The Lumber Yard's John Devilbiss and Mike O'Brien.
Photos: Bill Mcallen The Lumber Yard's John Devilbiss and Mike O'Brien.

168,000 square feet has rarely looked so good or worked so well as it does at the Lumber Yard's York, Pa., facility. Regional vice president Mike O'Brien couldn't agree more.

"This facility allows us to grow in the market place," says O'Brien. "We've created something unique."

That something unique is a huge, indoor, climate-controlled facility that houses a design center showroom, customer support and corporate offices, supply chain management operations, and departments for engineered wood products, installed sales and services, and Andersen windows. But what makes this Lumber Yard location a winner is something more: an indoor lumberyard with drive-thru capacity, large enough to accommodate tractor- trailers, that lets staff build loads and set up trucks without dealing with the elements. Products, staff, and customers all are protected from inclement weather 24/7, all year long.

"It's nice with all the various businesses under one roof," says general manager John Devilbiss. "We can take the customer from the front door through the process of their project, and answer all questions that day at that time with no delay."

How this facility became an indoor operation began with the warehouse people, Devilbiss says. Knowing the Lumber Yard was quickly outgrowing its previous location–on 2-1/2 acres in the West York area–Devilbiss says staffers were asked how to change the facility to make their jobs more efficient. The top issues cited were bringing in materials and not building loads outside. If they had their druthers, Devilbiss says, employees wanted everything under a roof to build loads 12 months a year, making life easier for the customers as well as employees. Weather matters a lot in this central Pennsylvania city about 100 miles west of Philadelphia: York averages temperatures in the low 30s in the winter and in the high 80s in the summer. Its average rainfall totals 43 inches per year, while it racks up about 25 inches of snow annually. An indoor facility would protect the product from those conditions and keep its quality consistent.

The search for a new facility started, and what turned up was a former cabinet manufacturing plant sitting on about 15 acres. "When we found the facility, it was laid out such that we could make it happen, the facility all being under a roof," Devilbiss says.

Different parts of the building had been set up for spray painting and manufacturing, while out front was an old-fashioned showroom.


"Some dock doors and what it had worked well with what we were doing, and that's when we came up with the idea of the drive-thru," O'Brien says. "We had to change the facility a little and add two huge garage doors."

But the best part of this place: "It happens to be located on some of the major transportation routes here," O'Brien says, "and our Reload Center is about four miles away." That proximity to the Reload Center, a 14-acre Lumber Yard product distribution plant, allows for daily delivery of materials.

Because of the spray painting that had gone on in the facility, it was equipped with ceiling fans and whole-house fans; this aids the ventilation needed for indoor exhaust from the vehicles. The facility uses electric forklifts that run on batteries so as not to add exhaust, and the bay doors are usually open, weather permitting.

Any number of vehicles can be in the facility at once, says O'Brien. "We park six of our trucks inside, and that doesn't impede any of the traffic patterns. It doesn't stand out like a traffic jam. You have 150,000 square feet of space, and 40-foot aisles," he says. With all that room, all that remained was to set up inventory and design it along a traffic pattern that was efficient for customers to come in and for employees to build loads. Devilbiss said the warehouse design and layout came from employees, led by transportation manager John Everler and Design Center manager Jeff Frye. The racking for products is set up sort of like a cattle chute, so there is no danger of traffic straying away. The flow goes in one direction.

While customers at first were taken with the huge size of The Lumber Yard's new home–going from 2-1/2; acres to just more than 15–the biggest feedback came the first day of bad weather. "People came into the facility and got loads, and it just snowballed from there," Devilbiss said. "People just love it."

So does Geoff Brown, president of The Lumber Yard, who notes that having the Reload Center so close gives the York facility "depth of inventory" that is unlikely to be found at a typical lumberyard. "We have this replenishment system right down the road that lets us carry broader inventory and a greater selection," Brown says. "The Reload Center really let us come up with this model."

The York facility has done so well, Brown says, that The Lumber Yard is looking at a similar facility in Hagerstown, Md., at a nine-acre plant it has there.

Vital Statistics

  • Company: The Lumber Yard
  • Year Founded: 1843
  • Headquarters: York, Pa.
  • Number of Locations: 18
  • Number of Employees: 300 2006
  • Gross Sales: $147 million
  • Percentage of Sales to Pros: 98%