Thoughts on Plywood Quality and Lumberyard Management
Right up front, let it be said, I have never managed a lumberyard.
But I’m certainly no stranger in management, having managed business all my long life and continue to do so.
The main subject is plywood quality with lumberyard management as a subtext.
Yesterday I called a lumberyard that’s only a mile or so away. It’s an old family concern and they’re my neighbors, since we live in a community with only one traffic light. I needed some plywood for a set of cabinets I’ll be building for our library.
The library isn’t as grand as the mere word implies. It only a set of floor to ceiling cabinets along one wall, around the corner and along the short wall with a door in it. The room is actually our living room, so things are getting tight.
But I digress.
I wanted plywood grade A/C which would give me at least one side of fairly good surface and it’s the best grade carried in this yard. I’d like to get something better, but that would involve shipping with the addition of truck charges.
I had ordered three sheets of A/C from this company a year ago and had to send them back because they were severely cupped and had unacceptable flaws in the A side. Since then I had been assured by the manager and an employee who lives right across the street that it was a fluke and they would have nice, flat plywood from now on.
Well, they have free delivery and I’d rather buy from my neighbors, so I gave it another try. I only needed two sheets. “Surely”, he thought to himself, “they could find two flat sheets!”.
On the phone I cautioned the owner’s wife that I was building cabinets and they’d have to be flat. She assured me in confident tones that it was not a problem.
The poor driver, arriving at my shop was apologetic and asked me to look at them before he unloaded them. They looked like they had been left out in the rain. They were buckled and cupped and the edges only touched the truck bed in one or two corners. I said it wouldn’t do and since I was painting these cabinets, I wouldn’t worry about the ten or fifteen plugs in the A face, even though that just didn’t measure up to the grade. Could he find flatter stock with more repair plugs?
The guy said he’d go back and see what he could find.
He came back with two more and I didn’t even have to go to the truck to see how badly they were distorted. I told him I was sorry to cause so much trouble and asked him to take them back and have them adjust my bill.
Later last evening I went to the big box store ten miles up the road and found a stack of plywood with the A side so pretty it needed no repair plugs at all and the C side was almost as nice, except it wasn’t sanded as all “A” face plywood should be.
It was ten dollars a sheet cheaper than the unacceptable wood my neighbor was selling!
I guess I should have let my fingers do the walking!
And Now, the Subtext
Selling anything to the public requires management skills. Having the right goods at the best possible competitive price is paramount to keep a good reputation in your community and in your industry. In the past, I worked for quite a few retail businesses and a few industrial firms in the capacity of management and purchasing. I know how hard it can be to do those jobs. But I also know that one must do the job well or the business will suffer.
Disappointing one customer can lead to the loss of other business. The worst part is that a manager never knows how much is lost because the customers who go elsewhere usually don’t announce their departure. They just go.
I wish I could buy more from my neighborhood lumberyard. They have nice #2 lumber and the quarter inch Luan is good enough, but when building paint grade cabinets I need good plywood.
They also don’t carry MDF (medium density fiberboard). They suggest particle board.
I wouldn’t build a chicken house with particle board!
One day, soon, I’ll write about Left Brain versus Right Brain management.
-- Will trade wife's yarn for wood.