Thursday, May 10, 2018

Freres Lumber Co., Inc.

Date of Visit: May 10, 2018
Type of Event: Study Tour
Topic: Veneer and Mass Plywood Panel Production
Organization: Freres Lumber Co., Inc. 
Location: Lyons, Oregon
Host: Tyler Freres / Vice President of Sales
International Fellows: Jeen Bunnik (Netherlands), Meei-ru Jeng (Taiwan), Xuejiao Li (China), Thammarat Mettanurak (Thailand), Tuan Manh Phan (Vietnam)
WFI Staff: Shadia Duery / International Fellowship Manager, Vivian Bui / Professional Programs Coordinator

On May 10th, the World Forest Institute (WFI) International Fellows were given the amazing opportunity to take an in-depth tour of Freres Lumber Company, Inc., a family-owned and operated business specializing in advanced wood products located just a stone’s throw away from Portland in Lyons, Oregon. Tyler Freres, Vice President of Sales, generously spent a half-day with the Fellows, teaching them about the company’s history and leading them through various on-site production processes, including veneer, plywood, co-generation, and one-of-a-kind mass plywood panel.
Freres Lumber Company, Inc. was founded in 1922 by Tyler’s grandfather, T.G. Freres, and is now the largest independent veneer producer on the West Coast. The company has steadily grown since its establishment and currently employs 480 workers. Eighty truckloads of 10” and 16” diameter logs cut to 8’, 9’, and 10’ lengths are needed per day to keep Freres’ veneer plant running at full capacity, though the company keeps a three-week inventory on-hand as a cushion. 90% of these logs comes from land under federal ownership, such as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Freres’ veneer plant produces 150 truckloads of veneer weekly with their peak operating season being from June through September. Only 10% of the veneer produced is used in the company’s plywood plant; the other 90% is sold in the open market, both domestic and export. Products must be heat-treated before they are cleared for export.

Veneer production from whole logs allows for 90% log recovery, meaning very little wood waste is produced. What little wood waste is produced is fed into the on-site co-generation plant. This efficient use of wood waste produces enough energy to meet the electrical needs of Freres’ veneer, plywood, and mass plywood panel plants as well as that of 5,000 local homes.
The highlight of the tour was a walkthrough of Freres’ brand-new mass plywood panel (MPP) plant. Freres broke ground on this plant just last March, and it was already producing its first panel by December 2017. The MPP plant currently has 8 employees, is highly automated, runs one shift daily, and uses about 30% of the plywood produced by Freres’ plywood plant. MPP consists of numerous layers of plywood glued together with cold-pressed melamine adhesive. Because of this layered composition, MPP is dense and considerably fire-resistant, making it suitable for use in tall wood structures. Sheets of plywood are conjoined end-to-end via structural scarf joints that are nearly undetectable visibly. Depending on the end purpose of an MPP product, the plywood layers can be configured in various ways so that the final product achieves certain span and shear strength capabilities. Freres is currently working on obtaining APA and ICC certifications for their MPP products so that they can be used for structural purposes; meanwhile, the company is marketing their MPP for non-structural construction uses.

The Fellows were greatly impressed by the degree of innovation and efficiency on display at Freres. Many thanks to Tyler and his team at Freres for sharing their knowledge and expertise with the WFI Fellows!

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