The old Thomasville Furniture property is located about 30-plus miles east of the company’s former business in Liberty, North Carolina, and it is closer to itscustomer base. Thomasville Furniture had used the facility strictly as a lumber yard.
THOMASVILLE, North Carolina — Y&Y Hardwoods found a way to weather the storm as the U.S. furniture industry looked to Southeast Asia for its products and closed domestic furniture factories.
The company has carved out a successful niche in the furniture industry and recently has been embarking on multi-million dollar investments in a new facility. A key supplier has been SII Dry Kilns, which supplied four kilns for drying hardwood lumber.
Y&Y Hardwoods buys green, rough-sawn hardwood lumber, dries it in lumber kilns, processes it, and re-sells it. The company was founded in 1991 by Doug Younts and his father-in-law, Joe Young, who had lengthy experience in the lumber industry. Doug had just graduated from Catawba College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. They operated the business out of other facilities and warehouses.
Doug bought the business from Joe when his father-in-law retired in 1996, although Joe continued to be involved in the company. Doug and Joe subsequently had the opportunity to partner with some other businessmen on another facility, and together they added kilns to the property for drying operations. Under that arrangement, Doug bought green lumber and sold it finished, but he subcontracted to his partners for lumber drying and surfacing.
Two years ago Doug acquired the former Thomasville Furniture lumber yard, which enabled him to have control over all the business operations. Another issue in his decision was the fact that the equipment at the previous site was 25 years old and was showing its age. He also wanted an opportunity to establish an independent business that he can pass on one day to his son, Jacob, a rising junior at Catawba.
Today Y&Y Hardwoods produces about 10 million board feet of kiln-dried hardwood lumber annually and employs about 18 people. The company buys green hardwood lumber produced by sawmills from South Carolina to Ontario, Canada. Doug buys mainly soft maple, hard maple, ash, cherry, and poplar. He buys all lumber random width and random length in thicknesses ranging from 4/4 through 12/4.
The old Thomasville Furniture property is located about 30-plus miles east of Doug’s former business in Liberty, North Carolina, and it is closer to his customer base. Thomasville Furniture had used the facility strictly as a lumber yard. Dry kilns were located at individual furniture plants, and lumber was shuffled to those plants to be dried and then processed into furniture components.
Now Y&Y Hardwoods is situated on 28 acres. The property came with 20 T-sheds on 7 acres of concrete that are used to store green lumber plus 45,000 square feet of warehouse space for storing finished lumber. The new site has a lot more room, noted Doug. “We’ve got a lot more warehouse space, a lot more yard storage.”
He has invested between $4-5 million in the property, Doug estimated. “The point we’re at now, we’re basically replacing what we were operating with down at Liberty,” he explained.
“Everything’s brand new here,” he added. A new green stacking line supplied by Winston Machinery assembles the green lumber in packs separated by stickers, and the packs are stored in the T-sheds to air-dry. Winston Machinery also supplied equipment to disassemble packs of kiln-dried lumber and sort the material before it is fed to the planer, and to grade and stack the finished lumber.
The planer mill is equipped with a new two-sided planer supplied by Newman Machine. The Newman S-382-E double roughing planer is designed to dress random width rough lumber and calibrate it to target thickness. It has a 30-inch width capacity and comes standard with electric feed drive. The planer can process rough lumber from speeds ranging from 80 to 300 feet per minute. The feed system features pneumatic rubber tires in order to reduce damage to cupped or misshapen boards. Newman offers a patented Automatic Cut Control™ that prevents boards from being planed to less than target thickness.
To provide heat for the kilns, Doug invested in a 300 hp Converta Kiln gasification burner-boiler system. An auger system automatically feeds wood waste material into the burner box. (Most residual wood material is used to fuel the burner system; surplus is solid for animal litter or to a company that processes it into mulch.)
Doug also added a new yard office, new sales office, and new dust collection system.
The four new dry kilns supplied by SII Dry Kilns, which provide a combined 250,000 board feet of drying capacity, just recently began operating. “We’re pulling the first charge today,” Doug said when he was interviewed for this article.
Doug considered several other dry kiln suppliers, but he started out with a strong preference for SII Dry Kilns. “I knew I would be buying from SII or pretty much felt like they were the prime candidate before we even started looking,” he said.
“Over the years,” he added, “I’ve seen their installations around,” and was impressed both with what he saw of the SII kilns and the reports he received from SII customers. Also, SII Dry Kilns is located in nearby Lexington, only 15-20 miles away.
Doug purchased four kilns from SII: three units with 55,000 board feet capacity, and a fourth with 75,000 board feet capacity. He is actually able to load the kilns with more lumber than what are they rated for and has combined capacity of 250,000 board feet. The kilns feature computerized controls that can be accessed remotely to monitor kiln operations.
The four kilns were complete turnkey packages. SII Dry Kilns supplied and installed everything to the boiler system. Construction and installation “went great,” Doug reported.
