A new kiln under construction at Interfor’s Swainsboro, GA, facility.
Interfor: Building Value Every Day
By Terry Miller
Vancouver, BC—Strategic, fact-based and proactive are the underpinnings of Interfor’s business strategy. More than a decade ago, the lumber company took a look at global markets and demand for wood and knew that with the right decisions it would be well-poised to capitalize on opportunities.
Back then it was a company with operations solely on British Columbia’s west coast. Today, Interfor is a global supplier with 13 mills across North America and one of the most diverse product lines in the business. And, as Interfor’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Steven Hofer notes, they are not done yet. “We’ve embarked on a new vision that will let us capitalize on our smart investments, and lead us to an even more robust future.”
Interfor carefully planned its growth – which involved a combination of acquisitions and mill upgrades –so the company could do more than increase its production capacity. “Our production has reached more than 2.2 billion board feet, and we also offer more choice and a reliable supply of quality fiber,” Hofer said. “We’re able to provide the perfect lumber product for every project.”
This is all good news for customers who want a stable supply of quality products for a variety of applications.
Interfor’s British Columbia Inland Western Red Cedar.
Hofer said the company also found that as it advanced its operations, products and markets, it needed a mission statement that would reflect its growth as well as its commitment to customers, shareholders, employees and communities.
“Interfor has always been about building value: from the forest to the mill to our customers, and now we have a mission statement that reflects that,” he said. “For our customers that means delivering quality products on spec, on time, every time.”
Interfor got its start almost 50 years ago on the coast of British Columbia. It has always been a global player with markets across North America, in Europe and in Asia. But in the last 10 years, the company has acquired mills in the Interior of British Columbia, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and, earlier this year, in the U.S. Southeast. As a result, it is able to serve customers in nearly 30 countries.
The company is a leader in sustainable forestry management, and all of its operations maintain world-leading safety standards. “We have the right people, the right products, and world-class facilities – and we are perfectly positioned to build value,” Hofer said.
The right people include new vice presidents leading U.S. and Canadian operations. Joe Rodgers joined Interfor in July as vice president, U.S. Operations. And later in the same month, Ian Fillinger moved from his senior manager position with the Company to take on responsibility for its newly aligned Canadian operations.
“Joe and Ian bring the kind of leadership experience and broad industry knowledge needed to support Interfor’s goals of building value through operational excellence and growth,” said Hofer.
Interfor offers one of the more diverse ranges of structural, industrial and appearance grade products anywhere.
Its structural lumber is used for a variety of residential, commercial and industrial applications. Products include everything from MSR to studs to dimensional lumber.
At the company’s Grand Forks facility, also in BC, a new log line and automated lumber grading system have improved product quality and recovery.
Its industrial lumber includes many grades that are remanufactured and processed into wood packaging and crating materials that meet the highest standards for strength and stability.
Appearance lumber products include siding, decking, paneling, Japanese house components and stock for windows and doors. There are specialty materials in the dimensions, lengths and grades to meet customer requirements.
This range of products is possible because Interfor has access to a high-value timber base with an impressive number of species. Its acquisition of four Georgia mills this year added Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) to a list that already included Western Red Cedar, SPF, Hem-Fir, Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Ponderosa/Lodgepole Pine. SYP now makes up close to a quarter of the company’s total production capacity.
The changes in the last decade have helped to strengthen Interfor’s commitment to product quality and diversity, and to service excellence – as well as enhancing its ability to pursue opportunities and advance innovation.
The Swainsboro Mill is an excellent example. When Interfor acquired this Georgia mill on March 1, it promised to rebuild a kiln destroyed by fire the previous September.
Hofer explained: “We wanted to get back to full production as soon as we could so we could meet the market demand for our quality Southern Yellow Pine. And we also wanted to get our staff back to work full-time.”
Six months after Interfor acquired the mill, a new $2.8 million Dual Path Kiln was operating at Swainsboro. And Swainsboro is not alone.
Construction is underway on a new kiln at Baxley, another of the Georgia mills acquired in March. It should be up and running by late fall. And there have been upgrades recently at many of Interfor’s other mills.
In British Columbia’s Interior, the Adams Lake Mill can deliver higher quality products thanks to a new kiln with a steam conditioning system. At Grand Forks, also in BC, a new log line and automated lumber grading system have improved product quality and recovery.
Some of the improvements have led to new, premium products.
Interfor recently launched a new premium line of Reserve Pine boards, panels and decking.
In Oregon, Gilchrist has access to some of the finest-knot Pine in the central part of the state. Interfor is equipping the mill with one of the most advanced finishing systems in the world – including a state-of-the-art Weinig H5000 high-speed moulder. This allows the company to launch its new premium line of Reserve Pine boards, panels and decking.
“Each Reserve Pine product uses the finest Pine and latest technology to deliver beauty and performance,” said Hofer. “The result is unparalleled beauty and performance with a diverse pattern mix and impeccable finish that can meet any number of building needs – from floor to ceiling, inside or out.”
In British Columbia’s southern Interior, Interfor has recently acquired an additional long-term Cedar supply in what the company says is some of the highest quality mixed stands in North America. Manufactured at the Castlegar Mill, the additional supply allows production of Inland Western Red Cedar for Interfor’s Elite Kiln-Dried lines. “The Western Red Cedar features rich color, beautiful grains and exceptional knot quality – a great choice for any outdoor deck or paneling project,” said Hofer.
With its strategic growth, great new products and a renewed mission, Hofer said there is a lot of excitement about the future at Interfor. “We are ready to embark on a bold new vision and capitalize on the many opportunities ahead of us. We see potential in the markets, and growing demand for our quality products.”
He said one thing that will never change is the company’s commitment to building quality through unmatched customer care and logistics.
“We have one of the broadest lumber product lines anywhere so we can meet the needs of specialized and sophisticated buyers around the world,” said Hofer. “And we pair each customer with a seasoned sales professional who can ensure we meet our promise to customers that we will deliver quality products on spec, on time, every time.”
Interfor is a member of the American Forest & Paper Association, American Wood Council, BC Wood Specialties Group, Canadian Wood Council, Coast Forest Products Association, Florida Building Material Association, Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, MSR Lumber Producers Council, North American Wholesale Lumber Association, Northeastern Retail Lumber Association, Oregon Forest Industries Council, Structural Building Components Association, Treated Wood Council, Western Red Cedar Lumber Association, and the Western Wood Products Association.
The company’s five British Columbia mills have been independently audited by KPMG performance Registrant Inc. to meet Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) chain-of-custody certification requirements. In addition, select Interfor British Columbia mills are also Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) chain-of-custody certified. The firm’s British Columbia Coastal and Interior Woodlands are also SFI certified. As part of Coast Forest Conservation Initiative, Interfor also has a portion of Coastal Woodlands certified to FSC standards.