D&WC: Tell us about your
Bob McQueen, General Manager-Kentucky Operations:
Glen Oak Lumber & Milling, Inc. is a leading supplier of shutter components and specialty-shape shutters and one of the largest hardwood lumber and millwork manufacturers in the United States. A relative newcomer to the window coverings industry, Glen Oak has been producing volumes of boards, mouldings, jambs and stair parts for home interiors for 25 years.
Tom Talbot originally founded the company to develop a hardwood board that would be easier for lumber dealers to tally and sell. In 1979, he purchased a vacant vegetable factory in central Wisconsin and converted it into the first of many high-tech millwork manufacturing plants. Today, annual sales in excess of $100 million are facilitated by 350 team members working in state-of-the-art mills and distribution centers in several states.
Three of Glen Oak’s hardwood shutter component brands (Arrow-Straight Basswood™, Bamboo Breezes™ and Textured Trends™) are produced in the company’s newest moulding mill at corporate headquarters in Montello, WI. Our wood-alternative components (Ex-Cell™ solid cellular PVC) ship from our 22,000-square-foot distribution center near Atlanta, GA, and our North American Sunburst™ specialty-shape shutters are produced by North American Sunburst LLC in Naples, FL—a company Glen Oak acquired in 2002. Arrow-Straight F.J.® paint-primed poplar components (our flagship brand in this industry) are molded, sanded and primed in the heart of poplar country: Somerset, KY.
Our large production capacity and advanced technology have had a significant impact on the window coverings marketplace since we entered this industry in December 2001. Annually, Glen Oak produces three million lineal feet of basswood components, 100 million lineal feet of poplar, plus significant quantities of other hardwoods. Our Kentucky operation (160,000 square feet under roof on 24 acres) is so productive that, if measured on its own, it would rank as one of the 10 largest hardwood moulding producers in the nation.
One of the 50,000-square-foot facilities on our Kentucky campus is dedicated exclusively to automated sanding and paint priming of the finger-jointed poplar products produced on the property. The facility houses four separate custom-built prime lines. With all four running, we can repeatedly sand and prime 50 miles of poplar products in a single shift, or 20 million lineal feet per year. Two of the prime lines were specifically designed for shutter components. The newest (a UV line) will ultimately be used to produce finish-painted shutter components, a new product we’re fine-tuning for future release.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
McQueen: The first product Glen Oak Lumber & Milling introduced to the window coverings industry was Arrow-Straight F.J. defect-free poplar shutter components produced in consistent long lengths. This product was very similar to the Prime Poplar® finger-jointed mouldings we pioneered for the building materials industry five years earlier. Our pre-sanded, primed and buffed poplar millwork products saved house builders so much time and money, we had a hunch that comparable shutter component products could provide the same advantages to shutter fabricators.
As the nation’s leading producer of paint primed finger-jointed poplar, we had the technology, the capacity and the desire, but we knew very little about the shutter industry. We befriended some exceptional industry mentors and introduced one new concept at a time, beginning with poplar components that were finger-jointed but not primed.
Trial of our raw Arrow-Straight F.J. components was critical to the product’s quick acceptance by shutter fabricators, who discovered our product was different from any finger-jointed shutter parts they’d tried in the past. Fabricators who used our initial raw product reported reducing their waste in shutter manufacturing by 30 percent. In 2003, we began pre-sanding and priming the Arrow-Straight F.J. components at our mill, saving shutter fabricators even more time and money. Subsequent enhancements to our proprietary primer, sanding and priming technology have resulted in shutter components with unique anti-fungal and stain-blocking properties that can be finished at a shutter shop with a single topcoat.
Today we also supply the window coverings industry with solid stain-grade basswood, solid cellular PVC, solid bamboo and textured basswood shutter components plus specialty-shape shutters, which are produced quickly and accurately with CNC technology.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
McQueen: Glen Oak’s shutter components and specialty-shape shutter bursts and blind bursts are marketed and distributed nationwide. Personnel, plants and distribution centers in key U.S. shutter markets like California, Florida and Georgia facilitate customer service.
