has enabled. We keep production and sales data on just about everything. We can determine whether work was completed in a satisfactory amount of time, and can produce a full audit trail for every item on every order, from the time the lumber was delivered to us from the sawmill to the final delivery to the customer. We also retain a detailed customer history that allows us to better serve the particular needs of specific customers. Those are the things that make a difference at the bottom line. Are we really doing the best that we can or are we just doing what we can and making ends meet? Those are questions we couldn’t answer before without the data. Not only are we now asking those questions more frequently, we’re empowered to get answers and implementing changes where required. We have basically integrated into something bigger, better and smarter.”

Custom African Mahogany mouldings manufactured at Alan McIlvain Co.
Weld added, “With the installation of our optimizing ripsaw, we didn’t just ‘get a new saw’. This changed the way we can process our orders and reduced setup times. Lan designed a brilliant infeed/outfeed system for the saw, which significantly reduced the traffic in the middle of the yard. We’re using the saw differently than a normal ripsaw. We can get up to 10 bundles in a queue. The bundles can be fed independently into the saw all by a single operator. It gives the operator a lot of slack to work with and they’re no longer slaves to the saw one bundle at a time. The ripsaw has changed the way we produce special rip sizes for our custom mouldings.”

Heavily focused on imports, about 30 percent of the company’s inventory is Sapele, African Mahogany, Spanish Cedar and Ipe. “We visit producers in Africa and South America regularly,” Lan explained. In 2012 International Wood Products Association President Alan McIlvain Jr. strengthened relationships with international suppliers, which, according to Lan was very advantageous for the company.

Other products offered by Alan McIlvain Company is Hardwood flooring in wider widths. “We’re producing a lot of rustic White Oak and Walnut flooring,” Jordan explained. “But it’s not your typical 2 or 3-inch flooring. This is more like 6-8-10-12-inches and wider. We offer a lot of Ipe and Tali decking now also, which we’re currently shipping all over the country.”

Thirty percent of Alan McIlvain Co.’s inventory is African Sapele (shown here), Mahogany, Spanish Cedar and Ipe.
Alan McIlvain Company has approximately 80 employees. The company was established in 1798 by Hugh McIlvain, a Philadelphia Quaker of Scottish ancestry. “We have always been about service and quality,” Lan said. “We want to get just the right widths, lengths and grade delivered to where the customer wants it and when they want it.”

“The customer comes first, we partner with our customers for their success,” Alan McIlvain Jr. added.

 “We offer just-in-time inventory,” Lan continued. “We’re a warehouse for our customers. Many are smaller shops and can’t inventory large volumes, especially since the recession began. Often times our customers are consuming lumber within minutes of being taken off our trucks. We’ve seen a lot of that. Delivery is one of our biggest advantages. With our fleet of tarpside tractor-trailers and short trucks, we know that we can get the order to its destination before our competition. We are usually the fastest when it comes to time sensitivity.” 

African Sapele is among the 5 million board feet of imported and domestic Hardwood and softwood lumber the firm stocks.
Weld concluded, “One of the more important things that we want to stress is that our generation is interested in doing good business. We want to be exceptional at it. We’ve got some of the strongest roots in the world and I believe we’re going to do really incredible things. We’ve been born into a legacy and we’re proud of it. We’re going to do really well carrying the torch for our generation.”

Forest Stewardship Council certified, Alan McIlvain Company is a member of the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Architectural Woodwork Institute, International Wood Products Association and Hardwood Distributor’s Association. For more information visit www.alanmcilvain.com.







A Joulin vacuum lift feeds 5/4 12-inch and wider Red Oak into a Raimann KR450 4 moving blade optimizing ripsaw.


















With 275,000 square feet of warehouse space, Alan McIlvain Co. is equipped with a 30-bin MIC sorter, a Softac laser/scanner/optimizer, a GBI automatic stick placing stacker and five Weinig moulders, equipped to accommodate up to 12-inch profiles.

 
 
 
     
 
 

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