Roseburg’s Ryan Phillips: Three Generations of Dedication to Quality

Earning a reputation for excellence is not easy. Maintaining a reputation for excellence over almost eight decades is even more difficult to accomplish. Through the eyes of third-generation Roseburg Forest Products employee, Ryan Phillips, we see a Roseburg family legacy of dependable product quality and reliable service stretching across generations to make Roseburg what it is today. This legacy is built by people—families—with a true passion for what they do.

Ryan Phillips sorting veneersRyan Phillips hovers over his desk with a notebook in his hand and a phone pinched between his ear and his shoulder. The other lines on his phone are lighting up with customers, and he has to meet with the hardwood plywood plant in five minutes to find out what the production time will be on two other customer orders. A demanding work environment like this is nothing new for Ryan. He works with customers in every time zone of the United States and has a passion for his customers and the products Roseburg sells them.

Ryan manages the sales function of Roseburg’s Hardwood Plywood program. His passion for the hardwood plywood business comes from a family legacy in the wood business and is nurtured by the opportunity to sell high-quality products to value-minded customers.

When asked what sets Roseburg’s hardwood plywood apart from the competition Ryan simply says, “People love what we make because it’s such a high quality product.”

That level of quality and consistency has been a big part of Roseburg’s mission since the very beginning. Ryan should know – his family has been working here for three generations.

Roots Run Deep

You could say that Ryan was born with sawdust running through his veins. Both his father and grandfather worked in the lumber industry, both at Roseburg. They instilled in him a strong respect for the time and hard work that goes into making quality products that stand out from the competition.

Ryan’s grandfather, Lynwood “Casey” Jones, was a construction millwright in the mid-1900s. He installed machinery in many of Roseburg’s mills, including the plywood plant in Riddle, Oregon. That same mill was the place Ryan’s father worked for more than 40 years. Ryan has fond childhood memories of his dad coming home from work at the Roseburg mill smelling like wood. “He worked swing shift a lot, so I didn’t always get to see him,” Ryan says. “But I remember I’d be lying in bed in the evening and I’d hear the front door open, and that smell would come through. I knew he was home.”

One day, Ryan’s dad took him to the mill while he picked up his paycheck. It had a lasting impact. “It was such a cool thing to do with your dad,” Ryan says with a smile. “You didn’t realize how big the place was and what everyone did until you walked in there.”

With two generations of strong work ethic and dedication to quality while working at Roseburg, it’s no surprise Ryan decided to follow the same path.

From the Ground Up
Ryan Phillips teaching Today, Ryan is Roseburg’s Hardwood Plywood Product Manager. That’s a big change from where he started out at Roseburg in 1992. Right out of high school, I started at Roseburg working green chain during the summer,” Ryan recalls. He was part of a summer work program for college students that allowed him to save money for school. “There wasn’t any other job where you could earn that kind of money for college,” he says. “I put it all aside to pay for college and lived at home to make ends meet.”

In 1996, after graduating from Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, he joined the company full time and began moving up--from quality control to supervisor, and eventually into hardwood plywood sales in 2006. Starting out at Roseburg and working his way from the ground up has definitely given Ryan a solid knowledge base for hardwood plywood. “Working in the mill, you know what those guys have to do to make a product and get it out the door,” he says. “I worked from where they’re taking the bark off the logs all the way to where they’re putting the bands on the finished plywood. I’ve been through the whole process, and I’ve learned what it takes to make a high quality piece of plywood.”

Making Hardwood Plywood

Hardwood Plywood veneer stacks

Roseburg started producing hardwood plywood in the 1960s as a subset of softwood plywood. It’s used for decorative purposes in cabinetry and furniture making, as opposed to building construction where softwood plywood is used.

A high quality piece of plywood starts with high quality timber. Since Roseburg owns its own timber lands, they have access to a consistent supply of wood fiber – including FSC certified – along with the facilities to produce large volumes. Once the wood is sourced, it’s cut or peeled into thin veneers which then get sorted and graded. A core substrate is selected based on the customer’s needs and sent through a glue spreader, which coats both sides with a thin layer of adhesive. A worker called a core layer catches the glued core and lays it flat, while two other workers pull sheets of veneer onto the core. “My dad was a core layer,” Ryan recalls. “He was the one catching and laying the core.” After the veneer is laid over the core, it’s pressed into a panel, cut to size, sanded, and packaged. Then it’s on its way to the customer.

Generations of Quality

There is no question that the Roseburg name connotes quality in the market. Ryan says, “We’re consistent in our grades from panel to panel, unit to unit, order to order. When customers order from Roseburg, they know they’re going to get the same thing they ordered last time.” But building a reputation for stand-out consistency did not happen overnight. Roseburg has been producing hardwood panels for more than fifty years, and softwood panels for more than sixty. Behind these great products are great people who have passionately built the Roseburg legacy for excellence, and Ryan’s family is just one example of how that legacy has been upheld for generations

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