Sand Creek Post & Beam
When an EF 4 tornado leveled the production facility of Sand Creek Post & Beam in Wayne, Jule Goeller and Len Dickinson initially saw the incident as a devastating setback.
Soon they came to see it as an opportunity to rebuild with a renewed emphasis on efficiency and sustainability. “It was a chance to look at planning our new building better to suit our needs and to implement lean manufacturing techniques,” says Goeller.
She and Dickinson— partners in business and marriage— have worked with Loren Kucera, director of NBDC’s office in Wayne, many times since founding Sand Creek in 2005. After the October 4, 2013, tornado, the couple again turned to the NBDC for advice on lean processes and principles.
“I grew up on a farm, and I saw early on how important it is to be good stewards of the countryside,” Goeller says. “We moved from the city to an acreage because of our love of nature.”
After relocating from Lincoln to Wisner to live in and renovate an old family home, the couple began to contemplate what they’d do to earn a living. Dickinson’s interest in timber framing led the couple to research kit barns — the kind once marketed by Sears and Montgomery Ward. Their company is named for a creek that runs behind their home, and for a creek by the same name near Dickinson’s childhood home in Wahoo.
“We use no harsh chemicals and only wood from replenishable sources,” she says. “You need to be replacing what you’re taking to be certain it is there for generations to come.”
In addition to the Wayne operations, the couple own a timber-frame business in Texas. Company-wide, they employ approximately 80 people. Because of lean techniques, labor hours at the Wayne facility have been cut by 20 percent, while production increased by 14 percent. Employees now work four 10-hour shifts per week, which allows for lower energy usage at the plant, reduced transportation costs and emissions as employees travel to and from work, and longer weekends for personal or family time.
Sand Creek uses about 3 million board feet of lumber annually, says Jean Waters, energy and environmental engineer with the NBDC office in Omaha. Small pieces of wood that cannot be used in production — the cutoffs — are sold for energy recovery, while the 2.4 cubic feet of sawdust produced each workday is used for animal bedding.
“It is clear that Sand Creek Post & Beam is committed to producing a sustainable product in a sustainable manner,” Waters says. “They even donate 10 lodgepole pines or Douglas fir trees with every kit they sell.”
Emphasizing sustainability is the right thing to do, Goeller says. “We want everything to be here after we’re long gone,” she says, “not only the countryside, but also our barns.”