D&WC: Please give a detailed
description of your company and its history.
Steve Reese, Director, Wood Products Groups: Springs Wood Products (SWP) is the result of a strategic decision made by Springs Window Fashions LP. In late 2002, Springs Window Fashions, after evaluating the wood blind and shutter markets and gaining understanding of the supply chain alternatives, decided that to continue competing in the growth of these two categories we needed to have deeper penetration into the supply chain that supports the categories.
The initial supply chain decision was to bring finishing of wood blind components in-house, which we completed in late 2003 in our Reynosa, Mexico facility. Coincidentally, while searching for a supplier of kiln dried lumber, Springs started a relationship with a company called Custom Forest Products (CFP) in Grayling, MI. The synergies between CFP and Springs’ Wausau, WI, wood facility were significant, however CFP offered two advantages: 1) Kiln drying capability that was a step closer to the tree; and 2) greater production capacity than the Wausau facility.
In September of 2003 Springs Window Fashions purchased certain assets of Custom Forest Products and entered into a long-term lease of the facility, thus creating Springs Wood Products. Soon after the manufacturing operation in Wausau, WI, was moved into the Grayling facility.
Custom Forest Products started in 1981 producing aspen door components. In the late ’80s it expanded to window and shutter components and kitchen cabinet components. The Wausau facility (previously known as Nanik Wood Products) also started in the early ’80s supplying Nanik® wood blind and shutter components. In 1995 Springs Window Fashions purchased Nanik, and the Wausau plant began supplying wood blind components for Graber and Bali brands as well.
Today, SWP encompasses 140,000 square feet and employs 85 people. The facility includes a green lumber storage area, pre-dryers, kilns, molding and production areas and a shipping department.
D&WC: Is your business computerized? Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate with customers ?
Reese: SWP utilizes computer systems combined with optimizing equipment in order to decrease waste, increase yield and help operations to be as efficient as possible.
SWF has several Web sites associated with our Brands including nanikblinds.com, bali blinds.com and graberblinds.com. The Web sites are geared toward the end-user and provide product information, customer support services and decorating ideas for all our brands.
A unique feature is our Virtual Decorator, where customers can decorate the room style of their choice with hundreds of colors and accents. We also have a dealer locator to help our customers get in touch with our distributors and decorator/designers.
We also have a Web site specifically for our dealers and sales representatives at swf connect.com. This Web site provides individual account and product information, sales support services, SWF (Springs Window Fashions) news including upcoming seminars and product bulletins. Here a dealer can enter product orders online and track the order status. They can also order merchandising materials and literature, or view and print product bulletins and installation instructions.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Reese: The wood blind and shutter component industry has experienced consolidation and price pressures in recent years. The industry used to source its supply almost 100 percent within the United Sstates and used to be quite decentralized where companies would have obtained a number of vendors to supply their inventories. More recently, many companies have been establishing key suppliers, many of them located in Asia.
Springs Window Fashions has chosen to align its supply chain domestically and control all aspects of procurement, manufacturing and distribution. We have chosen to put an investment in technology in order to provide a better product and in doing so decrease waste. Examples of this are thin-kerf saw blades, finger-joint technology and optimizing software. We see technology as one of the key drivers of the industry going forward.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry that you would like to get involved in?
Reese: We see SWP as the dominant supplier of wood blind components in the world. We believe we can achieve this by maintaining our focus on product and service strategies that will continue to make us the standard for the industry.
We also believe that we will be the premier supplier of wood shutter components in the United States offering quality products such as engineered louvers and stiles, ready-to-topcoat components and better length distribution packages. We see ourselves as a partner with our customers not merely a supplier.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Reese: Three factors will contribute to our future success in the industry: 1) vertical integration; 2) total utilization of resources; and 3) our Best Experience Strategies.
Vertical integration allows us to control our entire manufacturing process. We purchase specific grades of green lumber and utilize our pre-dryers and kilns to prepare the raw wood for our manufacturing processes. We also process all the wood components for our products in the plant. In doing so, we have total control over lumber quality and manufacturing processes, which translates directly into product quality. In September of 2003 we added internal wood finishing capabilities, in our Reynosa, Mexico facility, to complete the vertical integration of wood blind components from green lumber to finished blinds.
Springs Wood Products is cognizant of the fact that lumber is a precious resource that we need to utilize as efficiently as possible. We have invested in technology to ensure that this happens every day at SWP. Our optimizing equipment and software keep yields at their highest levels. We are proud of the fact that we utilize 100 percent of the wood we procure. Storage silos contain all the wood and sawdust remaining after production. This material is used to generate the steam to heat our plant and operate our pre-dyers and kiln. We don’t use any gas or oil to heat the plant, dryers or kiln.
We follow a company-wide philosophy called “Best Experience.” This strategy permeates everything we do at every level—with our customers, with our consumers and, most importantly of all, with our associates. We empower our associates with a do-what-it-takes attitude to deliver this promise to everyone they come in contact with, be it internally as we work together to run our business every day or externally with our customers. By focusing on this goal, we have become more of an industry leader, and our associates say that this is a great place to work.
DW&C: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
Reese: We control most of our manufacturing processes including the procurement of green lumber, drying, molding, finishing, fabricating and distribution. This makes it much easier for us to set and maintain high quality standards and deliver on the service promises we make to our customers.
Our Best Experience strategies help us provide the right information, tools and training for each associate. We want each associate to know he or she is an important part of the organization and their contributions matters. As a result, associates are empowered to provide feedback and make suggestions. Our Quality@Source initiatives, which are a direct result of our Best Experience Strategy, empower associates to ensure the quality at each stage of our manufacturing process meets our high standards.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Reese: The fact that we are a vertically integrated manufacturer allows us to control the entire manufacturing process for our wood blind and shutter components from purchasing the green lumber and kiln drying through molding, finishing, fabrication and distribution. This enables us to control quality in order to provide our customers the highest quality product in the industry.
Our Best Experience philosophy will ultimately determine our success in this industry. What will distinguish us from our competitors will be our ability to provide a Best Experience for associates, our clients and, ultimately, the consumer by establishing product quality, innovation and service standards by which the industry is measured.
By focusing on creating a Best Experience, Springs Window Fashions will become both an industry leader and a great place to work. We believe we can gain enormous competitive advantage by creating the quality and service standard for our industry. We’re confident that delivering on this commitment will make us the brand and vendor of choice.
Springs Wood Products
7549 Graber Road
Middleton, WI 53562