East Anderson Hardwood LLC: Providing Only the Finest Lumber
- Written by: East Anderson Hardwood LLC: Providing Only the Finest Lumber
- Produced by: East Anderson Hardwood LLC: Providing Only the Finest Lumber
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Roy Anderson founded his namesake Roy Anderson Lumber Company (Anderson Lumber) in Tompkinsville, Ky., in 1950. Now, Anderson Lumber has 200 employees across its two facilities – two lumber mills with dry kilns. East Anderson Hardwood LLC (East Anderson), a sawmill in Eubank, Ky., was added to the Anderson family’s booming hardwood lumber business in 2000, and it contributes to the family-owned business’s mission to produce only highest quality Appalachian hardwood lumber.
Building a Bigger Company, Log by Log
Anderson Lumber has increased production tremendously over the past six decades. Replacing Anderson Lumber’s stave mills with circular grade mills gradually increased production to 6 million board feet per year by 1996, and then Roy’s decision in the early ’90s to turn the direction of the business over to his two sons, Lowery and David Anderson, really shook things up.
Roy’s son Lowery Anderson left an unfulfilling law career to join his father in business, and eventually took over sales management of Roy Anderson Lumber and East Anderson in 1994. “I practiced law for seven months and decided that it wasn’t very interesting,” says Lowery. “I came back in 1990 and have done this ever since.”
Roy’s other son, David Anderson, has been with the company since 1989, and currently manages the Tompkinsville facility. This wasn’t either son’s first experience in the family business, however; prior to joining in official capacities, both sons worked for their dad throughout high school.
In 1991 the brothers founded the subsidiary dry-kiln business, and then built a brand-new bandmill facility in Tompkinsville (to replace the one opened in 1950). To top it off, Lowery and David decided in 2000 to purchase a second sawmill in Eubank – the company now known as East Anderson – which resulted in a whopping increase in production for the company. By 2005 Anderson Lumber was producing more than 45 million board feet of hardwood lumber annually.
This high level of production is thanks to the fact the two Anderson Lumber sawmills are state-of-the-art bandmill operations with modern equipment, computerized operations and a professional staff (National Hardwood Lumber Association-trained and -certified lumber graders). All these factors combine to allow Anderson Lumber to maintain a high yield and also ensure maximum quality product.
“We keep records of all our log yields, the amount of production going through the mill, the amount of dry lumber graded,” explains Lowery. “It’s really strictly a manufacturing thing. We’re looking at the yield out of the raw product. If we’re sawing faster and yielding better, we know we’re doing well.”
Sawing Through Any Difficulties
An increase in product, however, means needing to find additional markets in which to sell and, as economic conditions in the industry deteriorated from 2007 onward, Anderson Lumber looked to new markets outside the U.S. out of necessity.
“We didn’t want to downsize, or lose our employees,” explains Lowery. So, instead of compromising the structure of the business, the company “really focused on improving the quality and presentation of our product [e.g., new logo] and focused on our export market.” Nearly 40 percent of Anderson Lumber/East Anderson business is international, and the company exports product to 12 countries.
“Our business is global,” says Lowery. “Barring a catastrophe in Europe, we’re on a slow and steady upswing.” The company’s biggest market, by far, is China, followed by the United Kingdom and Mexico. In order to capture the large market in China, Lowery hired a Chinese woman several years back and taught her the lumber business. “It was easier than me learning Chinese,” laughs Lowery. It worked, and now Anderson Lumber exports heavily to Asia.
Even if there’s product without an immediate market, Anderson Lumber/East Anderson’s supply doesn’t have an expiration date due to the nature of the product, and thanks to a high-tech kiln facility. “We don’t have to sell, we don’t have to dump lumber,” says Lowery. “We can hold it.” The Anderson companies’ sheds have a capacity of more than 4 million board feet and have side covers to maintain consistent color and quality while the lumber air-dries.
The company uses dry-kiln controllers to reduce defects in the drying process, and the PictureTally system to draw exact bundle measurements. In addition to its primary hardwood product, sawmill byproducts are utilized: sawdust is used as fuel for the boiler and in other manufacturing processes, wood chips are turned into paper products, and bark is turned into mulch.
Integrity for the Log Haul
Relationships are important to the Anderson Lumber family. “Some people have been selling to us their entire lives,” says Lowery. A 10- to 30-year relationship with suppliers is not unusual. Anderson Lumber sources raw material in approximately a 100-mile radius of each strategically located sawmill, reaching south into middle Tennessee, north to the Ohio River and covering two-thirds of Kentucky.
The Anderson Lumber companies use only the finest hardwoods from the Central Appalachian forests: red oak, poplar, white oak, hard maple, soft maple, ash, hickory, cherry and walnut. Although the company has its own timber tracts, it prefers to source from trusted suppliers first and only dip into its own resources when necessary.
In turn, customers have come to rely on Anderson Lumber’s product. “We’ve got long-term customers that put us at the top of their supplier list and stayed with us for the last four years,” says Lowery. Furthermore, the company can produce any grade or thickness of wood. “We’re able to supply them with what they want when they want it,” says Lowery. “And they trust us – that’s the biggest thing we’ve got going for us.”
In the coming years, Lowery says increasing business through improved efficiencies is the primary goal. “We’re not looking to buy another sawmill, we’re just looking to get even more efficient in everything we do, from procurement to processing to selling. We’re always looking to wring inefficiencies out of the system.”
As for the rest of business, “you take it as it comes,” he states knowingly. “As the market changes you better be ready to change with it.” Indeed, flexibility remains at the core of the Roy Anderson Lumber Company, and it’s kept the Roy Anderson Lumber and East Anderson Hardwood LLC family of companies growing in business for over 60 years.
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