By Jon Bell
A panel of Collins pine particleboard laminated by Thermo Pressed Laminates.
Within a five-mile radius in Klamath Falls sit four wood product companies that have never really been competitors, but that have never really collaborated with each other either.
But in 2009, with the entire industry feeling the housing hit, those four companies — Thermo Pressed Laminates, Columbia Forest Products, Collins Products and Down River — saw a potential for strength in numbers. “We were all essentially non-competitors selling to the same markets,” says Pat McNeal, president of TPL, “but things just weren’t getting any better.”
At the suggestion of Columbia executives Ed Woods and Tim Schallich, the four firms met for the first time in 2009 to talk about joining forces. The result: the Klamath Panel Alliance, a unique collaboration that finds the companies working as a team to court customers, improve efficiencies and even gain some new business.
“The idea was really to try and take advantage of each manufacturer’s unique capabilities,” says Schallich, vice president of resources at Columbia. “I know we’ve picked up some new customers.”
Through the KPA, the various firms have approached customers together and highlighted the benefits of working with the alliance. The collaboration allows the companies to share customer lists and combine truckloads of materials, which not only cuts down on shipping costs but also helps customers keep inventories lean. Through the KPA, Thermo Pressed Laminates actually produces some products for Columbia under the Columbia label; the company also showcased its laminates on Collins’ particleboard at a recent tradeshow.
McNeal says it’s going to take some time for the wood products industry to get back on its feet. As that happens, the KPA will continue to evolve and help the four companies — and their customers — stay strong.
“Is it a godsend?” McNeal says of the alliance. “Not really. But it is one of those instances where there are absolutely no losers.”