Long before Oregon had a Silicon Forest, the state was known far and wide for its forest forest. And Roseburg Forest Products was working in it.
The company, founded in 1936, manufactures a variety of products at 14 plants in North America, seven of which are in Oregon. Roseburg also maintains a shipping terminal in Coos Bay used to export wood chips to Japan.
Roseburg employs about 2,200 people in Oregon, including in its Springfield headquarters. Its Oregon manufacturing facilities, , located in Coquille, Dillard, Medford and Riddle, produce lumber, plywood, particleboard, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and engineered wood. MDF is commonly used in interior trim and furniture. Engineered wood includes a range of products, including joists, beams and laminated wood, used to build houses and other structures. The products Roseburg manufactures are used in the homes in which we live, the offices in which we work, and the schools our children attend. They’re used in the furniture on which we sit and eat and in the cabinets on our walls.
Roseburg’s facilities outside of Oregon manufacture similar products and include a veneer plant in Weed, Calif., and several plants in the southeast. In South Carolina, the company is building its second sawmill. The first is located in Dillard.
Roseburg is also a significant landowner in the U.S. The company grows Douglas fir on roughly 400,000 privately owned acres in Oregon and loblolly pine on another 190,000 acres in North Carolina and Virginia. To keep its forestland stocked, Roseburg Forest Products plants more than 5 million trees every year. As a result, the company can use its own timber to feed its plants. This vertical integration has contributed to Roseburg’s long-term stability in a highly competitive industry.
Roseburg started milling logs when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and its manufacturing operations would be as foreign to its original employees as some of its products. The company has steadily diversified its operations and automated many of its processes. For instance, Roseburg uses image-processing scanners to grade boards, computerized optimizers to get the most out of each log and reduce waste, and machines to spot imperfections in plywood and apply putty. The increased automation has improved operational efficiency, safety for employees, and reliability of product quality, says Rebecca Taylor, Roseburg’s corporate communications director.
As it has increased automation, Roseburg has hired many engineers and IT specialists, says Taylor. Machines must be installed, calibrated and maintained. They also must be networked across the organization. But the lifeblood of the company are still the people staffing its plants. As is true of many employers these days, Roseburg is thinking of new ways to recruit and retain team members in a challenging labor market. Competitive compensation and benefits packages help, but over time Roseburg has increasingly turned to automation to alleviate staffing shortages in its operations, Taylor says.
Wildfire losses on its privately owned timberlands have been another challenge, says Taylor. The company has incurred losses in recent years on its West Coast timberlands, and preparing for and responding to each summer’s fire season is a big part of its work.
Of course, not all challenges are bad. Roseburg’s most immediate challenge is keeping up with demand for its products, which has risen sharply during the pandemic, Taylor says. Among its biggest customers are stores such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s, pro yards used by contractors, and companies that use Roseburg products in their own manufacturing processes.