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Battle Lumber Tradition Endures Expansion Abroad

A company based in rural Georgia endures to become a global leader in the lumber industry.

Tue April 30, 2013 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley

Having served customers for half a century, Battle Lumber Company maintains its traditional values while doing business on an international scale. Founded in 1962, the family-owned company continues to provide clients with the service founder and owner Wayne Battle first became known for five decades ago.

"My grandfather is proud to have been blessed enough to be at the helm of a successful company for 50 years, and to have three generations working in the company today," said Thomas Battle, who oversees the production and running of the mills, and is in charge of all rolling stock at Battle Lumber.

"He’s seen many changes and challenges in the industry — everything from log supply to sales. He got his start producing furniture squares for the domestic furniture factory, with only eight employees. He then moved into producing pallets before becoming the largest hardwood lumber producer on one site in the country."

Battle Lumber is among the world’s leaders in pallet production, and its grade mill division has been described as one of the most technologically advanced mills in the nation, producing more than 90 million board feet of lumber per year, according to the company.

The company strives to get the maximum yield from each log processed maintaining all its saws in-house with an advanced saw filer.

Operating under guidelines set forth by the U.S. Forestry Service, Battle Lumber staffs registered foresters and contract loggers — all certified as master timber harvesters — in an effort to protect U.S. woodlands through proper harvesting methods. In addition to setting high environmental standards and adhering to the Georgia Sustainability Forest Initiative, the company is committed to creating lasting relationships with its customers, no matter the distance. Along with its domestic clientele, Battle Lumber serves companies as far away as the Middle East, southeast Asia, Europe and Asia.

"Doing international business can be interesting and even difficult at times, but Battle Lumber has a sales force in China to help ease the burdens of doing business abroad," Battle explained. "Being diversified has allowed us to continue to survive and even grow during the domestic economic troubles."

As a hardwood supplier offering everything from grade lumber to wood flour, Battle Lumber has also provided dry kiln services since 1993. Its major dry kiln achievements include three million board feet of kiln dried lumber shipped monthly, construction of a 100 bay sorter offering specialty width and color sorts and the development of a 1.4 million board feet pre-dryer to help prevent drying defects.

Founder and President Wayne Battle heads the team that includes Tommy Battle, vice president of sales Craig Miller, and Bob Swan, who serves as general manager of the pallet division. With approximately 450 employees, more than 300 are staffed in the rural Wadley, Ga., headquarters. Other facilities include BLC Hardwood Flooring and Wood Fiber Technologies, both located in Macon, Ga., along with log concentration buying yards in Madison, Ga., Elberton, Ga., Macon, Ga., Atlanta, Ga., and Walterboro, S.C.

"Our company focuses not only on producing large volumes of products, but producing the highest quality and doing it safely. Safety, quality and production are in fact, Battle’s top priorities. It can sometimes be a juggling act to achieve all three in an efficient manner. Being located in a small town of Wadley has its upside and downside. Although we have a smaller workforce to pull from, we do have a core group of long-time employees."

Battle credits ASC Volvo with helping the company achieve even greater success.

"ASC has been great to work with. They are quick to resolve any issues, and there are no hidden fees. Their service guys are very skilled and upfront about everything. Three years ago Battle Lumber bought its first three Volvo L150s. We use these machines to handle both short logs and tree-length logs around the yard. These machines not only handle logs around the yard, but they also feed our sawmills, so downtime is critical.

’Last year, we bought a L120 to handle our byproducts, such as sawdust, bark and chips. All of these machines have provided excellent uptime and are more fuel-efficient than our previous loaders, so when it was time to replace the L150s, Battle went back to Volvo."

Charlie Roupe, account manager of ASC Construction Equipment Co USA Inc., is impressed with the Battle family’s dedication to excellence.

"Battle Lumber has been great to deal with," said Roupe, a construction industry veteran with 35 years’ experience of providing customer equipment solutions. "They are honest and straightforward, and I am committed to their success.

"We’ve only done business with Battle for three years, and they told us they like working with us," Roupe said. "The equipment has done more than they expected, saving them money and time. The L150 machines deliver wood to the production line and run day and night. The L120G they bought this year is on the other end of the process."

As for future goals, said Battle, "Battle Lumber is currently overseeing a new mill project that will increase its production capability and allow it to process logs more efficiently. The company’s long-term goal is to continue as the hardwood source for all lumber, flooring and industrial products. We also aim to provide landowners with a honest manager and buyer of all their hardwood timberland."

Battle is proud to be carrying on the tradition that began so many years ago.

"My grandfather is still involved in the operation, so that gives us three generations active in the business today, including myself and younger brother, Drew, who is one of our procurement foresters. It’s really a credit to our family leadership of the company."

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