Three business leaders led a panel discussion on manufacturing at the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce meeting on Monday.
Tate Muir, Riddle plywood manager for Roseburg Forest Products, said his company continues to grow and is a top producer in several categories in the nation and world.
The first challenge he cited was the increase in costs for raw materials, which are the highest he’s ever seen in 22 years.
“How we defend ourselves in higher raw material costs in just eliminating waste and utilizing the raw material,” Muir said. “If it’s a good piece of wood, it needs to get into a panel and it needs to get into a boxcar.”
The materials he manufactures are sent around the world to be manufactured into new products such as the tables built by FCC Commercial Furniture in Wilbur for businesses like Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger.
“Material costs are always a challenge,” said FCC Commercial Furniture General Manager Preston O’Hara. “We mitigate costs by increasing efficiency but cost gets passed on to the customer. Looking to the future; robots. We just got our first welding robot. It’s cool. It’s fast.”
RFP acquired two plants in the last year, one in Canada and one in Arkansas. Amber Bower from Bower Industrial Inc. manages a crew of traveling construction workers who build mills such as the ones purchased by RFP.
She said trends continue to evolve. For right now, her crews are mostly in the south in Alabama and Georgia.
“Our business depends on manufacturing industry,” Bower said, who owns Bowers Industrial with her husband. “You have to be able to switch and move around.”
While other manufacturing industries struggle to hire skilled workers, she said traveling construction workers know the company and come to her. The struggle for her company is finding and building leaders, but she is hiring fresh out of high school students who have valuable experience in the school workshop programs.
O’Hara said the 120-employee furniture business continues to grow and doing well.
FCC continues to hire designers and people with computer skills as well as traditionally labor intensive manufacturing skills.
“We are a true design house,” O’Hara said. “We have a hard time depending on outside vendors so we try to bring everything in house.”