Husby Group – a Product Development Success Story

Founded by entrepreneur Dave Husby in 1970 as a trucking and road building company operating on the Queen Charlotte Islands, the Husby Group employs over 200 people within eight companies. While logging operations remain the primary activity of the group, it began to branch out a few years ago into manufacturing in order to achieve further growth. Faced with the challenge of finding ways to add value and diversify the Group’s basket of products, company President Bob Brash began investigating market opportunities that not only matched the raw material supplied by its logging operations, but also looked at niches that could be served by a unique, well-designed product. Says Bob, “we were looking for products that fit within our general expertise but stayed true to adding yet more value to the wood we and others produce on the coast of BC”.
With some preliminary ideas in mind, Bob Brash contacted the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing to initiate the trial development of a product that would cater to the growing demand for garage and storage structures. While a number of companies have entered this market, Bob felt that a unique product, built in a timber frame style, would appeal to a select segment of consumers.
Manufacturing and constructing the structure required some specialised equipment and design talents. With the aid of a Hundegger K2 timber frame machine – a unique piece of equipment specifically designed for the automated manufacture of timber frame components – and the technical and design talents of the CAWP technical team and several graduate students, a number of prototypes were developed. Helping navigate and coordinate the project was Martin Liem, a third year co-op student in UBC’s B.Sc. Wood Products Processing program, who liaised between the Husby Group and CAWP throughout the project.
The development process at CAWP involved designing a prototype structure and undertaking a number of revisions, followed by a focus group critiquing session. The concept behind the design of the structure was that by pre-manufacturing the connections and marking the components to reduce steps, the structure would be easy to assemble on site.
Adding its financial resources to the mix was the Solutions for Wood program, managed by FPInnovations – Forintek Division in BC. Says program manager Roland Baumeister, “combining the skills and expertise offered by CAWP and Forintek is a winning formula for local businesses wanting to manufacture something different – it lessens the risks involved in getting there. Many wood products manufacturers in BC have great ideas, but need to test the technical and economic feasibility of these ideas before investing in the specialized equipment and technical training needed to bring these ideas forward”.
Adds Bob, “having access to both the enthusiasm of the UBC people and their CNC machines for researching our concepts helped us develop our ideas and initiatives as quickly as possible. There are only a few of these machines in the province, and being able to try out different designs was a huge help”.
If you would like to know more about how the Centre for Advanced Wood Processing can help with your product development needs, please contact us at 604-822-6448, toll free within North America at 1-866-822-2297, or by email at cawp@cawp.ubc.ca