MEADOW LAKES — Inside the Builders Choice plant you won’t find a single person wearing a tool belt, using a tape measure or measuring twice and cutting once, ever.
While the truss plant goes through an average of 5,000 board feet of lumber daily, how that work is done is pretty high-tech.
To illustrate, president and owner Mark Larson and Meadow Lakes plant manager Vaughn Nadeau led the Frontiersman on a recent tour of their operation.
The process begins when customers walk in the door with rough plans that need to be turned into trusses for airplane hangars, six-plex housing units or man camps for the North Slope.
In the Builders Choice design center, three people work turning rough plans into detailed CAD drawings for trusses, which are then transmitted to machines in the saw shop where individual pieces of wood are cut and stamped with job and piece numbers to aid in assembly, Nadeau said during the tour.
After the plans are turned into commands for the saws, a person pulls the raw materials on the list to be cut. Those materials are loaded onto a conveyor built that draws them into one of three saws that make either rough, medium or fine cuts.
“We don’t have guys with tape measures running around measuring stuff,” Larson said. “This is a super-efficient way to put things together.”
Beyond efficiency, he said the process is also safe — some of the saws operated inside a separate housing and there is no way to accidentally get to the blade, Nadeau said.
Builders Choice Inc. started building trusses in the Mat-Su Valley May 15, 2011. It’s had a modular plant in Anchorage since 2004 and opened another in South Dakota in 2011, too.
“Basically, we brought our technologies down to North and South Dakota,” Larson said.
Builders Choice also has its eye on the Mat-Su Valley’s vast growth potential.
Larson said the company purchased 42 acres near the intersection of the Parks Highway and Pittman Road in Meadow Lakes so it has room to expand its manufacturing operation as the Valley grows.
The Alaska company’s Valley plant builds trusses now, but Larson said they plan to add a modular plant at their Meadow Lakes site within the next year.
“The Valley is better suited for manufacturing,” he said, adding that there also is nowhere in Anchorage where a business could buy 42 acres of land for manufacturing.
For now, 27 people work at the Meadow Lakes truss plant. Adding the modular plant could double those numbers, Larson said. Total, the company employs about 200 people in Alaska and another 100 in South Dakota, Larson said.
But Builders Choice Inc. traces its roots back to the Valley where it began as a small mom-and-pop construction company in 1996. The company was sold the following year, and in 1998 entered the truss manufacturing business. Builders Choice opened its modular housing plant in Anchorage in 2004.
Larson said they began in the residential market, but expanded to include commercial units. Over the years the list of things the company has built has grown to include courthouses, schools and man camps on the North Slope.
“We are committed to the Valley,” he said. “This is where we see all our growth going.”
For more information, contact 864-5300 or visit builderschoice.com.
Contact managing editor Heather A. Resz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-2268.