After dealing building materials for 50 years, it may seem strange that Eighty Four, Pa.–base 84 Lumber has spent most of its existence without a focus on single-family production builders. Founded by company co-owner Joe Hardy in 1956 as a cash-and-carry lumber business, the company saw phenomenal growth for the next 40 years catering to small custom home builders, remodeling contractors, and consumers. By the mid-'90s, however, the proliferation of big boxes had impacted the retail business, and by the time the company opened its 400th store in 1997, 84 Lumber had turned almost exclusively to the pro side of the business as it reached for new growth.
A decade later, that pro push now includes a focus on production builders and an investment in services—particularly installed sales and component manufacturing—that the high-volume market requires. "Business with the top 20 home builders is going to be a major focus of this company beginning now, which it has not been up to this point in time," says company COO Bill Myrick. "Our commitment to selling production builders is going to lead to us having more component manufacturing facilities and is going to lead us to doing a significant amount more of installed business than what we do today. All three of those fit together."
On the installation side, 84 Lumber currently has programs with five of the top 10 most popular installed products among the PROSALES 100, including windows, which leads all other product categories with 53 percent of the PROSALES 100 reporting a program and another 9 percent indicating future plans to develop one (see "Installed Sales Programs Offered by the PROSALES 100," above). 84 has additional installed offerings in molding and mill-work, insulation, siding, and roofing, as well as framing, which is supplied in part by the company's 19 component plants.
With competition for customers intensifying among regional and local independents as the industry consolidates, investment in value-added services like manufacturing and installation among the PROSALES 100 has not been restricted to 84 Lumber and other large companies. Approximately one-quarter of the PROSALES 100 see their installation and manufacturing services rapidly expanding over the next five years, and half at least see gradual expansion in both value-added service sectors. "We purchased a components plant in the past year, and no doubt there is a learning curve, but the previous management has stayed on, and I think it will do really well for us," says Bob Plumber, president of Edwardsville, Ill.–based R.P. Lumber Co. (No. 53). "We've been really pleased so far and are already planning on expanding capacity and making some improvements."
And while truss and panel plants get most of the attention in the industry, they're not the only product line, nor the most popular product line, being manufactured by dealers and distributors as a way to add value to the construction supply chain. Pre-hung doors lead all other manufactured components currently offered by the PROSALES 100, with 68 percent of suppliers already offering the service to their contractors and another 6 percent planning to offer pre-hung doors in the future (see "Manufactured Product Lines Produced by the PROSALES 100," below).
There's little doubt that manufactured services and installation will continue to gain ground in the industry as competition begins to reach a critical mass. At Salt Lake City–based Burton Lumber & Hardware (No. 40), company executives are leveraging the full gamut of manufactured product lines (other than pre-hung windows) along with installation as they plan a strategic service program roll-out for 2007. "We don't want to divulge [the intricacies of the plan] to our competition right now," says Burton Lumber vice president of operations Steve Hawkes, "[but] we do feel that manufacturing plays a strong role in our plan to move forward, including trusses and panels, and I can tell you that installed services will continue to play a bigger role in our future."