Thinking outside the box

Fox Valley Wood Products does things differently

Posted on May 29, 2020 :: Small Business Spotlight
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

As a third-generation, family-owned business that started in 1963, Fox Valley Wood Products in Kaukauna has a long history of success in manufacturing pallets, custom crates and packaging, and industrial wood platforms. But that doesn’t mean the company is content to coast.

Fox Valley Wood Products — which won the 2020 Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award in the small category — is all about finding better ways to do things, whether that means refining its own production processes or boosting the happiness of its staff.

“I think we have our focus in the right place to not only look at how we can improve the lives of our employees, but also a constant focus on where we can create new value for our customers,”
says Jeff Van Zeeland, co-owner of Fox Valley Wood Products.

The company serves customers in a variety of industries from paper or food packaging to metal fabrication and foundries. But Van Zeeland says it’s Fox Valley Wood Products’ specialty crating and design services that really set the business apart from other pallet manufacturers.

“There’s a lot of manufacturing in our area, and sometimes the last thing they think about is how they’re going to ship this product,” Van Zeeland says. “We’ve figured out a way to do it extremely fast. Somebody can call us today, and if they need to have a solution today, we’ll get it done. We’ll design, build and deliver in the same day. It’s saved a lot of headaches for our customers.”

In addition to finding ways to serve its clients better, the company also looks for ways to continually improve its processes. “We’ve had pretty significant growth over the last 15 years, so now at this point we’re more focused on drilling into our processes and seeing how we can improve and be more efficient,” Van Zeeland says.

With a payroll of around 45 employees at any given time, Fox Valley Wood Products is passionate about ensuring its staff is well supported and cared for — an attribute that isn’t necessarily commonplace in the industry.

“Our industry can have kind of a bad name in terms of not the greatest working conditions or pay,” Van Zeeland says. “We’re really trying to counter that, and I would put the wages and benefits that we provide our employees up against just about any industry in our area.”

Van Zeeland joined the family business in 1996 with a job on the production floor. That experience taught him that he isn’t solely responsible for the company’s continued success and positive reputation. “When it comes to our success, we’re really standing on everything that our previous generations started here,” he says.

Van Zeeland looks forward to continuing the tradition of high-quality service at Fox Valley Wood Products — not just for its broad base of customers but for its employees as well.

“We’re all about creating a winning environment,” he says. “When our team members come into work every day, they like working here, they like working with each other, and it’s a real family feel. That’s what we want to continue to foster.”