McKay Timber is a major manufacturer and supplier of timber and roof trusses to the Tasmanian building and joinery market, and the equal largest native hardwood processing company in Tasmania. With a history dating back over 60 years, they have built an unrivalled reputation in the industry for supplying high quality timber products.
“We believe our product is of the highest quality product in the state and we believe that Tasmanian native hardwood is one of the best quality products available,” says Brett McKay, the company’s General Manager.
McKay Timber was originally founded in 1947 under the name W.A McKay by Alexander “Alec” McKay, who started working in the timber industry in 1931 at age 17. In 1957, the company became incorporated as W.A McKay Pty Ltd.
Three years later, Alec’s son Bernard joined the business before later taking over for his father in 1969. Bernard was appointed Manager of W.A McKay Pty Ltd around and the same time the company began actively developing their role in supplying the local southern Tasmanian market.
In 1990, the business underwent a significant shift when McKay Investments Pty Ltd – owned by Bernard and Elizabeth McKay – purchased the business from W.A McKay family and started trading as McKay Timber.
Brett McKay is Bernard’s son, and he has been working in the timber industry his whole life. He started during school holidays, and joined the company officially in 1987 after graduation. “Naturally, I was always running around with dad when I was a kid. I’ve always been around timber,” he recalls.
Since Brett came aboard, the business has changed considerably. They’ve bought out two competitors to increase their output, while restructuring the business to move forward. “We’re now the equal largest hardwood saw miller in the state,” he says.
Today, McKay Timber sells mostly in Tasmania – which accounts for roughly 48 per cent of their product, Brett estimates. Another 40 per cent of their product is sent to the mainland market, mostly Victoria, as well as South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. “Depending on the year, we also sell between 10 to 12 per cent to New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and China,” he adds. “But we believe our focus is the Australian market, with our primary market being the Tasmanian market.”
A trusted name
As a 100 per cent Tasmanian and family-owned and operated business, McKay Timber has been an industry mainstay going back generations. That longevity, Brett says, is one of the main things that set them apart from other timber suppliers. In their many years of business, they have earned a lot of experience and gained an outstanding reputation for supplying high quality timber products and service. They take great pride in maintaining and growing that reputation.
“People have known us for a long time,” Brett says. “A generation of builders have come through, and they brought apprentices through – and once the apprentices move out into the building world they keep coming back as well.”
McKay Timber also stands apart due to the quality of their offering – a quality they have achieved through experience, and through internal investment. Over the last 10 years, Brett says they have invested approximately $9 million back into the business for production expansion, which has included modernising two of their saw mills. One of the mills is now mostly automated, and gives them “very good sizing,” Brett says, enabling them to increase their recoveries from the logs to get the best out of them.
“In those mills, we’ve used Australian-made machinery through McKEECO engineering, and we believe they make top-of-the-line sawmilling equipment that helps us achieve the best product.”
“Even in this facility here at Glenorchy, we spent about $1.5 million upgrading the production facilities,” he adds. “If you use the top-of-the-range gear and put the best product into it, you’re always going to get a better product out the other end.”
The calibre of McKay Timber’s staff has also been essential to maintaining their reputation. As a family-owned business, they employ 92 people – some of whom are second-generation employees, or have been with the company for 30 or more years. Brett says the company has an open-door policy and a family-type atmosphere when it comes to their employees.
“We don’t just consider them to be an employee or number; they are all a part of the corporate family,” he says. “Everyone is known by name and there are no appointments to getting in to see the Managing Director. You can just knock on the door and see him.”
“A lot of the long-term employees actually taught me what to do in this place,” he adds. “I learnt from them when I was 16, 17 and up. I’ve worked with them and grown with them.”
McKay Timber has also seen that generational history with many of their clients. They’ve built and sustained relationships with customers who have been with them from the very beginning – when they did their apprenticeship. “When one of our customers did his apprenticeship, my grandfather was running the business,” Brett recalls. “He got his own company and he dealt with my father. Now his son is taking over and running that business, and he is now dealing with me.”
“We’ve got loyal customers,” he says, “But to get loyal customers you’ve got to give loyalty back.”
One of the reasons McKay Timber is able to keep their clients happy is their honest and transparent approach to customer service. For McKay, “once we make a commitment to a customer, we live up to it,” Brett explains. “If we can’t give it to them, we don’t take the order.”
McKay Timber’s extensive customer-base ranges from the “handyman who knows how to put a fence up” to the “mum and dad building a wood box for the kids, through to the property developer and large building companies,” Brett says. “We sell a lot into the wholesale market for joinery, ship-building, flooring and furniture. We’re cutting for the full-spread from the low grade right up to premium and select grade products of furniture.”
Stronger and stronger
At McKay Timber, special consideration and care is given to how their product is made as it relates to the environment. Their chain of custody ensures that the timber is only supplied from legally-harvested forests, which are also sustainably managed. “We buy certified product from our suppliers and we’re encouraging people that we supply to get chain of custody to certify their product,” Brett says.
McKay Timber is also setting up a pilot plant with Pellet Fires Tasmania to make wood pellets for domestic heaters out of their shavings residue from their dry mill. They also sell their dry shavings and sawdust from their saw mills for bio-energy, which goes into furnaces to heat industrial-sized hot houses for tomato growing, brick kilns and other uses. “We’re always looking at the best way we can use 100 per cent of the resource that comes our way in log form,” says Brett.
Late last year, the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement was passed by the Lower House. If this act becomes law, McKay Timber will comply with it, to ensure the best outcome for their business and for Tasmania. Moving forward, Brett says they will continue to pursue those optimal outcomes, which his family and his company are known for doing.
The longer term future of McKay Timber will include more diversification in their daily operations. This includes the purchase of new-line building products as soon as they become available, so they can continue providing their customers with the highest quality timber using the most modern equipment.
“We will diversify the business to make it stronger,” Brett concludes. “We’ll be doing that well into the long-term future.”