In Gordo, Alabama, a small lumber processing business is leveraging customer service and flexibility to better serve its customer base. Pre-Cut Lumber (PCL) processes regionally grown Southern yellow pine. Lee Drain, owner of PCL, began laying the groundwork for his successful business in 1998. Initially, the company serviced the pallet industry with hardwood. In 2007, Southern yellow pine became PCL’s primary medium.
Over the last nine years, the company has established and maintained longstanding relationships with suppliers and customers. Communication is the key to PCL’s continued success in the industry. “So much is email now, but we try to get on the phone with our partners and customers once a week — we address their needs and we visit their facilities,” says Drain.
The PCL team also focuses on quality control – ensuring that the company’s products meet or exceed customers’ expectations. While one-inch Southern yellow pine board is the primary product running through PCL’s facilities, the business takes on custom work for a number of customers, such as re-sawing and planing for various companies.
PCL sources timber from a network of regional producers. “We have a core group of select suppliers we rely on and they rely on us as well,” says Drain. “Southern yellow pine is plentiful in our region. We purchase 4x4 thru 6x8 in S4S [surfaced four sides] and rough timbers in a grade of #2/BTR and we purchase 1-inch and 2-inch mill run rough-dry pine — all in lengths from 6-foot to 16-foot.”
At the company’s single location in Gordo, PCL’s facilities perform sawing and planing as well as spray treatment, preparing wood for distributors that ship wholesale lumber to a diverse market. The company’s lines include modern, efficient equipment such as a Holtec package saw, Baker unscramblers and resaws, custom-built trim saws and a dog-ear fencing machine, as well as a Yates B-26 surface planer and a Yates A20-12 planer/matcher. The business also has in-house custom, inline spray booths for xp-64 mold inhibitor.
The facility is capable of producing approximately 200,000 board feet daily when running both lines. “Most of our product ends up at home hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowes, though we don’t sell directly to them,” explains Drain. “We sell to treaters and they turn the final product over to home centers — that’s the bulk of our business. We still have small lumberyards we service, as well as wholesalers and pallet manufacturers. We have a diverse market.”
A family history of quality
Drain is not the only one in his family with sawdust in his veins. His great grandfather made wooden wagon wheels for Studebaker; his grandfather was part owner of a local sawmill and was a planer man; his father worked with wood his entire life and owned a pine furniture manufacturing plant.
“I grew up helping in his plant,” Drain recounts. “There is nothing I would rather do than work with wood and I am thankful I have the opportunity to do so. I graduated from MSU with a degree in forestry. I cruised and marked timber for sawmills after college. This is when I was able to work with several mills and saw a need for taking lower grade products and turning them into a value-added product. That is still the fundamental principle at PCL.”
Drain works alongside his uncle, Glenn Drain, who serves as head of quality control for operations and maintenance at PCL. Other valuable team members include Naomi Brown, office manager, who leads sales and shipping, as well as Daniel Hall, mill manager, who oversees production, shipping and inventory management.
“I am so blessed to have these people as part of the PCL team,” Drain explains. “Our company would not be where it is today without their dedication to their roles in this business. We are very team oriented and I want each of our 25 employees to enjoy coming to work every day. I don’t see our team members as people who work for me — they work with me and we strive to treat them with fairness and respect.”
The performance and dedication of Drain’s team culminate in leading customer service — a factor that will allow PCL to continue to grow steadily in the years to come. “We will continue to produce quality lumber at a fair price with great customer service,” notes Drain. “We are proud of our progress and are doing well considering our market revolves around the housing industry. We are always ready to adapt to market changes.”
With the skills, personnel and technology in place to succeed, Drain and his colleagues are looking forward to continued diversification of PCL’s product line. This includes the addition of T&G, V-joint and center-match products as well as adding dry kilns to take advantage of green lumber offerings.
“We are focused on maintaining long-term relationships with our strategic partners,” Drain explains. “We will continue to focus on efficient processing and doing things better and faster. Business is stable, although we have faced challenges just as any business. We always keep our head above water and try to make smart decisions while monitoring our performance and inventory. We work hard and we work smart.”
At the end of the day, Drain is proud of the business. Specifically, he has fostered a company that can rely on repeat business from return customers and referrals while remaining open to and at times actively pursuing new opportunities. “It's neat to see where our products end up,” he says. “I am always looking in home centers and lumberyards for our products. If our product is not there, we look to see what we can do to get it there.”
Drain has a simple policy that has guided PLC over the years. “We say yes to our customers and figure out how to do what they need,” he explains. As the business grows, Pre-Cut Lumber will continue to make headway, taking on new challenges while serving its customers well.