Boise Cascade employee Jan Roulet bands panels during a recent shift at the Island City particleboard plant. Production of Anchor Core panels has helped reduce work curtailments at the plant. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH - The Observer
New slatwall panel boosts production at particleboard plant
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that if a man can build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to his door.
With a little modification, that long-enduring favorite saying in the world of business could aptly describe what’s going on at the Boise Cascade particleboard plant in Island City.
These days, plant workers are turning out a better slatwall panel, one that is mainly used in the retail trade for display of products. They call it Anchor Core, because beneath its smooth hard finish there’s a center said to be 50 percent stronger than medium density fiberboard.
The core doesn’t tear out. Store owners wanting to display big heavy things including tires and car batteries can put them on the shelf with confidence. Anchor Core is reliable and long lasting, a real money saver — and it was invented right in Island City, for a company in Wisconsin called Wind Mill Slatwall Products, Inc.
“Through trials, we were able to come up with a recipe that met their expectations,” said Morgan Olson, particleboard plant
Olson said the effort to build a better slatwall started with Boise sales people listening to customers talking about problems and needs. Wind Mill long had been hoping for development of a more durable panel, and the sales people knew it.
They took that information home with them, and Boise Cascade came to see Wind Mill’s need as an opportunity. In 2009, technicians at the Island City plant started experimenting with different combinations of sawdust, resins and adhesives.
The aim was to invent a panel with both a superior core and a hard finish, a product better than MDF that could be sold at a competitive price. Boise proved successful, presenting what Wind Mill terms the first major wood-based slatwall innovation in decades.
On its Website, Wind Mill says that Anchor Core represents a dramatic improvement in groove strength and holding power, and has better edge screw holding power for fixture applications.
And Wind Mill, the largest distributor of slatwall products in the Midwest, is having great success marketing the product. Recently, it opened a distribution center in Washington state, to better serve customers on the West Coast. Olson said that helps both companies control costs.
“They buy the board, have it laminated and cut the grooves,” Olson said. “The way it was before we had to ship it to Wisconsin, and it was very competitive. They needed a distributor in the West.”
Like all of Union County’s manufacturing plants, Boise Cascade’s particleboard facility underwent hardship and turmoil in the Great Recession. Once, the plant ran two production lines seven days a week, but in recent years that’s been cut to one line, five days a week, or less.
Olson said Anchor Core production has helped keep the plant’s 90 employees working. In 2011, the facility underwent 66 work curtailments. Through September of this year, there were only 22.
Anchor Core hasn’t solved all the plant’s fiscal problems, but without a doubt it has helped. The product’s reputation is growing, with homeowners finding out it can help answer storage problems in the garage or shop.
“We’re making quite a bit of it. It’s about 5 percent of our total output now, and we’re hoping to get that up to 20 percent,” Olson said.