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Hurd millwork.


From America's Dairyland, former cheesebox manufacturer Hurd Millwork Co. Inc. is vying for a larger chunk of the highly competitive wood window and door industry.

In north central Wisconsin, there are four major wood window and door manufacturers located within 60 miles of each other: Crestline, Hurd Millwork, Kolbe & Kolbe and Weather Shield. These companies require a large amount of lumber to manufacture their products, yet they operate in an area far more rich in farmland than forests. So, why have these companies set up plants in an area that requires them to ship their raw materials in from the west coast?

Eric Ekstrom, operations manager with the National Wood Window and Door Assn. (NWWDA) has an answer. "Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many of these companies started, the north central area of Wisconsin was a prime source of softwood. When the forests disappeared, the companies stayed. Moving an entire plant today can be very expensive," Ekstrom said.

One window and door manufacturer that has stayed and thrived in the area has been Medford, Wis.-based Hurd Millwork Co. Inc., a privately-held company that reported 1992 sales figures of $100 million. Through the use of some advanced manufacturing equipment and processes, coupled with close attention to detail, the company's sales have exploded in the last decade. In 1981, the company reported sales of $13 million.

Originally formed by Will and Harry Hurd in 1919, the Hurd Millwork Co. performed "just about any job that came their way, including making cheeseboxes," said Jim Poirier, Hurd's production manager.

"After World War II, the company recognized that it had to specialize in one type of product," said Poirier. "So Hurd started making windows."

Today, the company employs 1,000 workers at three facilities; the 400,000-square-foot main manufacturing facility in Medford, and the 200,000-square-foot expanded window production and the 175,000-square-foot glass production facilities in nearby Merrill, Wis.

Opening new markets

Hurd distributes its products in all 50 states, including exports to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Poirier estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the 12,000 units shipped weekly are for the residential market, while the other 5 to 10 percent are for institutional clients, such as schools and military housing.

"Our strongest regional market is New England," said Mark Hamerlinck, Hurd advertising manager. "The Wisconsin and Chicago markets are also strong for us. Alaska, which was one of our first markets outside the Midwest, continues to have good penetration." The company also has successfully expanded its domestic markets into the Southeast and Southwest.

Consumer trends in today's window and door market are moving toward maintenance-free products and Hurd is targeting its products to meet this demand and backs up its work with a 10-year warranty.

"The aluminum clad exterior over Ponderosa pine interiors make up about two-thirds of our window sales," said Poirier. "A super important aspect about aluminum clad windows is the customer's perception that they are virtually maintenance-free, and the customer is willing to pay for it. We cover our wood substrates in extruded aluminum, a material three times thicker than some roll form types of aluminum."

The company also offers natural woodgrain frames or a primed finish for customers who want to paint the window frames after the window units have been installed. "Our southwestern customers seem to prefer the clear finish because of the natural, rustic look that is popular there," said Poirier.

One unique selling point of Hurd's windows are their energy saving properties. The company recently introduced its InSol-Edge technology on all of its Heat Mirror windows. The InSol-Edge technology is a spacer channel that, according to the company, can increase a window's overall thermal efficiency by up to 12 percent.

In addition to the InSol-Edge technology, the Heat Mirror system of insulation relies on a single or double layer of transparent film set between the glass panes and heated to remove wrinkles in the film. The film provides air spaces between the glass panes for overall increased window insulation.

Material prices shatter records

In a Feb. 12 press release, the Western Wood Products Assn. (WWPA) named a combination of federal timber sale reductions caused primarily by spotted owl regulations, additional sawmill closings and curtailed production caused by log shortages as reasons why Ponderosa pine price increases averaged 10 percent between December and January. Barbara Leline, WWPA assistant manager of the economic services, added that the $733.52 per thousand board feet in February 1993, was a record price for Ponderosa pine.

Because Hurd uses mostly Ponderosa pine, rising raw material prices have the company concerned about the future supply and cost of raw wood. As a result, Hurd is exploring the possibility of importing lumber from overseas or substituting composite materials.

"Prices for our lumber right now are incredibly high, and the price has gone up 50 percent since December 1991," said Poirier. "Our company can only pass a portion of the raw materials cost on to the customer, but we have to absorb the rest. We're taking a look at some other resources including lumber from Chile, New Zealand and Siberia."

Poirier said although there hasn't been a change in the lumber grading scale, the quality of lumber grade is changing. The lumber the company receives is still staying within its grade, but the quality is not as good. As a result of quality and prices, Poirier said the company is looking at other raw material alternatives such as timber strand substrates and veneer wrapping.

