GENERATIONS OF EXPERIENCE DEVELOPING ARCHITECTURAL VENEER PRODUCTS THAT INSPIRE AND PROCESSES THAT HELP BUILDERS AND ARCHITECTS GET THEIR WORK DONE.
IN ORDER TO SUSTAIN THE LEVEL OF QUALITY IN PRODUCTION AND CUSTOMER SERVICE, HEITINK WILL CONTINUE ITS COMMITMENT TO PROVIDE EXTENSIVE TRAINING AND INVEST IN NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN PRODUCTION PLANNING, MACHINERY UPGRADES, AND INVENTORY MANAGEMENT.
BUT FOREMOST, THE NATURE OF THIS PRODUCT IS THAT IT NEEDS TO PROVIDE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION NOT ONLY
FROM A TECHNICAL PERSPECTIVE, BUT ALSO AN AESTHETIC SATISFACTION FROM OUR CUSTOMERS' CLIENTELE.
Jan Berend Heitink
HEITINK PLYWOOD TECHNOLOGIES
HEITINK PLYWOOD OPENS NEW 'DOOR' WITH 2-PLY SKINS
VENEER MANUFACTURER ENTERS THIN PLYWOOD MARKET SEGMENT WITH A NEW PRODUCT.
by Tonya Cooner
The fall of 2003, Jan Berend Heitink, VP and Sales Manager for the Heitink Group, was looking for new opportunities in markets for veneer faces for Heitink Veneers, Inc. (HVI), based here. While quizzing various customers in the door industry, he discovered a developing trend-the subtle beginning of a shift away from veneer faces to faces laminated on MDF or thin plywood. This foreshadowed significant changes in the architectural flush door industry, one that Heitink knew would affect them greatly.
Heitink surmised that as their customers made the change to purchasing only thin plywood door skins, they would eventually stop purchasing veneer faces directly from them. Thus hatched a plan to consider entering door skins manufacturing, i.e. the thin plywood market. "It had always been a market we couldn't get into because we weren't manufacturing the thin plywood," 38-year-old Heitink says.
Breaking into this particular market meant that they had to come up with a better, possibly even a new product, not just make the same thing as other thin plywood or door skin manufacturers. "We decided to develop a flat and warp resistant 2-ply panel, that which is considered an unbalanced panel," Heitink says. "People in the panel industry say keeping a 2-ply panel flat and warp resistant is almost impossible."
First order was developing a proprietary glue that under the conditions of pressing would maintain a flat panel.
Heitink found a glue manufacturer that was seeking to enter the plywood market and presented the challenge.
Using quality veneer from Heitink Veneers assured quality for the most important component in the manufacturing of the 2-ply panel. With the proper glue formula on the horizon, the search was on for a HDF supplier. Heitink narrowed down the selection to three manufacturers, based on consistency in color and fiber strand, which is crucial to maintain a high density for panel flatness. Once the components were selected, it was time to test.
Heitink located a fully equipped plant in North Carolina that had been closed; it was rented for test purposes. Able to use the presses, several months of trial and error were undertaken, varying the glue formula until a good match was found for the 2-ply panels. The resulting glue is urea formaldehyde (UF) free.
A first full test run was conducted in Jasper, Ind. with the new glue and panel composition. They did the test at a furniture plant, but the test window was limited to one time. Results were favorable and with this proof, the next step was to get machinery and put together a new thin plywood plant.
At first, Heitink thought about retaining the NC facility for production, but felt that from that far away, quality would be a casualty. Then the notion turned to moving the machinery from NC to Bloomington, but that idea was nixed due to the move not being cost effective at the time.
With the NC option out, Heitink found himself looking at machinery at the 2004 IWF, but being cautious before committing to anything. "We wanted to do all of our homework before investing in machinery, especially used machinery," Heitink explains. "Dialogue started with Stiles later in 2004, who came up with a turnkey project-we made a deal with them in March 2005 and ordered our machinery from them."
Heitink adds that they were conducting the tests and planning the new facility while trying to keep a low profile. "We were still providing veneer faces for the door skin manufacturers and knew that we'd immediately lose 25% of our total sales once the news got out," he says. "We really had no room for error." Putting contingencies in place, Heitink looked for other markets to supply its veneer faces to.
With a machine package on order, plans were to expand the present veneer facility and keep it all under the HVI banner. However, from an accounting standpoint, two profit centers seemed to be what would benefit both companies best. This meant going off site to build the new plant.
Next door to the HVI plant, Sunrise Greetings, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, occupied a series of buildings, two of which were for sale due to a downsizing move. One of these buildings perfectly fit the room needed for a production plant. The other, an office building, was also part of the deal.
"At first we were going to try to lease it from them," Heitink recalls. "Then we negotiated and purchased both buildings, but leased the office building back to them."
