Quality and Mercer Mass Timber’s “Three-Legged Stool”

One of the core principles of Mercer Mass Timber (MMT) is instilled during each employee’s initial interview, reaffirmed during orientation, and reinforced daily by the factory’s team. “The Three-Legged Stool” of Safety, Quality, and Production is an interdependent anthem of the day-to-day operations at MMT. The Quality Control/Assurance (QC/QA) Team plays an instrumental role in MMT’s success and growth. While liaising between certification agencies and production personnel, the quality team instills vital lumber and production knowledge in the MMT workforce to ensure conformance to the highest product standards. A three-person team oversees manufacturing from receiving the raw material, controlling processing activities at each workstation, and through inspections during the final preparations for shipment. The quality control team ensures adherence to the motto crested on the wall outside of the quality lab, “Safe production starts here, to deliver quality to the customer”.

MMT’s crest outside of the quality control lab.


Leg One – Safety

As building code provisions expand to allow taller mass timber construction and the applications for cross-laminated timber (CLT) expand in North America, the corresponding product testing requirements become critical to product performance. With wooden high-rise structures now taking center stage, the safety of the construction personnel and building occupants is a focal point for the MMT quality department. Quality Control Manager, Matt Prunier, states “We treat every product here at Mercer Mass Timber like it is going into our family’s home.” 

The variety of in-line inspection and lab checks, such as cyclic delamination, tension, and face bond shear testing, are all a part of the team’s robust oversight. The attention to detail and drive to exceed industry requirements have led to zero claims and no major non-conformance findings during the factory’s periodic production audits performed by third-party certification agencies. The factory has continually produced materials with zero product claims while maintaining an unblemished record of zero delays in shipping. An understanding of lumber characteristics and defects is instilled into each production team member, aiming to supply the customer with the highest quality products. To keep up with demand while maintaining production efficiency, it is necessary to classify and organize inbound materials according to end-use product specifications and standards. The Transverse and Linear High Graders (THG/LHG) are critical tools for the operation to organize raw materials. 

Leg Two – Quality

Throughout the manufacturing process, every board will be evaluated and tracked from beginning to end, providing material traceability and quality assurance. Recently, MMT has been ramping up the use of its THG to ensure the products meet or exceed industry standards. The THG is located at the beginning of the production line where it measures and quantifies characteristics like moisture content, lumber dimensions, and lumber defect types and distributions. The newest member of the QC team, Sort Line Quality Technician Devin Kelly, is the first set of eyes evaluating all raw materials. His duty is to collaborate with USNR to utilize the full potential of the THG and LHG to identify key wood attributes and defects (i.e., warp, split, decay, etc.) and then to sort the wood into specific bins where boards are grouped together based on their characteristics and production requirements. “We are the first and last line of defense for product coming in and going out of the factory”, says Kelly. Controlling raw materials is important as any inclusion of substandard material would render manufactured panels off-grade, costing the company time, material, and ultimately revenue. 

Leg Three – Production

With a transition towards increased use of technology, manual lumber grading is rapidly becoming a dying art. While manual grading of lumber becomes less prevalent, the use of cross-laminated timber, glue-laminated beams, and long-length finger-jointed materials accentuates the importance of visual characteristics in the lumber used in the various product lines at MMT. The MMT quality team has taken on the role of ensuring that visual characteristics in raw materials are properly assessed. Manuel Quintero,  Lead Quality Technician, teaches all personnel the lumber grade requirements as defined by lumber grading agencies. “The written information is the key; we take that knowledge and try to translate it in a way to unlock that power for all of our employees,” said Quintero. An intensive regimen of classroom instruction, hands-on grading, and over-the-shoulder grading evaluation culminates with an official grading certification from the third-party grading agency.

General Manager Jason Herman is resolute, “Our biggest assets are first our people and then our materials.” Combining highly skilled graders and our advanced machine centers, we guarantee each product is of the highest and safest quality.