Arkansas flooring manufacturer finds valuable partner in Wagner Meters.
MONTICELLO, Arkansas — In 1992, Tommy Maxwell took a chance. After over 20 years in the business working for others, he decided to strike out on his own and founded Maxwell Hardwood Flooring in Monticello, Arkansas.
“My history started with Sykes Flooring in 1976,” said Maxwell. “I have also worked for Anderson Hardwood, Bruce Hardwood, and Robbins Flooring. In 1992, I purchased Razorback Hardwood and Maxwell Hardwood Flooring was created.”
But he didn’t stop there. “We now have two additional sister companies, Ouachita Hardwood and Townsend Flooring,” he added. The company, which originally started with just 33 employees, has grown to nearly 200 personnel and from one production line to three. Needless to say, his gamble has paid off handsomely for the family-owned company.
Assisting Tommy Maxwell in the business is his Plant Manager, Tony Owen, who also has an extensive resume. “I have been in the lumber industry for 37 years (since 1978) and have done just about everything there is to do at a saw mill,” said Owen. “I have also participated in lumber inspection school, grading school, and attended three different courses of kiln drying school.”
And once school was out? “I worked at the plant for three years and became a supervisor 20 years ago this past January, running the saw mill and yard as plant manager. I have also assisted our sister company, Ouachita Hardwood Flooring, with the layout of their saws on their production line.”
Success in Specialization
Maxwell Hardwood has found that specialization pays off, focusing on specialty plank flooring and engineered flooring. “We manufacture most of our plank flooring at the Ouachita Hardwood facility and also run some plank flooring here at the Monticello facility,” Said Owen.
And their products are widely available. “We have national distribution from the east coast to the west coast and also sell into Canada” explained Maxwell.
Roping In Moisture Problems
When asked how big of an impact moisture measurement has on the production lines at Maxwell Hardwood, Tony Owen left no question about its importance. “Tremendous,” he responded emphatically. “Our moisture level has to be within the appropriate range when it ships or there could be issues with the product after it is installed.
“Our target moisture is 6-9%,” Owen explained. “Anything over those levels will not ship out.”
“Moisture measurement is very important and significant,” Maxwell confirmed. “The product must be dried correctly.”
The Solution to the Problem
To control moisture, Maxwell Hardwood employs a Wagner Meter 750 In-Line Moisture Measurement System. “We got our first moisture meter 16 or 17 years ago on the old line,” Owen recalled. “When we put the new line in in 2001 we bought another meter and put it on Line 3. It’s been a great addition. Since we installed them we haven’t had any moisture problems.”
Just to hedge their bets, however, they take an additional precaution. “We check with a handheld meter all the time,” said Owen. “The shipping department checks across the packages before they are shipped. If they detect anything, they’ll go back through, board by board, piece by piece, to make sure there are no moisture issues.”
Peering into the Future
With a forecast of more housing starts in a recovering economy, Maxwell Hardwood’s future looks good. Tony Owen couldn’t agree more. “What we want is to sell and make more flooring.”
And to accommodate more productivity, some ideas for the future are in discussion. “Management has some automation in mind for the facility in 4-5 years,” said Owen. “We produce a large volume of flooring and our customers are very pleased with our quality.”
“Our plans are for continued growth through internal improvements and efficiency,” Maxwell added.
One way they expect to do that? “Our plan is to upgrade our Wagner Meters In-line system 750 next year.”
The In-Line system Maxwell Hardwood is using will be replaced with the Omega In-Line Moisture Measurement System, which uses up to 8 sensors to check wood moisture levels 300 times a second. This data can be communicated to sophisticated grading systems, providing additional moisture information to automated lumber grading solutions to improve the quality of wood products. Optional data collection and analysis software available for the Omega system provides a comprehensive tool to ferret out any problems in the production process.
Maxwell Hardwood has found Wagner Meters to be a valuable partner, one that holds the key to controlling any moisture problems before they become a problem.