Cover Story: E-Commerce in the Forest Industry, Forest Products Equipment, August 2001.

For many entrepreneurs, success is a matter of seeing opportunity where others do not, venturing forth where others fear to tread. Consider Duncan and Graeme Fraser. Back in 1971, the brothers saw the potential for manufacturing polyurethane, which possessed a combination of lightweight and high performance properties. So, with just $500 in start-up capital, the two launched Redwood Plastics. Before long, polyurethane quickly started to challenge traditional steel and other metal alloys as a replacement to mechanical components and machinery parts.

By the late 1970s, Bill Fulton and Dan Pearce joined Graeme Fraser. Some years later, Duncan Fraser went on to pursue other interests. All the while, Redwood Plastics grew. Two decades after the Frasers had seized the day, Redwood Plastics, based in Langely, British Columbia, had expanded to include several manufacturing divisions, as well as branch networks across North America, which could effectively service both the U.S. and Canadian markets.

In 1992, the organization purchased the assets of a company specializing in cast nylon and formed Nylatech, currently located just across the border in Everson, Wash. Come 1996, the assets of a steel fabrication company were acquired, and Surround Technologies was created to produce operator cabs, electrical housing, computer control rooms and acoustical enclosures. Shortly thereafter, what’s now known as The Redco Group debuted TecTronix Systems, which sells a state-of-the-art microprocessor metal detector for the forest products industry.

At the close of 2000, the privately held Redco Group decided to harness the power of e-commerce and provide customers a new, more efficient way to do business. The result? 4sawmills.com, a site that showcases all that The Redco Group has to offer the forest products industry and beyond. But more than simply a site for reviewing equipment specs and price quotes or ordering new machinery, 4sawmills.com serves as an invaluable resource for those in the field. Visitors can check out lumber prices, see what’s making news, peruse listings of pre-owned goods or simply share their maintenance experiences.
“4sawmills.com has demonstrated to our customers our commitment to growth through the use of the latest technologies. It’s allowed us to build a technological foundation to provide the needed stepping stone into the future of this new digital age,” says Arnie Willms, who, as International Manager for Redwood Plastics Corporation, supervises development for the site.

Although, no one said business in the digital age would be easy. The Redco Group, currently employing some 160, has already altered its original goals for 4sawmills.com. Willms: “The objective of the site was to cover its start-up costs and be in a position of generating a profit before the year-end. The first six months into the project have seen a much slower acceptance to the concept of e-com for the sawmilling industry than forecasted, the results of which have been a revision in projected payback further into the next fiscal year.”

And it’s not just due to the general downturn of dot-com enterprises, either. “As a result of the slowdown in the sawmilling industry, our sales have not seen the projected growth expected for this year. The Redco group has, however, been able to effectively achieve growth results from other industries. In short, business overall is good.”

The Redco Group does, indeed, continue to thrive, thanks in large part to a highly diversified product line. The company features an array of specialty components designed to meet the very unique needs of sawmill operations. Included are: UHMW liners, Synsteel liners, channel profiles, 9600 bearings, bearing blocks, SN inserts, sprockets, sorter hooks, carry over wheels, diverter gate arms, conveyor flytes, trimmer lugs, kiln wheel bearings, carriage wheels, saw guides and complete knockdown operator cabs for either indoor or outdoor applications.

Also available is the Sharkfin™ board turning system, which allows graders to concentrate on maximum recovery, as well as the next generation of metal detection equipment. “The Sharkfin system has taken the industry by storm. Its patented design is proving time and time again that this system operates at any speed with any number of graders,” Willms says. “We offer a breath of fresh air into the traditional methods of detecting tramp metal in your product stream, as well. All of the metal detectors offered by TecTronix Systems use micro processing technology, with three coils for maximum sensitivity. One coil sends and two receive, comparing signal to ensure unsurpassed sensitivity,” he adds.

Willms is quick to tout another of the company’s latest innovations – STIK-UHM™-a peel and stick surface mount UHMW. The patented product is a standard UHMW that has been subjected to a proprietary surface modification treatment. “The result is an increase in surface energy similar but better to that attained by flame or corona surface treatments, due to the effects of flame and corona treatments fading quickly with time,” he says. “Once attached to a surface, STIK-UHM will expand and contract at the same rate as the metal surface. This mirror movement eliminates the problems of buckling associated with traditional fastening systems. Briefly, STIK-UHM was designed to take all the advantages of traditional UHMW liners and enhance it by eliminating most of the concerns.”

Making the best even better has been a priority for The Redco Group for the past three decades. So, too, has been a commitment to go that extra mile for those who’ve taken the time to do business with The Redco Group. “We stand behind our products. It’s been our credo for 30 years. What’s more, we supply solutions to our customers. We work with engineering at the design stage, we work with maintenance people during a downtime situation, and we work with purchasing to reduce costs. We have always viewed our relationship with customers as a partnership, long before it was fashionable to do so. It’s our goal to ensure that their expectations are either met or exceeded.”

That’s not likely to change. Willms expects that eventually, though, the buying practices of businesses will. “The sawmilling industry seems to focus most of their resources in automating their processing equipment. To date there has been very little effort placed into automating the business buying process. I believe that this will be the next big development for our industry.”

With 4sawmills.com online, as well as a new domain, 4mining.com, in the works, The Redco Group remains a step ahead. Yet, only time will tell if the corporation isn’t just a little ahead of its time. “4sawmills.com is our start into the new digital age. It will evolve as everything else has in this company’s history to focus on the needs of our customers. If it fails to do this, it will not survive. But when our industry is ready to jump into this B2B age, as I expect it will, we will be ready.”


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