WILMINGTON — Take wood “flour,” add water, heat and cool while applying workers’ activity and state-of-the-art technology. About 150 feet later, you’ll have a wood-composite board and the beginning of a deck.
That’s the recipe TimberTech’s plant in Wilmington has been using to create wooden boards and rails for decks in a variety of styles and colors. TimberTech also creates plastic boards and capped-composite boards, and markets itself as high quality, low maintenance and durable.
The Wilmington plant encompasses more than 400,000 square feet, employs more than 300 people, is spacious and is organized for safety with lifting equipment, clear lanes, personal protective gear and lighting.
“All those things are designed to organize your workplace to ensure that people who come there in the morning go home safely to their families,” said Ken Buck, vice president of human resources for CPG International, the parent company that acquired TimberTech in 2012.
CPG International, based in Skokie, Ill., also owns AZEK, which is manufactured in Wilmington’s facility, too, and has manufacturing facilities in Scranton, Pa. and Foley, Ala. Its products have won several awards in this year and prior years for product quality, branding and marketing.
‘Living room outside’
Buck said TimberTech prioritizes quality because that’s where people entertain guests today.
“Your living room is outside on that deck,” he said. “It’s not the wooden deck on your house. It’s different. … It really is the outdoor living space that’s become part of your home.”
Now, Buck said, people want moving from inside their home to outside on the deck to be a seamless transition.
So, Buck said, TimberTech wants to create that top-of-the-line product for customers.
As Allen Shaw puts it, “Not only is it a good product, but it’s the best out there.”
Shaw, and Director of Quality Shaw Ashraf, said operators and inspectors check the product for quality multiple times.
“You want to deliver a consistently high quality product every time,” Ashraf said.
Ashraf said Quality department checks everything from the depth and dimensions of the products to the accuracy of the color. The department also checks to make sure the product meets TimberTech’s specifications.
TimberTech also places a value on recycling and waste elimination.
At the facility, extra pieces of wood are reground and portions of them used in creating new boards.
“Everything that comes out goes back in,” Allen Shaw said. “It’s extremely green.”
“Nothing is lost,” Ashraf added.
‘Growing with company’
Whether it’s someone in the Quality department or a manufacturing operator, Buck said it’s about finding “the right people … the right match of team members to the opportunity we have there.”
“They want to continue to learn, they want to grow with the product,” he said of such team members.
“We really want people who want to grow with the company,” said Dwan Sandlin, HR manager for Wilmington’s facility.
As part of its efforts to provide high-quality decking materials, TimberTech holds town hall meetings to include the workplace community and other meetings to discuss improvements to the business and address issues. The company also has a refer-a-friend program, which Buck said is a preferred way of finding people.
If you have people that really do a great job and fit in, “they know the kind of people that would do well,” Buck said. “They typically refer people that would excel in the environment that they work in. … Those references are gold.”
Extrusion techs, such as D.J. Moore, help ensure that quality.
He started at TimberTech as a temporary employee six years ago, when “the economy was rock bottom.”
Over time, he’s worked his way up from operator to extrusion tech and will be “CEO one of these days,” he says.
His job includes showing operators how to fix the lines if something goes wrong.
Moore’s fellow extrusion tech, Jeff Sharp, who also worked his way up from operator, and said he and other employees take ownership of their products because the company’s supervisors listen and try to take care of problems they face.
“We like to put out top of the line products,” Sharp added. “It keeps the jobs here. It keeps us employed.”
Sharp and Moore encouraged people to apply to TimberTech, if they were considering it but weren’t sure if it was right for them.
“I really enjoy working with the people, and I like to learn,” Moore said. “If you’re willing to work and want a future learning every day, then this is the place be. We’re growing every day.”
“Don’t be scared, don’t let it intimidate you,” Sharp said. “It’s definitely a good place to work.”
Similarly, Buck and Shaw said the company has invested in TimberTech, its employees and in Wilmington.
“We’re going to continue to grow the Wilmington facility,” Buck said. “We think it’s a great place.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.