Skana Forest Products Ltd.: Specialty Lumber

Chris Beveridge, president of Skana Forest Products Ltd. (Skana), incorporated his wholesale lumber operation in 1987. Skana works with mills and regional distributors to supply contractors and individuals across North America and abroad with a wide variety of high-quality wood products.

Building on 40 years of experience in the industry, Beveridge started Skana with just a few card tables, a phone and his knowledge of the industry. “That was all you needed back then,” he recalls. Over the years the business has grown with the industry, employing new technologies and a staff of traders, both young and experienced, allowing Skana to prosper.

Beveridge’s son, Kent, joined the Skana team in 2005. “He worked for the competition for five years before he came to work with us,” says Beveridge. Kent is one of the company’s 14 traders, and his focus is in trading specialty softwood lumber in the Canadian market. According to Beveridge, Kent has played an important role in expanding Skana’s business to foreign markets.

The company operates out of six offices across the continent with headquarters in Richmond, British Columbia. Skana boasts its own remanufacturing plants in Vernon, British Columbia, as well as in Herbert, Saskatchewan. The Vernon plant produces high-grade specialty western cedar products, while the Herbert plant primarily focuses on rig mats, fencing products and outdoor buildings. “They all make up the total package,” says Beveridge, discussing Skana’s varied divisions.

Staying Creative with Processing and Markets

Skana’s traders specialize in various wood types and products, which include framing lumber, machine stress-rated lumber, number three and economy, finger joint lumber, plywood, agricultural stakes and furring strips.

The wood products that Skana trades are used in a number of applications. One of the company’s major divisions is trading western red cedar, a commercial commodity. Most of this wood ends up with wholesalers after it has been processed into fine wood siding. The siding makes its way into the hands of new construction homebuilders or companies that retrofit existing homes and businesses with the attractively finished product. Other wood products end up with manufacturers, wholesalers for the construction industry and retail outlets like home improvement stores.

Like many others, the United States’ housing crash of 2007 brought about challenges for Beveridge and the team at Skana. “When you have housing drop 75 percent, the volume of wood being sold is going to drop as well,” explains Beveridge. Creative thinking and hard work has kept Skana going.

“Actually we’ve had continued growth,” says Beveridge. “We’ve been hiring throughout this dip and we’re still expanding. We’ve been through tougher times than this.”

Beveridge recalls a similar crash in the ’80s, and he believes that market was much harder than the present one. “Interest rates were in the high teens,” he recalls. “It was much more difficult back then.” Skana is fortunate to have the wealth of experience that Beveridge and his senior traders bring to the company. “We stay creative,” he explains. “We listen to the needs of our customers and the wants of our manufacturers and suppliers. After that we just have to put it all together.”

Strengthening Roots

Despite numerous obstacles, Skana has found success in assessing its market and sticking to it. “We’ve been putting together a lot of mixed loads,” Beveridge says. “We’re sticking to just what our customers need.” Skana keeps little inventory, and because of this realistic size appropriation the company has remained stable over the past few years.

The market is finally making a turnaround, however. “It’s a pretty competitive world out there,” says Beveridge. “We’re not struggling, but this business isn’t as fun as it used to be. But it still is fun. There are a lot of good people in this industry, and that’s what makes it fun to come to work.” Beveridge’s attitude about his work is infectious at the company, and he considers many of his long-term partners to be close friends.

The company celebrates its 25-year anniversary in 2012. Beveridge maintains that there are no grand plans for growth, but he has an open mind. “If the right opportunity comes along, we’ll sit down and take a look at it,” he says.

Beveridge, his traders and his friends in the business uphold a set of standards that include quality, honesty, fairness and communication. Skana is a member of several lumber associations, including the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) traders market. Memberships such as these keep the business ahead of the curve in the lumber market, informing it of changing regulations and best practices. Skana Forest Products Ltd. utilizes the market’s important networks to the fullest extent to maintain a well-informed and high-quality family business.