“As far as being on schedule, doing what they said they were going to do, when they said they were going to do it, and how, they’re top-notch,” said Doug. “I’ve really been impressed with them.”
“I really can’t say enough about them,” added Doug.
SII Dry Kilns also provided training and monitoring to help bring the new kilns on line. “They double-checked and double-checked everything again to make sure we weren’t going to be left with a problem,” said Doug.
The prefabricated kilns from SII Dry Kilns feature all aluminum and stainless steel construction and SII computerized controls with PLC-based controller and SII software.
The kilns operate on low-pressure steam from the Y&Y boiler system, noted Dan Mathews, president of SII Dry Kilns. The kilns have about 60 BTU per board foot at Doug’s request, he indicated. “The additional heat and venting allows him to be able keep white woods exceptionally white,” said Dan. The specifications will produce “very good color” for woods like poplar and soft maple, he added.
In addition, the additional heat will allow faster cycle times. “He should be able turn lumber at a very good pace,” said Dan, and enjoy “state-of-the-art drying speeds.”
“It was a very unique project for us,” said Dan, because of the site. “It was really interesting to be breathing new life” into the old furniture company facility.
Both the region’s textile and furniture industries dramatically shed jobs when overseas producers entered the market place, and those losses have taken a tough toll on communities.
“It’s nice to see something positive happen to the area and to the lumber industry,” said Dan.
North Carolina-based SII Dry Kilns is a leading supplier of kilns for drying hardwood lumber and softwood lumber. The family-owned company provides complete installation services and has about 1,800 kilns operating worldwide.
SII manufactures conventional package-loaded dry kilns and single and double track-loaded dry kilns as well as various types of fan sheds and multi-zoned pre-driers. The company also manufactures pallet heat-treating systems and firewood kilns that meet all standards of the American Lumber Standard Committee.
SII hardwood kilns are thoroughly insulated in order to save heating energy. Heat exchange coils are made of long-
lasting stainless steel tube with aluminum fins for steam, hot water or thermal oil. Variable pitch fans with variable speed controls, aluminum baffles and other design and construction features provide maximum air circulation through the lumber in the most efficient manner possible. SII offers different types of venting systems to meet various drying requirements; vents are located on front and rear walls to eliminate penetrations of the roof. Another unique feature is the EMC Mistifyer system that sprays cool water under high pressure during the lumber conditioning process.
SII Dry Kilns is the North American representative of WDE Maspell, a leading manufacturer of lumber dry kilns utilizing vacuum technology with over 5,000 customers and 89 patents throughout the world. The association with WDE Maspell allows SII Dry Kilns to complement its primary business of designing and manufacturing conventional lumber dry kilns.
Thomasville is located in the heart of what remains of North Carolina’s industry, abutting High Point, home of the world’s largest home furnishings industry trade show. The High Point region as well as nearby Martinsville, Virginia, played a dominant role in U.S. furniture manufacturing for decades — until they were undercut by factories in Southeast Asia staffed with cheap labor.
Doug’s markets have long been furniture makers. Now, he also sells more lumber to companies that remanufacture the material into moulding and millwork. “We still cater to furniture manufacturers pretty heavily,” said Doug. “That’s still our bread and butter.”
Y&Y Hardwoods supplies lumber both to businesses that remanufacture it into furniture components and also companies that make components and assemble them into finished furniture.
Most of Doug’s customers in the furniture industry manufacture upholstered furniture and are located nearby in North Carolina or Virginia or South Carolina. Most manufacturers of solid wood furniture, also known as case goods, have moved their manufacturing operations to Southeast Asia or resorted to importing furniture.
Y&Y Hardwoods has been affected by the decline in domestic furniture manufacturing, but not significantly, according to Doug. He explained. “We were kind of…the last ones to the dance.” His customers generally are smaller manufacturers that purchase less material. As furniture manufacturing migrated to Southeast Asia, Doug’s customers were not as severely impacted as others because smaller upholstered furniture makers remained in the region.
The recession hit the company hard. “We saw revenue drop by about 40 percent,” said Doug. “It was tough.” Nevertheless, he did not have to resort to layoffs. “We just kind of pulled our horns in, tried not to create a lot of overhead.” Non-production tasks are handled by only four people: Doug, his wife, Lisa, or sales representatives Bill Phillips or Chad Beck. “Everybody else has got a board in their hand,” said Doug.
“The demand for cheaper goods has definitely affected us,” said Doug. “People are a lot more price conscious….The last economic downturn, it’s taken its toll on higher priced merchandise…That’s kind of where we’ve always lived.”
Y&Y Hardwoods is a member of several trade associations, including the National Hardwood Lumber Association, Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers, and the Appalachian Lumbermen’s Club.
Doug’s wife, Lisa, performs virtually all the administrative office tasks, including payables, receivables, payroll. Besides their son, Jacob, they have a daughter, Megan, who works in nearby Lexington.
Doug is considering plans to expand and add other value-added services in the near future, such as gang-ripping. In addition to making plans to produce more value-added products, he intends to grow markets for exports.