Saint-Georges, July 8, 2014 - I had the good fortune of visiting NWFA member Mirage Floors, which is produced by Boa-Franc, located in Saint-Georges, just south of Quebec City in Canada. One of the first things one notices when entering the Beauce Region is the thriving wood products industry. As you would expect, there are plenty of skidders, log trucks and sawmills to be seen.
What surprised me, however, was the amount of small-scale harvesting and TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) work I saw. It seemed as if every ATV and farm tractor was hauling mini-log loaders, rigged with pickers and freighted with saw logs or pulp wood. The gentle, rolling terrain that lends itself to this practice was dotted with young, well-kept hard-maple stands and working softwood stands that were pleasing to this traveler's eyes!
Brad Williams, Vice President of Sales, generously carved out a large block of time to serve as my tour guide. (Thank you, Brad!) What I was to learn was that Boa-Franc is part of a large and long-lasting manufacturing center that includes textiles and steel forgings.
Boa-Franc was purchased in 1983 by Pierre Thabet, who has continued to expand operations, increase production capacity, and diversify the company's product lines for more than 30 years. It remains a family-owned business and employs more than 400 people.
Interestingly, there is a college nearby that offers a degree in entrepreneurship. There is such a solid group of successful business leaders in the Beauce Region, the college is a natural fit. Pierre's philosophy is “Quality and Continuous Improvement.” I was eager to visit their facilities and see for myself.
It did not take me long to become a believer. From the moment you arrive at Mirage you are struck by the attention to detail. The raw materials arriving at the plant are scrutinized as much as the finished product. NHLA graders inspect lumber from every load that arrives ensuring that only the finest begin the process. The stacks of lumber that enter the air-drying process boast boards of a uniform thickness, layers of a uniform length and width, and matching specie stickers that have been hand-laid with laser precision.
Mirage has invested in buildings to protect these near-perfect bundles from the elements, and the straight boards that enter the plant are their pay off. Have you ever been to a facility and toured through teetering bundles of lumber, wondering if you would make it out alive? Those thoughts are far from your mind at Mirage!
I spent the rest of the morning witnessing why Mirage totes their plant tours as one of their greatest sales tools. Upwards of 1,000 people a year accept their challenge to visit and see what makes them different. I witnessed Mirage's R&D team busily performing quality checks and subjecting product to extreme conditions. More impressive to me however is how quality control is collectively embraced. Each professional at every station knows what the finished product is to look like.
The defecting process is continuous. They check and recheck each other's work with the goal of leaving the final inspectors little to do. Eventually, the finished product finds itself being scrutinized under an extreme amount of light. Flooring boards with the slightest defect are culled.
We finished the morning playing a game that Brad visibly enjoyed. One by one a rejected piece of flooring was handed to me. “Can you see what's wrong with this one?” he'd ask. “What about this one?”
I couldn't help but wonder how to get these “supposed rejects” out of the plant, into my truck, and back to my home without being noticed.
By : John Forbes, Director of Manufacturer Services at the NWFA.