50 Years—Celebrating Metriguard’s Golden Jubilee

Beth Van Wie

Raute’s USA analyzer hub, Metriguard, turns 50! Read about Metriguard’s beginnings, achievements, and prolific tomorrow.

Metriguard’s Birth—A Dawn of Innovation

Young Jim Logan

Jim Logan, a young Electrical Engineering professor and a newcomer to public speaking, stood in front of peers, superiors, and lumber industry leaders with sweaty palms and a racing heart. He should have known not to lean on the pointer. He should have known it would break. And now he stood there—holding two ends of a broken pointer and staring into the audience.

Logan was here to present Washington State University’s (WSU) non-destructive beam testing apparatus. He and his colleagues had invented this system to measure a vibrating beam’s modulus of elasticity (MoE). They could simply rest the beam’s ends on the system’s supports, tap it, and allow the electronics to measure the beam’s vibrations and process complex mathematical equations to determine the board’s exact MoE. It was a genius invention that could be commercialized and used worldwide. If only he could escape this embarrassing fumble.

“Two people came to my rescue that day,” Logan remembers, “Len Moyer of Frank Lumber Company asked a question that pulled me out of my speechless dilemma and got me back on track. Then, Ed DeKoning asked some more questions, and I was off to the races.”

Shortly after the presentation, Moyer and DeKoning cornered Logan to see if he could upgrade the world’s seven continuous lumber testers (CLTs). These were the fastest and most accurate machine stress rated (MSR) lumber machines of the time, but the data processing systems were insufficient and outdated.

Logan agreed and travelled to Mill City, Oregon, USA where he inspected the system. After the inspection, Logan decided the best upgrade was a total data system replacement.

“Cut the cable right here,” Logan said, “And I’ll build a new box for it.”

Logan returned home while Moyer and DeKoning set to work. They pooled their funds and recruited investors until they had a $21,000 bank account with Logan’s name on it. They called him the next day.

“Draw from this bank account any time,” Moyer and DeKoning said.

Logan hired his two best students and worked from his garage. The year was 1972. There were no personal computers. There was no internet. There were no cell phones. Logan and his students drew all manufacturing documents by hand, and calculations used a slide rule and a pocket calculator.

Within weeks, they had a working prototype. It was an ugly mess of wires, but it was just a prototype. If it worked, Logan would take it home and clean it up before he used it as a model for the commercial versions.

Logan took the system to Mill City and installed it next to the CLT. It ran flawlessly. He monitored it for several days and then began unhooking it.

“Oh no no no,” Logan remembers their response, “You’re not doing that. You’re leaving it here. You’ve got drawings. You can build more from the drawings.”

The system worked too well. Even though it was ugly, they couldn’t bear to let it go.

So, Logan went home without it.

Two more CLTs entered production that year, so Logan built a total of nine electronics units that summer. He still had a university salary, but it wasn’t enough to cover the income tax from selling the CLT electronics units. Logan’s entrepreneurial spirit told him it was time to start something new—something that paid its own income tax—so he left WSU and joined forces with Ed DeKoning, Len Moyer, and Roy Pellerin. The four started Metriguard, a company that exceeded customer expectations before it even existed.

Struggles into Accomplishments—This is Metriguard’s Legacy

“You know, struggles—that’s a tough word,” said Todd Kurle, Metriguard’s current general manager, when asked to describe the company’s past struggles. “Everybody has struggles, so I like to think that struggles become accomplishments.”

Struggles into accomplishments—that is Metriguard’s legacy. When faced with a slow CLT data processing system, Metriguard created a system too great to let go. When struggling to find obsolete parts, Metriguard found new, better, and more modern parts—an accomplishment that launched each machine into a new realm of modernity. When customers asked Metriguard for various plywood manufacturing testers, Metriguard turned those opportunities into a plethora of world-renowned machines.

The same is true for foreign work permit struggles, supply chain issues, the transition from analog to digital, and the struggle to morph and change with every technological advancement. Every struggle has shaped Metriguard into a global company with expertise in every aspect of engineered wood. Metriguard has machines from lumber testers to panel testers to major league baseball bat testers.

