McCausey Specialty Products
With a strong focus on providing product solutions for its clients, McCausey Specialty Products is a distributor of unique wood and composite materials to specialized commercial and industrial markets. Headquartered in Roseville, Michigan, McCausey Specialty Products conducts business throughout the country with 60 percent of its revenue stemming from nationwide clients.
A history of adaptation
McCausey Specialty Products was originally founded as McCausey Lumber Company by John W. McCausey in the early 1900s. At its inception, the company was a premiere provider of industrial lumber and timber products. In 1936, Thomas J. McCausey joined the company and broadened the product line to include construction lumber and building materials for the contractor trades.
In the early 1940s, George T. Gilleran, a residential builder and longtime customer of McCausey Lumber, partnered with Thomas McCausey and the two ventured into the box and pallet business to service the military with packaging needs for the wartime efforts. The team worked together until the death of McCausey, which prompted George to purchase the entire business from the family estate.
As the years went on, many of Gilleran’s family members became involved in the company. When George died in 1972, his son Jim and his brother-in-law Kenneth R. Roach purchased the business. When the Detroit metropolitan market became saturated with builder supply yards in the early 1970s, Jim and Ken made the decision to diversify and began importing specialty wood products. McCausey became an importer of specialty items, which were sold through various co-op organizations that supplied the major builder yards and retail hardware stores. As these co-op buying groups evolved, most developed their own importing departments, so McCausey Lumber once again had to adjust and redirect its focus.
For the past 25 years, McCausey Lumber has continued to import materials, but focuses on unique products that are not commonly produced by U.S. manufacturers. To account for its shift in direction, the company changed its name to McCausey Specialty Products in 2012. “In our pursuit of vendors we aligned with various European manufacturers and in most cases became their exclusive distributors in America,” says Mike Gilleran, CEO and fifth-generation owner of McCausey Specialty Products. Given its close proximity to the Big Three automobile producers, McCausey partnered with a company in Germany that was producing impregnated wood designed specifically for fabricating prototypes and models. “Eventually, the use of wood materials migrated to plastic composites and again we adjusted our product line to include these newer materials,” notes Gilleran. Today, McCausey Specialty Products also supplies its composite tooling boards to other industries that build models and prototypes, such as aerospace, medical equipment and a multitude of other specialized industries. “Models are made from wood, plastic or clay,” says Gilleran. “For the most part though, everything is CNC-machined with polyurethane tooling board. Those models are then eventually used to make the final tooling for stamping dies, forming tools, or extruding tools.”
A niche market
As a solutions-based company, McCausey Specialty Products remains in a unique position within the industry. The firm has established very strong relationships with its vendors, most of which designate McCausey Specialty Products as their exclusive North American distributor. “We spend a lot of time looking for and providing solutions for customers in lieu of just peddling products as commodities,” says Gilleran. “Some of the business we create takes months or even years to develop.” McCausey Specialty Products creates a balance between finding a product for a client and having a product made for a client.
In the early stages in the development of engineered wood products, Jim Gilleran was approached by a mill in Finland that produced very high-end plywood products. Fortunately, the factory also wanted help in developing markets for a new type of wood product it had developed as a potential substitute for traditional sawn lumber. After visiting the mill, Jim realized the company was actually manufacturing a product called laminated veneer lumber (LVL). “My dad cut a deal and promised them that if the company gave him the distribution rights, he would put them on the map,” says Gilleran. “After a lot of product testing and field evaluation, he introduced the material as engineered wood scaffold plank.”
McCausey Specialty Products has since become one of the preferred suppliers of LVL scaffold plank. The product differs from traditional solid-sawn lumber scaffold plank in that every board has superior strength and highly consistent technical properties. Jim would go on to obtain the OSHA recognition and the other necessary approvals from the U.S. government in the early 1980s, which allowed the company to supply it to the military and naval shipbuilding companies. “We still sell our Master Plank product today and it’s a substantial part of our business,” says Gilleran. “At the time, the scaffold rental industry was using solid lumber, which had questionable strength properties for scaffold plank applications and we introduced them to the engineered wood planks, which would eventually prove to be a safer alternative.”
While the company’s business model will remain intact as McCausey Specialty Products moves forward, Gilleran presents an immediate goal of increasing the range of products marketed to each client. “When you’ve already won the customers’ love, it’s a lot easier to introduce them to something new that will solve a problem for them,” says Gilleran. “We are very passionate about what we offer and putting a significant effort in this year to seek out entirely new products for new industries that will help us be even more diversified. We try to do what the others don’t want to do, don’t know how to do or don’t have the resources to do. There’s no time or room for complacency.”
After nearly 100 years in business, diversification and relationship building have proven to be the keys to success for McCausey Specialty Products. While the company creates innovative solutions for new and existing clients, McCausey Specialty Products remains an example of a company with the ability to adapt to new markets and insulate itself from economic downturns.
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