Trex: Knock On Wood

By Mel Duvall  |  Posted 2004-10-01 Print this article Print

Trex mixed recycled shrink wrap and wood chips with automated manufacturing and logistics to nail slumbering lumber companies.

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Trex 160 Exeter Drive, Winchester, VA 22603

Business Manufactures line of wood-composite deck and railing products.

Chief Business Executive CEO Robert Matheny

Key Technology Executive Harry Monahan, VP, manufacturing

Project Coordinate deliveries of 1.3 billion recycled bags and 300 million pounds of wood chips.

Objective Ensure raw materials are available to grow sales by 28% in 2004, to $245 million.

Technology Used PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne planning system.

How it gave edge over bigger companies Created sophisticated production and forecasting capabilities, without hiring a 14- or 15-person technology team to create them.

Tom Haley's face is beet red, maybe from working in the sun too long. Or maybe from the frustration of what started out as a simple weekend project.

The Calgary, Alberta, resident wanted to replace a few weathered boards on his back deck and slap on a new coat of stain. But once started, he realized half the boards on top of his deck had rot. Ants and wasps had even set up shop in one split.

No longer was it a matter of a few boards. "I decided to replace everything,'' Haley recalls. Plus, "I wasn't going to use wood again."

Haley tried instead a wood alternative sold at his local Totem building supply store. The boards, from a relatively unknown company called Trex, were made from wood chips and largely recycled plastic. The boards cost more—double the price of pressure-treated wood—but resist insects, moisture and sunlight. They also don't require any staining or painting.

He's far from alone in abandoning wood for decks. Trex, of Winchester, Va., has steadily stolen business from lumber giants since it was formed by four Mobil executives in 1996. In eight years, it has built a $200 million-a-year business selling composite deck and railing products.

That's a fraction of the $3 billion-a-year North American deck market. But by 2008, composite materials are expected to capture $1 billion of what will be a $4 billion market, according to consulting firm Principia Partners of Exton, Pa.

Trex is the runaway leader in composite, says Lou Rossi, Prinicipia senior partner. "Their brand is about as generic to composite decking as Kleenex is to tissue paper," he adds.

Trex has muscled in on Weyerhaeuser, Louisiana-Pacific and Georgia-Pacific through logistics. The company must coordinate the delivery of some 1.3 billion bags of plastics a year to its two production plants in Winchester and Fernley, Nev. The company estimates it collects half of all recycled grocery bags in the U.S.

Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.


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