Full production of 1/8 in. and 1/16 in. thin plywood (two and three ply) started at Heitink Plywood Technologies (HPT) in January 2006. Heitink realized the goal of producing 2,500 panels during one eight hour shift. Currently HPT has 18 employees, including office staff running one and a half shift. Several supervisory employees from HVI moved to HPT to help maintain the Heitink culture of quality products. Machinery training is done in house through Stiles, and IT setup and training is in association with Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College, also in Bloomington.
Other key personnel at the HEITINK GROUP are Jan's father, Gerrit Heitink, President , Sherri Walls, Director of Operations and Finance, Nichole Jensen, Operation Manager of the Veneer and Face plant and Josh Mullis, Operation Manager of the Plywood plant.
QUALITY AND PROCESS
Veneers are purchased from sister company HVI, which creates 5,000 faces daily. Veneer species from HVI include cherry, maple, red oak, rotary natural birch, rotary Baltic birch, plus other exotic species and those requested by customers. Having HVI next door ensures veneer quality, as seven QC checks must be passed for veneers to leave HVI.
The first QC check in HPT is at the layup area; torn veneer is immediately rejected. Laid up veneer and core layers enter a fully automated six-opening daylight Wemhoner veneer press. Upon exit, a second quality check is performed, mainly a delam check. After pressing, panels go to a stabilization area where they sit for 24 hours depending on species.
Stabilized panels go to a Homag double-end tenoner, part of the Homag sizing line. After sizing, a third QC is performed, checking again for delam and to see if panels are sized correctly. A double head Butfering sanding line removes a bare minimum to smooth the panel before a fourth QC station double checks size and looks for surface blemishes including glue lines and knife marks if any.
A final grading and inspection area with adequate lighting inspects the actual face, makes sure joints are solid, checks the grade and then a customer's order is filled. Everything that Heitink creates in either plant is by custom order.
HPT adheres to grading standards put forth by the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Assn. (HPVA), Wood & Door Manufacturers Assn. (WDMA) and custom specifications presented by various customers. "Our focus is on the quality and overall value we bring to the table." Heitink says. "We've become a one-stop shop. Customers can purchase plywood and/or the veneer faces from us."
The learning curve to comfortably launch HPT took two years. By no means does Heitink believe they've come full circle yet.
"We're not running the plant at full capacity yet," Heitink points out. "We've got room to grow and more training to complete." Currently, only 60% of the 85,000 sq. ft. facility is being used. HPT's 10 acre site, combined with the eight acres of HVI, ensures they'll have plenty of space to expand into in the future, and based on the recent past it's a solid bet more expansion is forthcoming.
Despite the success of the new plant and the acceptance of the product, Heitink remains firmly grounded. "No matter how big you get, we must never lose sight of the quality, the product, the customer service; it's the voice on the other end of the phone-reassuring the customer that their requests or concerns are not falling on a deaf ear," he says.
As panel technology continues to develop, Heitink is always looking for new applications for HPT's thin plywood and HVI's veneer faces.
Heitink Veneers Inc. started manufacturing high quality veneer faces for the architectural door, panel and kitchen industry in 1997 with 7 employees making 400 faces per day. By staying focused on their customer demands and quality, Heitink Veneers Inc. currently manufactures over 5000 faces per day on 4 Fisher & Ruckle Crossmasters splicing machines. Changes in market conditions and customer demands, Heitink Veneers Inc. established a sister company by the name of Heitink Plywood Technologies Inc. to service the thin plywood market segment with a concentration on 2 ply and 3 ply veneered door skins.
Heitink Plywood Technologies Inc. has developed a warp resistant 2 ply veneer door skin. All panels are manufactured under strict quality control. The glue resin used on all panel production is urea formaldehyde (UF) free. The 2 ply door skins are certified fire resistant through Intertek and UL for up to 90 minutes.
Heitink Plywood Technologies Inc. with the assistance of EUROPEAN WOODWORKING has been producing 2 ply and 3 ply door skins out of its North Carolina facility using a BUERKLE feed through press and STEFANI sizing line. At the end of November, Heitink Plywood Technologies Inc. will have completed the construction of an 85,000 SQF state of the art facility with the latest panel processing technology provided by STILES Machinery out of Grand Rapids, Michigan manufacturing thin plywood with a concentration on 2 ply and 3 ply veneered door skins.
The new facility is housed next door to Heitink Veneers Inc.'s veneer face production facility in Bloomington, Indiana. The production facility will include a complete automated WEMHONER veneer press line, HOMAG sizing line and a BÜTFERING Sanding line.
As with Heitink Veneers Inc., Heitink Plywood Technologies Inc. focus is on quality, timely deliverability, unsurpassed service, environmental impact and value to all its customers. Our customer's success is our success! Please contact Jan Heitink for more information at (812) 336-6436