Our shutter components are used to produce plantation shutters and are sold exclusively to shutter fabricators. Our specialty-shapes are custom-made for designers, retailers and for shutter fabricators who outsource their specialty work to our North American Sunburst plant. Many shutter fabricators realize that their specialty department slows them down and can delay an entire order. Our CNC technology allows us to make shapes much faster and easier than they could do themselves, which reduces their costs and lead times.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
McQueen: We have observed remarkable change since we entered the shutter industry four-and-a-half-years ago. In 2001, the plantation shutter industry was considered pretty mature and production was costly. There was a lot of material waste in shutter manufacturing and much of the work was done by hand—particularly the sanding, priming and finishing.
Today, it’s a whole new ball game: automated equipment and value-added components have revolutionized production, while new materials and exotic finishes have stimulated consumer demand. It’s an exciting time to be in the shutter business!
I think one of the biggest changes in shutter production will soon become evident. Shipments of our newest generation of Arrow-Straight F.J. paint-primed components began last quarter, following extensive R&D and testing at our facilities, chemists’ labs and in our customers’ workrooms. Shutter fabricators who use these new Arrow-Straight F.J. components no longer need to sand or re-prime wood components in assembly. The scientifically enhanced SB43 primer (which is applied via a five-step sand-prime-sand-prime-sand process on our Kentucky prime lines) has a membrane that is built like armor. When the topcoat is applied it builds on this membrane and does not sink into the wood. One industry expert estimates the new product reduces shutter finishing costs by 70 percent!
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
McQueen: As we do in each of the industries we serve, Glen Oak has pursued a dual niche/leadership role in the window coverings marketplace:
1. We pioneer products that set new industry standards.
2. We take great pleasure in providing a total solution for our customers. This includes being a single-source supplier, offering the most advanced and complete line of shutter components and shapes available. It also includes identifying and sourcing related business tools for our customers that make them more competitive and successful.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
McQueen: Creativity, product quality, personal and corporate integrity, and a desire to create a win-win-win scenario for our suppliers, our customers and ourselves—these are some of the qualities that help Glen Oak grow. Also, we are known to go to extreme lengths to solve industry problems. This inspires customer loyalty and has made Glen Oak the go-to company in each of the industries we serve.
Glen Oak is driven by a philosophy of continuous improvement, which has, undoubtedly, contributed to our success. Not only do we develop new products for our customers, but after a product is introduced we work to raise the bar even further, reinvesting in additional research, development, new equipment and technologies—making each product and process the best it can be.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
McQueen: We stand out by striving to make our customers’ jobs easier and their businesses more profitable. Much of this is achieved with the breadth and depth of our product offering, our large production capacity and our creativity: We add unique value and definable differences to many of our products. We provide our customers with superior products at competitive prices. We offer more choices: five types of shutter components, as well as specialty-shape shutters.
With Glen Oak, a shutter fabricator can get it all with a single call.
D&WC: Do you offer any products other than window coverings?
McQueen: Of all the additional products Glen Oak offers (hardwood mouldings, boards, jambs, stair parts, closet systems and wood residuals), the ones that generate the most interest from window coverings professionals are the Closet Builder™ components used to create professional-grade storage systems. Designing, selling and installing window coverings and closet systems require many of the same skills and, once in a customer’s home, a clever designer or dealer could easily sell them both.
Closet Builder components are manufactured for Glen Oak by Space-Metrics USA, LLC (a Glen Oak company). Closet Builder components are produced from top-quality melamine in white, maple and cherry finishes. The product line also includes a large selection of drawers and accessories to customize and maximize storage space.
We offer powerful design software and a training program that can give our customers a solid jump-start in the closet industry, should they choose to sell closet systems in addition to window coverings.
Glen Oak Lumber & Milling, Inc.
N2885 County Rd. F
Montello, WI 53949
Fax: (608) 297-7651