AHC Hardwood Group Invests in the Advanced Technology Of Thermal Modification to Introduce Versatile VikingWoodTM for Exterior Applications
Date: April, 2019
Mableton, GA – Atlanta Hardwood Corporation, located here, which recently rebranded as AHC Hardwood Group, has been continually pioneering new hardwood markets since its founding 65 years ago. Recently, AHC installed a state-of-the-art, high-pressure thermo-modification kiln at their moulding plant in Cleveland, GA. The company’s new product offering, VikingWood™, is ideal for exterior applications, including siding, cladding, porch flooring, shutters, doors, rain screens, decking and window framing. Thermo-modification improves stability, repels moisture and is chemical free (www.vikingwood.org) providing green options for architects and builders looking for alternatives to chemically-treated wood products.
Atlanta Hardwood was founded in 1952 by James W. Howard Sr. in Knoxville, TN. Howard started as a lumber broker selling to furniture manufacturers in eastern Tennessee. In the mid-1950s, he moved to Atlanta and leased kilns on Glenwood Avenue near downtown. His brothers, Sid and Lee, joined the company, which became known as Howard Lumber and Kilns. By 1960, they had built a plant nine miles outside of town in Mableton, GA, and Atlanta Hardwood became the sales arm for Howard Lumber. In 1966, they opened a second plant in Huntersville, NC, to service the furniture industry. In 1992, James’ son, Jim Howard, became chief executive officer and principal owner.
Today, AHC includes nine operating facilities, including four drying yards, a moulding plant, several affiliated southeastern distribution warehouses, and a logistics company. AHC’s lumberyards are located in Crystal Spring, PA; Huntersville, NC; Clarksville, TN; and Cleveland. AHC kiln yards are strategically located near the Appalachian timber region and east coast ports.
In 2010, AHC acquired Craig Lumber, which is now the import division of AHC Hardwood Group–AHC Import Lumber (www.ahcimportlumber.com). Both the import and export divisions operate in Huntersville.
In addition to mouldings produced in a state-of-the-art facility in Cleveland, known as White County Mouldings, the yards offer S2S, planing, gang ripping, specialty sorting, export packaging and overseas freight services. According to Vice President of Remanufacturing Operations Zack Rickman, “Offering a diverse range of products allows us a competitive advantage. On a single truck, we can deliver domestic and exotic products from lumber and blanks, to millwork in both solid and finger-jointed form.”
AHC has a diverse inventory of 75 species of domestic and imported premium Hardwood. Through its import division, AHC’s inventory includes some of the most desired species from around the world. The company also sells worldwide to customers, direct from the source. Their offerings include African Hardwoods, such as Bubinga, Black Limba, Sapele and Zebrawood, and South American Hardwoods, such as Peruvian Walnut, Red Grandis, Ipe and Jatoba. By offering customers both domestic and imported species, AHC Hardwood Group is able to streamline ordering and offer mixed loads for efficient, cost-effective purchasing.
In January 2016, Hal Mitchell was promoted to president of AHC Hardwood Group and is responsible for overall operations at all company facilities. He frequently tours each facility and helps troubleshoot any issues. His motto, inherited from company founder James Howard, is “expect and inspect” and Mitchell believes his managers must have autonomy to make decisions as long as they are consistent with the company principals, culture and goals. “This year,” Mitchell noted, “AHC implemented two new corporate initiatives to improve business processes and company performance. We’ve learned to focus on a couple of key initiatives per year.” He continued, “By incentivizing all managers and supervisors to focus on better inventory controls and recruitment/retention plans, we’re enhancing our performance and profitability.”
According to CEO Jim Howard, “We don’t bet the ranch, but we are continually striving for improvements. We’ll invest in technology if we see a payback. All of our trucks now have tracking software and we have recently invested in a thermo-modification kiln and a planer mill upgrade.”
The state-of-the-art thermo-modification kiln was installed at the moulding plant in Cleveland in mid-2016 to produce their newest product offering, VikingWood. Through the use of a high-pressure chamber, the thermo-modification kiln burns all of the sugar out of the lumber, causing chemical reactions at the cell wall bonding sites, so they can no longer absorb water. After thermo-modification, what’s left is a board resistant to decay that could be used in exterior applications because of its stability and resistance to moisture. When lumber is processed through a thermo-modification kiln, it has a dark chocolate color, so lighter looking species like Ash or Poplar can sometimes be substituted for Walnut. “This is a whole new market for American Hardwoods,” said Mitchell, “and AHC is excited to be on the forefront.”
Besides thermo-modification, a second corporate initiative in the past 12 months has been the founding of a logistics business called AHC Logistics. Six-year veteran, Chris Rider, heads up the company’s logistics team headquartered in Huntersville. AHC Logistics not only serves AHC’s freight needs, but also is a licensed third-party logistics freight provider. Rider noted, “We have 11 trucks in our fleet, not counting local distribution trucks, and we handle all of AHC Hardwood Group’s import and export-based logistics. In addition, we are currently supporting two of our lumberyards, as well as the shipping needs of White County Mouldings.” As a third-party provider, AHC Logistics also specializes in handling building material freight hauled on flatbeds such as stone, steel or softwood lumber.
Company-wide, AHC employs approximately 300 individuals. Today, the people strategy is as important as long-term capital investments. AHC invests in ongoing training programs and has a long-standing relationship with North Carolina State University and Virginia Tech. Numerous managers and officers, including Mitchell, started their careers as interns. This past year, AHC also completed several large capital projects to expand its niche product offerings and services and to drive product quality.
Howard noted, “AHC is proud of our company heritage and family-friendly culture. We’re a family-owned business offering quality Hardwood products with values based in integrity, loyalty, determination and a strong work ethic. As a successful multi-generational company, we have a long-term vested interest in sustainable forestry. We believe in the future of the forestry industry and hope that our values and commitment to it encourage others to think of us for their Hardwood needs.”
Facility and contact information for AHC Hardwood Group is listed below
– AHC Hardwood Group: 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– AHC Import Lumber 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: email@example.com.
– AHC Export Lumber, 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
– White County Mouldings 800-476-5393, 706-865-3166 / Email: email@example.com.
– Hardwoods of Tennessee 877-989-9663, 931-802-2534 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AHC Hardwood Group is a member of several lumber associations, including: the National Hardwood Lumber Association; International Wood Products Association; Appalachian Hardwood Manufacturers Inc.; Hardwood Distributors Association; Hardwood Manufacturers Association; Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association; American Hardwood Export Council; Penn-York Lumbermen’s Club; Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association; and the Tennessee Forestry Association. More information is available by visiting www.hardwoodweb.com.