From a sprout to a seedling, Roseburg steadily growing

To use a lumber metaphor that the people of Roseburg Forest Products might be somewhat familiar with, the Chester Engineered Wood plant started as a sprout, and has now grown into a seedling, on it’s way to becoming a full-grown tree. In other words, the Chester site has been at the current location for about a year and a half and is on its way to becoming a full-grown plant.

The N&R caught up with Chester Engineered Wood plant Manager Mark Allen and Project Director and Director of Engineering Services Jim Salchenberg for an update on the Chester plant.

In April of this year, the plant celebrated almost 500 days on the job with zero injuries and zero safety incidents.

“So far, we’ve worked 370,000 hours on site all together. We have about 330 people on site right now, doing construction, engineering and operations,” said Salchenberg.

“And we have 72 operational people,” Allen put in. “Out of that number, about 50 are local hires,” he said.

When completed, the Chester Engineered Wood plant will provide LVL or laminated veneer lumber, used in various ways in residential and industrial construction. The plant is not yet producing product and Salchenberg said he reckons about 85-percent of the plant equipment has been installed. The main focus right now is installing electrical wiring, Salchenberg said.

“The operations folks are very heavily involved in the construction and the installation of the equipment and the wiring,” Salchenberg said.

“We’re using all of the operational people, whether it’s mechanical, electrical or operators or performing functions so mundane such as keeping the site clean to painting, to painting and labeling equipment. Soon they’ll start testing equipment,” Allen said. The millwrights and electricians are working with the equipment manufacturers to install the equipment the plant will need, he added.

The plant building is compete and “in the dry”, Salchenberg reported.

“We still have a little bit of outdoor work that we’re doing, so when it rains, that impacts that, but doesn’t impact anything on the inside. The majority of our work is not impacted by weather now,” Salchenberg said.

“But it was a tough year to build a plant from the standpoint of the weather,” Allen put in.

Salchenberg said Chester Engineered Wood is still on track to begin operations at the end of the third quarter.

“We’ve doubled the number of people on the operations side since the first of the year,” said Allen. “And we’re continuing to do that on a regular basis. This week we’re on-boarding about 16 new employees. That’s kind of our schedule: we’ll bring in anywhere from 10 to 20 new employees every month, trying to eat the elephant in small bites instead of big ones,” said Allen.

“And we’re still four to five months away from operations and making product, this is a unique opportunity and a demonstration that we’re really investing in the people and bringing them in way before start-up operations. Most plants don’t do that,” said Salchenberg.

“I can report that after being on site a year and a half, the site cleanliness and the organization of the site is the best I’ve ever seen of any construction site.

“And there’s a real pride in the work that is being done – not just the construction folks but the operations folks as well,” said Salchenberg.

“It’s the culture, and that is a culture. People use that term a lot, but I can tell you that it really does apply from a safety, cleanliness and organizational standpoint,” Allen said.

Salchenberg explained that developing that sort of culture was a vision that the core team from Roseburg brought with them, fostered and built.

“Now it’s part of the culture of the people that are here,” he said.

People, considering the human element, was a part of the initial plan for the design of the facility, said Salchenberg.

“We went to great lengths thinking about the ergonomics and the human element: we have natural light panels that let light into the building; we carefully chose the types of LED lighting and the colors of the equipment. The plant is very light and bright, which goes to the morale of the employees, that human element. We’ve put a lot of thought into that,” he said.

While they wait for start-up, Roseburg has been making themselves known in the community.

Roseburg employees have taught Junior Achievement classes at the Chester Park School of Inquiry and when the Chester County Chamber started their “#ChesterCountyLoyal” campaign, corporate bought all the Roseburg employees t-shirts with that logo on and encouraged them to post pix of them wearing the shirts while patronizing local businesses.

“That was a good opportunity for us to show support for Chester,” said Allen.

They’ve also been active in the community working with York Technical College for their recruiting and training efforts.

“We’ll have classes at York Tech for our employees for training in equipment, mechanical and electrical skills,” said Allen.

“Our HR Manager Pat Clark has done a really good job making sure we are tied to the community,” said Allen. “One of (Roseburg President and CEO) Allyn Ford’s main focuses in any operation is involvement in the community,” he said.

By Brian Garner, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter