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A qualitative study of the Québec sawmilling industry Savoie, Anne 1998

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A Q U A L I T A T I V E S T U D Y OF T H E Q U E B E C SAWMILLING INDUSTRY. by Anne S A V O I E B.A.Sc. W o o d Science, The Universite Laval, 1994 A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in T H E F A C U L T Y O F G R A D U A T E S T U D I E S D E P A R T M E N T O F W O O D S C I E N C E We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F B R I T I S H C O L U M B I A February 1998 © Anne Savoie, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of (JLJOQCL Sl /c t^ r f l -The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date yjyrcU P>W DE-6 (2/88) University of British-Columbia Abstract A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF T H E QUEBEC SAWMILLING INDUSTRY. by Anne S A V O I E Dur ing the late 1980s, research demonstrated the l ink between the continual adoption of new technologies and the improvement of sawmill performances. (Capon and Glazer 1987, Cohen and Sinclair 1989) This was a preliminary assessment of the Canadian sawmilling industry. Dur ing 1995, forty sawmills within the Quebec Region were surveyed and visited to draw a qualitative portray for the Quebec Sawmilling Industry. Equipment, quality control and training were technology fields analyzed by the research. Cluster analysis allowed the correlation of technologies wi th product and market statistics. Results give information on the existing synergy among these parameters by the identification of two different types of mills which have respectively high technology equipment and show high intensity in quality control activities. Important benefits result from the global study of technological indicators. Cri t ical information upon the most specific parameters that need to be addressed to improve global sawmilling performance is provided. Training needs of the sawmilling industry are established to increase the global competitiveness of this industrial sector. Finally, the industry limits and future orientations regarding the different markets' penetration are drawn. ii TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT n TABLE OF CONTENTS m LIST OF FIGURES v i LIST OF TABLES v n ACKNOWLEDGMENTS VTH PART L GENERALITIES 1. INTRODUCTION 2 1.1 Project Or ig in 2 1.1.1 Objectives 3 1.1.2 Importance of Quebec Sawmilling Industry 3 1.2 Outline 4 2. METHODOLOGY 5 2.1 Description 5 2.2 Sample Selection 6 2.3 Response Rate 6 2.4 Respondents Profile 7 2.5 Limitations of the Research 8 PART n: TECHNOLOGIES 3. EQUIPMENT 11 3.1 Literature Review 11 3.1.1 Review of the Different Existing Equipment 11 3.1.2 Process Technologies 13 3.1.3 Technological Improvements and Equipment's Adaptability 14 3.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile 15 3.2.1 Processing Stations 15 3.2.1.1 Debarking.... 15 3.2.1.2 Bucking 15 3.2.1.3 Primary Breakdown 16 3.2.1.4 Secondary Breakdown 17 3.2.1.5 Edging 18 3.2.1.6 Tr imming 18 3.2.1.7 Dry ing . . 18 3.2.2 Engineering 18 i n 3.2.2.1 Performance Studies 19 3.2.2.2 Modifications 19 4. Q U A L I T Y C O N T R O L 20 4.1 Literature Review 20 4.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile 21 4.2.1 Quali ty Cont ro l Type 22 4.2.2 Secondary Products 23 4.2.3 Schedules Up-Dating 24 4.2.4 Preventive Maintenance 24 4.2.5 Communication 25 5. T R A I N I N G 26 5.1 Literature Review 26 5.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile 27 P A R T H I : P R O D U C T S A N D M A R K E T S 6. P R O D U C T S & M A R K E T S 30 6.1 Literature Review 30 6.1.1 Products 31 6.1.2 Value-added products 31 6.1.3 Opening frontiers 32 6.1.4 Distribution 32 6.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile 32 6.2.1 Products 32 6.2.1.1 Principal Products 32 6.2.1.2 Secondary Products 33 6.2.2 Sales 34 6.2.2.1 Clientele 34 6.2.2.2 Where are we selling? 34 6.2.2.3 H o w do we sell? 35 6.2.2.4 Adaptability 35 i v PART I V : T E C H N O L O G Y - PRODUCTS - MARKETS SYNERGY 7. SYNERGY 37 7.1 Equipment 37 7.1.1 H i g h Level .- 39 7.1.2 L o w Level 40 7.2 Quali ty Control . . . 41 7.2.1 H i g h Level 43 7.2.2 L o w Level 44 7.3 Summary 45 8. DISCUSSION: IMPROVING T H E INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE 46 8.1 Potential Strategies and Possible Orientations 46 8.2 Summary 49 9. REFERENCES 50 10. APPENDIXES 53 Mail-Survey Questionnaire 54 Interview Guidelines 60 Clusters Table 62 v L I S T O F F I G U R E S Number Page Figure 1: Species Distribution 8 Figure 2: Equipment Distribution at the Headrig, 16 Figure 3: Number of Sawing Patterns Used 17 Figure 4: Production 33 Figure 5: Secondary Products Use 34 v i LIST O F T A B L E S Number Page Table 1: Respondents Distribution 7 Table 2: Qual i ty Con t ro l Activities 22 Table 3: Quali ty Cont ro l Activities Related to Dry ing 23 Table 4: Quebec Shipments of Softwood Lumber for 1995 30 Table 5: Variables Used in Clustering the Equipment Technological Level 38 Table 6: Variables Used in Clustering the Q C Intensity Level 42 Table 7: Mi l l s Distribution in the Different Clusters 43 v i i A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S M y acknowledgments, as my life for the past two years, w i l l be addressed i n both Canadian official languages, French and English. Do ing a master is not that hard in terms of work to do on the research and on the paper itself. What is way harder, is the necessary labor on oneself. The two years I spent working on this thesis was also two years I spent working on my life, wi th always new questions popping in my head, new dilemma to keep me awake all night. N o w that the end is close, I wonder how I w i l l do out there, how quiet it w i l l be to spend nights and days doing something else than thinking about what am I doing. W o w ! It is the only comment that comes to me. This thesis was undoubtedly marked by distance between committee chairpersons and me, always at least 6 OOOkms between at least one of my committee member and myself. I choose it, that is true but I do not wish this situation to anyone, not even to my worst enemy. However, we did it and therefore I would like to thank the we. We is firstly D r . David Cohen, w h o m I would like to thank for the time, the money, the ideas, and the energy he gave me. Sometimes communication was, I believe, difficult but we managed to get through this thesis. Then, I also would like to thank D r . T o m Maness, who despite his many trips gave me a little of his time arid knowledge. There was also D r . Rob Kosak, who patiently answered my questions, one after the other, always having an ear for my complains or my fears. I seriously own you a good thanks, I really did appreciate you being around. Finally, for the English part of this avant-propos, I would like to thank all of the people in Vancouver that did share m y life and helped me through this, I w i l l not forget what the West Coast looks like! Michel , merci mille fois plutot qu'une, sans tes precieux encouragements et le temps que tu m'as accorde, souvent, je dois le dire, au-dela des heures regulieres de travail, les choses auraient ete bien differentes. C'est un complice que je quitte un peu a regrets. Je ne peux passer a travers cette rubrique sans mentionner Robert Beauregard, de qui le projet origine. Vlll Merc i pour avant, pendant et apres. U n gros merci aux filles a Laval; Johanne, Lynda, Dany et toutes les autres. Enfin, plus pres de moi ma petite famille; merci a vous tous Maman, Papa, G u y , France, Jerome, Louis-Philippe et Daphnee. Que de soleil dans mes journees et puis toujours vous avez su etre la malgre les intemperies. II y aurait encore bien d'autres gens a remercier mais la liste est trop longue; j 'ai croise trop de gens sur ma route durant cette quete. Simplement, c'est la vie que je veux remercier pour sa generosite. II est vrai que parfois elle est dure et nous soumet a des epreuves qui paraissent insurmontables mais toujours plus loin elle nous mene. i x Part I: Generalities 1 1. I N T R O D U C T I O N 1.1 Project Origin "The Nations competitiveness depends on its industry ability to innovate and improve." (Porter 1990) T w o factors motivated the Quebec and Canadian forest sector to intensify its degree of technological improvement in sawmilling: the increase of international competitiveness in the forest industry at large,, and the decreasing quantity and quality of available raw material. Quebec, as well as Canada, needs to innovate in order to stay in the W o r l d market, especially since the forest industry is a major sector of Quebec's economy. Previous research conducted within N o r t h America have shown the l ink between the adoption of new technologies and the above average performance of the forest industry enterprises (Cohen and Sinclair 1992, 90, 89). In 1991, a study was conducted in British-Columbia by David Cohen, T o m Maness, and Bob Smith to assess quality control and training activities i n sawmills. The results were interesting and led to further investigation across Canada. This project is part of that Canada wide study. This research extends the technology definition to include two new aspects; statistical quality control and personnel training. The first parameter is based on the expansion of information technologies and on the use of the power of such technologies i n treating data during production. The second item, training, is a critical factor for an industry that has the w i l l to master all production constraints, using statistical quality control and equipment. In other words, this research determines the existing high and low technology machinery combination, quality control techniques and on-line workers for Quebec softwood sawmills. Moreover, it allows the determination of concrete relationships among the three different technological factors which are related in the raw material transformation. 2 1.1.1 Objectives "Awareness of North American processing techniques is critical to evaluate the competitiveness of our wood products industry in a global context. Innovative processing technologies, new product technologies, and management technologies (inclusive of marketing) are key elements that affect industry and corporate success in the rapidly changing global environment." (Cohen and Sinclair 1989). The first goal of this research is to determine quantifiable indicators for the Quebec Sawmilling Industry. These w i l l allow the determination of the impact of public and private intervention policies by establishing a parallel between present and future studies. In this way, it w i l l be possible to recognize and measure technological improvement of the industry. Equipment, quality control process and training indicators are determined by the research and give not only information on these three important parameters but also on the existing synergy among them. Too often, only one aspect is considered and analyzed. However, they should be considered all together. Important benefits result from the global study of technological indicators. For sawmills, it provides critical information upon the most specific parameters that need to be used to improve global sawmilling performance. For the government, training needs of the sawmilling industry are established to increase the global competitiveness of this industrial sector. For the writers of scientific and technological policies, the benefits should allow the recognition of the main fields for further investigation. Finally, the sales and marketing departments are able to identify the industry limits and, hopefully, draw future orientations regarding the different markets' penetration. 1.1.2 Importance of Quebec Sawmilling Industry The Canadian forest product industry is a major contributor to total wor ld exports of forest products. In 1994, Canada exported over 46% of the total value of wor ld trade in softwood lumber (Natural Resources Canada 1996). In 1995, Canada produced 59 344 000 m 3 of softwood lumber. British-Columbia is the largest producer province wi th an annual production of 3 32 611 000 m 3 , which represents 55% of the total Canadian production. Quebec is i n second position, right after B . C . , responsible for 22% of all the Canadian production. In terms of wages and salaries, $498 mi l l ion are spent annually in Quebec for roughly 16 000 persons working in the sawmilling sector only. It is of enormous importance in Quebec ( A M B S Q 1996). Canada had always had a competitive advantage over other countries in the forest products trade because of its high quality product. This product is well recognized world-wide due to the producer's reliability and consistency in delivering a high-quality product at a competitive price, and also because of the strength characteristics of Canadian species. The whiteness and the strength-weight ratio of some softwood species are a very valuable quality on the wor ld market (Natural Resources Canada 1996). 1.2 O u t l i n e The outline of the present paper is described as follows. The first section presents the methodology of the research including the respondents' profile. Then, part II cover the basic results of the study concerning the three aspects of technology; equipment, quality control, and training. Part HI, describes the products and markets' aspects. Finally, part I V establishes the synergy among technology, products, and markets, followed by conclusions regarding the improvement of the Quebec sawmilling industry. 