Case Studies

Alan McIlvain Company: Leaders in High-quality, Sustainable Hardwood Lumber

  • Written by: Alan McIlvain Company: Leaders in High-quality, Sustainable Hardwood Lumber
  • Produced by: Alan McIlvain Company: Leaders in High-quality, Sustainable Hardwood Lumber
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Alan McIlvain Company (AMC) is one of the oldest companies in the nation, founded in 1798. Hugh McIlvain, a Quaker of Scotch-Irish descent and the founder of AMC, started the company from a lumberyard strategically located along the Schuylkill River. AMC’s location enabled the company to bring in the vast quantities of lumber required to build up Philadelphia.

The company eventually relocated its headquarters to Marcus Hook, Penn., just outside of Philadelphia. The company may have moved, but the team’s commitment to bringing in only the finest hardwoods available remains the same. Today the company combines old-fashioned quality craftsmanship and family values with modern technology to bring customers across the country hardwood lumber products and custom moldings of the highest caliber.

AMC has been called upon to build its fair share of Pennsylvania landmarks, including the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in western Philadelphia in 1872. Upon celebrating the company’s centennial, the New York Lumber Trades Journal remarked, “What the [McIlvain] family does not know about lumber is certainly not worth studying. Some lumbermen come and go, but McIlvains go on forever.”

A Living Lumber Legacy

AMC doesn’t have a reputation: It has established a legacy. And Philadelphia’s first family in lumber supply shows no signs of leaving the lumber trade in pursuit of other opportunities. “My great-great-great grandfather started this company and we’re proud to have the sixth and seventh generations of family members here,” says Alan McIlvain Jr., current president of AMC.

In addition to Alan’s son, Alan McIlvain III, Weld McIlvain and Jordan McIlvain have also joined AMC to carry on the company. Gordon McIlvain, Alan’s brother and vice president of AMC, has also assumed the family tradition.

Whereas AMC once operated both retail and wholesale lumber operations, the retail side has since been closed. The team at AMC now focuses all of its efforts on supplying retail lumberyards and architectural millwork companies. AMC specializes in sourcing hardwood species from all corners of the world, with a product selection heavily focused on tropical hardwoods and northern Appalachian hardwoods as determined by client demands.

The AMC team sources all of its products from only the most reputable sawmills around the world. Shipments arrive at the AMC facility to be graded and dried using in-house dry kilns that yield a consistently dried and tension-free product. AMC uses automated sorting equipment to produce lumber in the grade, width and length requested by the client, that this equipment has helped the company amass an inventory that is one of the largest and most diverse of any company in the Northeast.

Equipped for Efficiency

AMC’s total product offerings span the gamut of paneling, flooring, molding and stair parts. The company provides a complete array of value-added millwork services, including custom knife-making services. AMC already has over 15,000 knives in its arsenal and is capable of producing moldings for virtually any profile, but the knife-making capability gives AMC the ability to produce any imaginable profile of molding on request. Experienced knife makers use CAD software to produce CNC templates ensuring knives produced with absolute precision.

The company has also made efforts in recent years to boost its profile in terms of sustainability, with a concentrated focus on reducing waste. Surfacing and facing of lumber is handled simultaneously, for example, using the Oliver Straight-O-Planer, giving AMC the ability to remove bends and minor twisting from lumber. Many of AMC’s products come from FSC-certified suppliers, and company policy gives preference to those who can provide documentation of the product’s country of origin and any relevant evidence of sustainable forestry management practices in place.

This is partially achieved through AMC’s adoption of state-of-the-art equipment and technology, like the lumberTrack system. Lumber is initially graded upon its arrival at AMC’s facilities; however, the lumber is re-sorted through the automated sorting system according to grade and dimensions before being assigned a bar code reference number and visually inspected one final time.

Always Thinking Ahead

The bar code connected to the lumberTrack database provides a consolidated and centralized inventory management system for AMC to track products from the moment it leaves the warehouse until it arrives at the client’s site. The lumberTrack technology not only eliminates the chances of mixing up order shipments, but the system also provides the extra transparency needed to uphold the lumber’s PEFC or FSC-certification.

Sustainable forestry management has become one of AMC’s biggest causes in recent years as the legacy company continues to push for tighter controls and increased transparency in the lumber industry. The company is a member of the International Wood Products Association (IWPA), for which Alan recently served as president from 2011 to 2012.

IWPA and AMC believe that protecting the world forests not only helps reduce the environmental impact of the lumber industry, but it also ensures the future of imported wood products.

Within the next few years Alan hopes to see the company continue to evolve as markets change, and this will include expanding AMC’s inventory and services in anticipation of client demands, with an eye for sustainability of course. “We’re very much driven by customer demand, but we have always tried to do whatever we can to support those changes responsibly,” says Alan.

As opportunities arise and consumer demand for sustainable harvested lumber increases, Alan McIlvain Company will be standing by to ensure quality millwork lives on in support of healthy global forests.

Published on: March 5, 2013

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