While Metriguard focused on lumber machines for most of its history, their crowning achievement is its veneer tester—originally called the Ultrasonic Sheet Material Testing Apparatus—patented in 1980. Before this machine, veneer physical properties were determined by visual grading. But when someone suggested that a veneer sheet’s physical appearance had no useful correlation with its strength, Logan saw an upcoming accomplishment.

At that time, Metriguard had already invented the Model 239A Stress Wave Timer, and one LVL manufacturer used the Stress Wave Timer to measure and sort roughly 6,000 veneer sheets by ultrasonic propagation time (UPT). They made LVL from the sorted sheets and tested them. UPT provided the missing correlation to veneer strength, but it took too much time to measure 6,000 sheets with the Stress Wave Timer.

“Can you do it on the fly?” the customer asked Logan—who proceeded to design the veneer tester—a two-wheel machine that measured veneer sheets at line speeds up to 50 feet/minute.

Since those days, the veneer tester has evolved with the times. It has more power, updated parts, better mounting, and measures veneer sheets at speeds up to 600 feet/minute. It is now called the Veneer Strength Analyzer R7 – Drying and when combined with the Veneer Moisture Analyzer R7 – Drying, it also reads each sheet’s moisture, density, and MoE.

A New Era—Metriguard becomes Raute Pullman

Though Logan didn’t want to sell, he knew it was time. He’d owned Metriguard for 45 years, and at age 75 decided to retire.

In the summer of 2016, Logan hired a consultant to begin the selling process. They contacted multiple parties and Raute placed an offer. The negotiations proceeded from there.

“We did not really consider Metriguard as a competitor,” Jani Roivainen, Raute’s current Analyzer Executive Vice President said, “They had one product on veneer that did not directly compete with Raute's product portfolio.”

Metriguard had a niche separate from Raute in the engineered wood industry. While Metriguard focused on engineered wood analyzers of all kinds, Raute focused on complete mills, only branching into the analyzer business with the Mecano acquisition in 2005. While Raute lacked a North American presence, Metriguard was popular among plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), and lumber manufacturers across the US and Canada.

Metriguard was the missing puzzle piece to Raute’s globalization endeavors.

Roivainen moved to Pullman, Washington, USA to work as Metriguard’s president, and Metriguard adopted a new brand—Raute Pullman. Roivainen describes the Raute Pullman employees as, “Dedicated and customer-focused individuals (personnel) with an entrepreneurial spirit … While Metriguard's product seamlessly integrated into Raute's portfolio, it was truly the exceptional team of employees that stood out.”

Evolution of the logo

Notably Green—From Environmental Roots to Sustainable Horizons

Raute Pullman’s machines have advanced worldwide sustainability since day one. The very nature of wood product grading determines which wood pieces to use for structural lumber and which pieces to use for chips, pulp, or pallets. For the past 50 years, careful allocation of every inch of raw material has reduced waste and excessive logging, conserving earth’s vital ingredient for carbon sequestration and biodiversity—our forests.

Every Raute Pullman facility has embraced waste reduction, a small carbon footprint, and recycling. The current facility maintains low water and electricity usage, and service technicians carefully schedule multiple mills in a single trip—thus reducing CO2 emissions and customer costs. This eco-friendly mindset has merged with Raute’s dedication to environmental sustainability. Since 2019, Raute has reduced waste by 22%, reduced water consumption by 41%, and reduced CO2 emissions by 47%.

Sustainability remains critical for Raute Pullman, which is currently evaluating every inventoried part for compliance with the European Union’s personnel and environmental safety standards (REACH and RoHS). Parts found non-compliant are evaluated for possible replacement or redesign. Once completed, customers can be confident that every Raute Pullman machine fosters employee and environmental safety in every mill.

Raute Pullman’s Future—Cheers to the Next 50 Years!

Raute Pullman’s next 50 years will be filled with innovation, collaboration, and development. We will continue partnering with industry experts, striving for sustainability, and exploring the yet unknown areas of the wood industry.