4 2. M E T H O D O L O G Y 2.1 Description The enormous differences in raw material supply, market focus and both public and private infrastructures resulted in different types of questions regarding technology and equipment both for Quebec and other relatively unique wood producing regions in Canada included in the nationwide study. In Quebec a variety of techniques were used to collect information. These included a mail survey, taped m i l l site interviews and follow up telephone interviews wi th respondents to the mail survey. A questionnaire was developed based on the one used in British Columbia in 1991 by Maness, Cohen and Smith (1993). This questionnaire was reviewed by a panel of experts from government, industry and research organizations on M a y 12, 1995. The following people participated in the panel: Mr, , Clement Turcotte M r . Gilles Jeanrie M r . Sylvain Labbe M r . Wi l l i am Tropper D r . Michel Beaudoin M r . Charles Turcotte M r . Felix Gagnon M r . A la in Brunet M r . Serge Brousseau M r . Rosaire Dube M r . Francois Bernard Natural Resource Minister of Quebec QLMA WIPB Forintek U. Laval Lulumco Produits forestiers Petit-Paris Produits forestiers Gatineau Stone-Consolidated - St-Fulgence Materiaux Blanchet inc. - Amos Bois Daaquam inc. This group of experts recommended some changes, both in terms of what information was to be collected and the method of data collection. They suggested that m i l l site interviews would provide more accurate information due to the technical detail required to adequately and accurately evaluate both technology and equipment in sawmills. This type of data collection (i.e. personal interviews) is recommended in the literature when detailed information regarding specific technical characteristics are required (e.g. Di l lman, 1978, Fowler, 1993). A more 5 qualitative interview outline was developed based on the advice of the panel of experts which is shown in Appendix 1. Included was more specific information regarding equipment usage as recommended by the advisory committee. Once the mi l l sites were completed, firms that had completed the mail survey were interviewed over the telephone to collect information required for analysis that had not been originally included in the mail questionnaire. Twenty of the 100 surveys mailed to Quebec sawmills had been returned and not all of them agreed to a follow up telephone interview. For a complete listing of the information collected please see Appendixes 2 and 3. 2.2 Sample Selection The population and the sample frame was all the sawmills in Quebec. A judgmental sample was selected i n conjunction wi th M r . Clement Turcotte of the Natural Resources Minis t ry of Quebec. The criteria for this qualitative sample selection were m i l l size, regional location, and type of ownership. The sample is not statistically representative of the population and results cannot be inferred to the population. However, this method of sample selection was chosen at the request of government agencies to facilitate the use of the results in setting policy for the Province of Quebec. This selection process is one reason why this project is a qualitative assessment of the technology and equipment use in the Quebec sawmilling industry. 2.3 Response Rate Twenty sawmills returned the mail survey and an additional 40 mills were interviewed during site visits. O f these 60 samples, 39 had complete and accurate information. There were many reasons for excluding the other 21 samples. Some of the mills that completed the mail surveys were not wi l l ing to provide additional information during the telephone interviews. Some of the mills provided information during the personal interviews which proved to be inaccurate when m i l l tours were conducted. That is they stated that they used certain technology or equipment which was not actually present in the mi l l . In addition some mills provided incomplete information. A l l mills which did not have complete and accurate information were excluded from the analysis. Information concerning what proportion of the respondents used for the 6 analysis resulted from on-site interviews or mail surveys wi th follow up telephone interviews is not available. Information pertaining to what proportion of the 39 complete samples were originally contacted by mail wi th telephone follow-up and what proportion were from personal interviews and m i l l site visit is unknown. This results from coding information to ensure the anonymity of respondents. 