Every seasoned lumber purchaser has experienced the unpleasantness and uneasiness that may follow when you receive a load of lumber that was not up to your expectations. A lot goes through your mind at this point! Is this true value for my money? Will my existing customers accept it? Is it good enough that advertising will attract new customers? Is it good enough that you believe word of mouth will build your business? How much down fall will be incurred? Will existing and potentially new customers go elsewhere without saying anything, if they are not happy with the quality? Do I have recourse with my supplier? Will the supplier replace the material if it is not up to your expectations? Will that dreaded complaint call come from the Saturday morning DIY’er or your loyal contractor? Will my bundles be picked over? These are several questions that you could conceivably be asking!
These experienced purchasers rightfully know the answers to these questions. They also know that problems are time consuming, expensive, sometimes irreparable and counterproductive. For years, cedar grades have been monitored and developed through various independent and government recognized grading agencies. Parameters allowing defects such as wane, rot, holes, soft knots, checks, splits, etc. The range of allowable unwanted defect tolerances varied depending on the grade that was produced. Inconsistency would prevail depending on the log quality, grading practices and production processes of individual mills. This presented a wider grading range within specific grades themselves. Depending on the maximum allowable defects within a grade, it could range from the low end of the grade to the high end of the grade. It had been normal practice to confront grade inconsistencies.
In the late 1990’s the problem had only escalated. Customers were looking for “an every piece in and every piece out” concept. When we first developed the Pinnacle™ brand, we had customers that were willing to pay as much as $200/mbf more to get the fiber and grade specifications that their customers wanted. This equates to approximately $10,000 a truck. Unfortunately, under normal circumstances, a trading department did not have any acceptable recourse with the producers, regardless of the purchaser’s interpretation. If the material was within the grade rule, the mill was safe and the purchaser was left holding the bag. And let’s not forget the ever popular 5% rule. Retailers were writing off anywhere between 10 and 20% at year end. If one was fortunate enough to have a market for salvaging lower discounted grades, it was considered a bonus. Remember those days?