728 x 90

Marking a major milestone

img

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Louisiana-Pacific’s (LP) SmartSide products and employees at the Swan Valley plant celebrated the milestone with a small ceremony and staff recognition barbecue last Thursday (Sept. 14) at the mill.

“We have only been making the product for two years here but it is a huge accomplishment for the company and was important to recognize contributions from all SmartSide producing facilities,” said Swan Valley Plant Manager Kevin Betcher.

“It’s about recognizing the employees and their efforts.”

The Swan Valley mill currently directly employs approximately 225 local people, not including contractors and forestry operations.

“The capacity, for this mill when producing siding, is 350 million square feet annually, which would clad approximately 140,000 homes,” Betcher said. “That is a lot of homes and I think it’s staggering to realize how much impact that our facility has.”

The Swan Valley mill produces SmartSide panel siding during the majority of operational time but can still produce OSB flooring and roofing products when the market calls for it.

“We still use all the panel lines but without the intricacies of the saws and using different press plates and front and back materials,” said Betcher.

“We might do a specialty run (like the flooring or roofing) once a month but our bread and butter is still the siding.”

Celebrations

To celebrate the company’s achievement, mill operations were shut down and all employees congregated together for the meal.

“We’re here to make money for LPs shareholders but it’s so much more than that in a community like this – it’s employment and providing opportunity for our Valley,” said Betcher.

“We were recognizing the community in getting us where we are today along with our employees and their families.”

Invited guests joined the employees and representatives from LPs corporate office in Nashville, Tenn.. One of those representatives was LP Siding Executive Vice President Neil Sherman, who spoke to the group about the future of the Swan Valley mill and the important roll they play within the company.

“Two years ago we made a $100 million plus investment in Swan Valley, which was big coming out of the recession,” he said. “Swan is a very critical site in our network of six SmartSide facilities. This is our most modern panel mill and serves a great purpose.

“A big reason for us picking this mill to upgrade was the workforce. All of this fancy machinery, we can put anywhere across the world but it takes great people to be able to produce the products we do.

“Unfortunately, during the recession, we took our fair share of down days and even this year we took more down days than we anticipated,” Sherman continue. “But, as we continue to grow this SmartSide product, this mill has more of a chance of operating very consistently and at a full scale.

“For 2018 we are budgeting this mill to run pretty close to its capacity. We know that having a stable run schedule will be meaningful to all of you.”

Sherman noted that the future of SmartSide is a bright one with a growing significance in the industry.

“Back in 1997 we were coming off of a pretty bad history of making siding products and we reformulated it into what we know today as SmartSide,” he said.

“In the first decade of making it we produced more than three billion feet of product but, after the second decade, we have produced, in total, 10 billion square feet. To put that into perspective, if you took our 16 foot lap siding and put the ends together, piece by piece, it would go halfway to the moon.”

That’s a whole lot of siding.