Viewing production

Wood is gang ripped on a Mid-Oregon rip saw and chop sawed for defects. Some blanks are made from fingerjointed scraps on an Industrial Woodworking fingerjointer to be used for aluminum clad door and window frames or for bay window decking. Fingerjointing helps reduce waste by more fully utilizing the resource. Other pieces are machined to size on one of eight Mattison moulders or a Weinig eight-head moulder equipped with high-speed steel knives ground on the premises. Because the moulders give a clean finish, the plant operates no sanding equipment on machined pieces. Wood waste is hogged, separated into shavings and sawdust and sold to brokers.

All wood parts are then loaded onto carts which are submerged in a large tank of Kop-Coat's Woodtreat solvent-based wood preservative. If the windows will require painting by the customer after installation, the pieces receive a coat of white primer after the preservative has dried.

Pieces are then carted to one of the plant's three ITW/Heartland frame clamp stations for frame assembly. The clamps staple, nail or screw the parts together before the panes are installed.

"The clamps are real timesavers," said Poirier. "They accurately perform the entire frame assembly operation versus hand assembly, and we can average about 100 frames an hour on these machines."

Exterior and interior remodeling

Hurd has expanded not only the size of its Medford plant, but also has invested in new machinery. Part of the reason for its growth can be traced to a commitment to invest by parent company UIS Inc., a privately-held conglomerate that purchased Hurd in 1965.

"UIS has been great in giving us the capital support that we need to grow and remain competitive," said Poirier. "Our capital expansion is very aggressive, and UIS is pushing us because they want to see change and growth."

Hurd's 85,000-square-foot addition was completed in February, 1993, and is used to store cut stock in a humidity- and temperature-controlled atmosphere. "The employees had a hand in providing the nuts and bolts in the design of the new facility so that it could be as productive as possible," said Poirier.

One new machine the company is planning to add is a second Weinig eight-head moulder to assist in parts production. Installation of this machine will be challenging because the older building, where most of the frame pieces are machined, has a wooden floor that has been in place since 1949. The problem of the floor's seasonal shifting and settling can cause heavy machinery bolted to the floor to move out of alignment.

"What we do with the newer machines is put them on pedestals," said Poirier. "The older machines require occasional re-shimming to maintain their accuracy."

Reflecting on quality, safety

The new machinery and additional space provide the foundation for constructing a well-made product, but Poirier also credits the employees with paying attention to quality and safety programs to make the product the best it can be.

"We've got a very good, loyal work force with husbands, wives and their kids working for the company," said Poirier. "And the company and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Jointers Union Locals #1025 and #2979 have worked hard at building a good working relationship."

Hurd Millwork supports the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) which is a program that supports a national concept of quality standards. The company is awaiting certification of this program this year and plans to include a certification sticker on all finished windows and doors.

"We're not looking for one individual or an army of inspectors to grade the quality of our products," said Poirier. "Our quality control program provides guidelines for the inspection of our materials, but each employee is ultimately responsible for the quality of his or her work."

In conjunction with its quality control program, Hurd has adopted DuPont Co.'s multi-faceted Stop for Safety program. The program, based on an observation process, is oriented towards educating workers on how to prevent accidents and injuries. To complement the safety program, the company has initiated a monthly safety "game" called Hurd Bingo that offers cash rewards to employees as long as work-related injuries do not occur.

Looking at the big picture

With at least three major window and door manufacturers competing within 60 miles of Hurd, quality and efficiency are important. But even more important is the ability to plan for the future. Anxiously awaiting the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the company is planning to increase its exports to Canada and Mexico, as well as expanding its other export markets in the Far East and the Middle East.

In addition to exporting, the company will also continue to analyze where its money can be spent most wisely.

"Our goals in the future are to design manufacturing equipment that increase capacity, offer consistent quality, productivity and also to become more ergonomic. We realize that quality and customer service are where the future of this company is," said Poirier.


The latest addition to the benefits built into Hurd Heat Mirror windows has been Insol-Edge spacer channels surrounded by a layer of closed-foam that was developed for space satellites for its strength and thermal performance.

According to Hurd Millwork Co., a window's perimeter has traditionally been the weakest link in insulation and energy efficiency. Window technology improvements over the years have increased the thermal performance of the center of the glass, but not the edge, which typically loses 100% more heat than the center.

Traditional metal spacer channels between the frame and window conduct heat and cold, making the edges of the glass the coldest part of the window. In contrast, Insol-Edge combines galvanized steel spacers separated by a low-density, moisture-resistant foam between the window and frame so that there is no contact between the inside and outside metal components. The result is that heat and cold cannot travel through the spacer channel, giving increased overall thermal efficiency of up to 12 percent and reduced condensation.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Hurd Millwork Company Inc., manufacturer of doors and windows
Author:Derning, Sean
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:CNC machines let siblings serve new markets.
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