TigerStop had the pleasure of speaking with the folks at Powell Valley Millwork about their business, company history, points of differentiation, philanthropic work, quality control, and new optimizing saw. This is what we learned:
Powell Valley Millwork is a secondary wood manufacturer based just east of Lexington, Kentucky. The main product lines of this company include the following, which they ship to destinations across North America via truckload, rail, and LTL:
- Primed interior trim for the home or office—casings, baseboards, crown, door/window jambs, wainscoting, base caps, quarter round, beaded ceiling, etc.
- Plantation shutter components—louvers, stiles, rails, frames
- Stair parts—newel posts, handrails
- S4S boards—solid and primed FJ moulded boards used in a variety of applications
- Picture frame mouldings and stretcher bars—used in framing and wrapped canvas items
- Solid and FJ Poplar moulder blanks
- Door and window jambs
- Finger Jointed Products
- Solid lineal mouldings
- Cut stock
The Powell Valley Millwork (PVM) facility is uniquely situated on roughly 80 acres of beautiful land in the Powell Valley region of Kentucky, at the foothills of the Appalachian forest. Because of their incredible location, they’re able to source raw materials (freshly sawn lumber in 4/4, 5/4, and 6/4) within about 150 miles and dry it on-site in one of their four kilns (300,000 BF total capacity) before manufacturing, a key competitive advantage.
PVM occupies more than 110,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space using state-of-the-art equipment to produce their finished goods. Land, buildings, and equipment are important to any manufacturer, however, none of those components outshines having the right folks.
This is the Powell Valley Millwork difference, and one of the many reasons why they’ve been able to survive for generations. “We are fortunate to have a team, a second family, of skilled operators, maintenance technicians, managers, and owners who pride themselves in our products and our culture,” explains the PVM team. Investing in their people has proven to have significant ROI.
“Job security and growth is tremendously important to our region and state. As the largest employer in our county with approximately 90 employees working two shifts, we strive to increase our wages and benefits as much as possible. Eastern Kentucky has suffered declining job opportunities due in large part to coal producers closing mines. We believe and advocate strongly for the timber industry to serve as one of many components to fill that gap and rejuvenate local and regional economies. We support a coalition called the SOAR Initiative which was created by Congressman Hal Rogers and our former Governor to combine industry with elected officials with the intent to shape the future of eastern Kentucky’s job market.”
Quality Home-Grown Wood
While Powell Valley Millwork is familiar with a plethora of wood varieties, they pride themselves on mastering one particular species.
“Our slogan is: Think Poplar. Think Powell Valley. If a customer needs a Poplar product, we are confident that we can produce it better than anyone in the industry for a competitive price.”
Yellow poplar, also known as American tulipwood, is the most abundant tree found in PVM’s backyard, right in the Appalachian forests of Kentucky. Poplar can grow to heights of 165 feet, often with no limbs until 80–100 feet, making it a perfect tree to harvest for timber.
“We purchase green poplar from area sawmills, primarily within a 150 mile radius of our facility. We air dry all our lumber on site and kiln dry to specific moisture content before milling it into the elegant mouldings found in your home or office,” explains the PVM team.
Innovation and Lean Manufacturing
One of the reasons for PVM’s incredible success is their constant drive to innovate and refine their manufacturing processes. Constant evaluation of practices and a hard look at the bottom line has kept their business in tip-top shape for generations.
Members of the PVM team frequently repeat the mantra: “We are a small company with big company capabilities,” meaning they have the tools and capacity to produce large volumes and service many accounts, but they do it with a dedication to detail and customer service that only a small family organization can offer. The five owners are active in the daily operations of the company, and customers know that when they have questions, they can pick up the phone and reach someone who has a vested interest in their success.
Like their larger competitors, the Powell Valley Millwork team strives to work in a safe and lean manufacturing space. But unlike their competitors, they’re agile and able to adapt quickly to new challenges.
“We have a set of criteria that applies to all aspects of our work: SQYPH which stands for Safety, Quality, Yield, Production, and Housekeeping. They are listed in order of importance. It’s our own version of LEAN or Six Sigma. We live by that manufacturing system.”
This explains why the team at PVM felt comfortable working with TigerStop when making the decision to purchase an optimizing saw. TigerStop manufactures equipment to create the leanest manufacturing environment, and they do so practicing lean manufacturing principles in their own shop. TigerStop’s mission is “to empower local manufacturers to be globally competitive,” which is wholly in line with Powell Valley Millwork’s own line of thinking.
PVM’s work in the shutter component industry is the most telling facet of their dedication to quality control and accuracy. Plantation shutter components are inherently furniture grade, as they are located inside the window, visible on all four sides, and in constant light. Unlike trim products, shutter components have no backside, which requires a much tighter defecting policy for the material used to produce them. PVM has serviced this market since the early 2000s with great success and relies on these quality control standards throughout all of their product lines. All of the products shipped from their facility are manufactured using the aforementioned standards, and their wide variety of customers can expect a superior product no matter their order size or end-use.
PVM’s stringent standards across all product lines makes them the ideal customer for TigerStop material positioning products, which have incredible repeatable accuracy and material optimization capabilities.
“The genesis for purchasing our TigerStop TigerSaw 1000 was based in the framing industry. We have a history supplying these markets and have identified the need to supply cut-to-length parts in addition to lineal mouldings. We reached out to many different vendors that supply the equipment needed and were very pleased with the capabilities and results from TigerStop.
“In addition to framing, we purchased the TigerSaw 1000 knowing it would provide ancillary benefits to our optimization and end-trimming capacity in S4S board production. We have been pleased thus far with the rate of production for S4S and precision end-trimming.
“Our manufacturing processes have definitely been enhanced by the new addition and I expect us to realize more time-savings as we grow into the new piece of equipment. Like any successful wood manufacturing site, yield is everything. We are very careful to limit waste and scrap at every work cell. The TigerSaw 1000 certainly adds another tool to combat yield loss,” says the PVM team.
In addition to supplying superior products, Powell Valley is active across many national, regional, and state trade associations, including the Kentucky Forest Industries Association (KFIA), the World Millwork Alliance (WMA), the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM), as well as the local and state Chambers of Commerce and other philanthropic organizations.
But perhaps one of the most relevant initiatives they collaborate on industry-wide is maintaining a healthy forest to source raw materials. There are many misnomers from the general public of deforestation and irresponsible use of timber products. For Powell Valley Millwork, it’s not just sound environmental policy: it’s a wise business decision.
“We must act responsibly in our use of forest products to ensure the sustainability of our raw materials for generations to come. We encourage our vendors to adopt similar business practices and tout the responsible harvesting practices throughout our segment of the industry. We strive to be good stewards of the industry to ensure our forests remain intact for generations to come.”