2.4 Respondents Profi le Out of the 39 respondents, 24 mills were independent mills, while the other 15 were part of an integrated complex. In terms of volume of production, the data account for 2,4 bi l l ion board feet of lumber, which represents 43% of all Quebec softwood production. The mills ' distribution by administrative region is presented in the Table 1. Table 1: Respondents Distribution Region Number of % Production %Prod. %Prod. Of Mills (Mbf) Quebec Abitibi-temiscamingue 9 23,1 794 189 32,1 13,8 Saguenay/Lac-St-Jean 8 20,5 706 151 28,6 12,3 Gaspesie/Hes-de-la-Madeleine 7 17,9 292 500 11,8 5,1 Charlevoix/ Cote-Nord 2 5,1 172 000 7,0 3,0 Outaouais 2 5,1 158 000 6,4 2,7 Lanaudiere/Mauricie/Bois-Francs 3 7,7 148 500 6,0 2,6 Bas-St-Laurent 4 10,3 93 000 3,8 1,6 Estrie 2 5,1 66 000 2,7 1,1 Quebec/ Chaudiere-Appalaches 2 5,1 43 000 1,7 0,7 39 100% 2 473 340 100% 43 A s shown in the previous table, the study collected data accounting for 43% of the Quebec annual softwood production. Moreover, the study covers the three predominant producer regions; Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Saguenay/Lac-St-Jean, and Gaspesie. The species distribution among selected mills is presented in figure 1. Respondent mills accounted for 43% of the annual production of Quebec sawmills. While results cannot be inferred to the population, they do represent a substantial proportion of the overall production of Quebec sawmills i n 1995. 7 Figure 1: Species Distribution While the results cannot be inferred on the population they do accurately portray the status of the sawmills representing 43% of the Quebec production in 1995. Thus the results are indicative of a substantial proportion of the Quebec sawmill industry. 2.5 Limita t ions of the Research Results of this analysis are not inferable to the population of sawmills in Quebec for several reasons. First, mills were selected using a non-random judgmental sampling scheme, which introduces a selection bias into the study. Second, non response bias was not tested, due to a lack of time and funds. A s a result, it is not known whether or not sawmills that did not participate in the survey would respond in a similar manner to those that did. Third , three types of survey instruments, mail surveys, follow-up telephone surveys and personal interviews, were implemented in this analysis. Unfortunately, while the information obtained in the three surveys was similar, the way in which data was collected varies, (i.e. the presence/absence of an interviewer, the scales that were incorporated in the responses, open-ended versus fixed-alternative questions, etc.). This introduces a systematic bias known as administrative error. Fo r these reasons, results of this analysis and, in particular, statements pertaining to sawmill production, technology and quality control programs, cannot be inferred onto the population of Quebec sawmills as a whole. However, it should once again be noted that the respondents i n this study accounted for 43% of the annual softwood sawmill production in Quebec. A s such, 8 results can be thought of as indicative of the Quebec sawmilling industry and represent a through qualitative assessment of this sector. It is recommended that this exploratory research form the basis of a scientific and quantitative benchmark study of the Quebec sawmilling industry. 9 Part II: Technologies 10 3. E Q U I P M E N T Equipment is indeed a very large topic to cover. The reason is simple; equipment in sawmills was, is and w i l l remain the key element of the transformation process. Hence, if a sawmill does not possess the equipment allowing one to process wood efficiently, its existence may be compromised. Comparing the resource available in 1950 to the one available i n the 1990s, it is possible to see a decrease of the Scribner log scale from 1 950 B F per log to 60 B F today. Also , in those years, a lumber m i l l could process 50 logs a day for a total of 100 000 BF/shif t while today, an average size m i l l w i l l process 3 350 logs daily for 200 000 B F (Huber 1996). Obviously, the significant reduction i n the total quantity of raw material available has changed the dynamic, and forced the manufacturers to improve the process. Unquestionably different kinds of equipment exist showing different performances; the literature review w i l l overview these tools, and the recent research results i n this field to improve performance and reliability of today's sawmills. 3.1 Literature Review 3.1.1 Review of the Different Existing Equipment Equipment used to process wood in sawmills is basically the same as it was twenty years ago and the manufacturing sequence is essentially the equivalent of those of the early 1900s' (Gephart and al. 1995). Equipment's evolution mostly relies on the little increments added to machinery as control systems or hydraulic systems, that did seriously improved the process without considerably changing the appearance of machinery. For example, through the years, the chariot coupled wi th circular saws, the favorite headrig device used by sawmillers in the 1950s, was slowly replace by band saws, to improve recovery and raw material loss due to the thickness of the kerf. After that, the chariot transportation device, a fairly slow device for transportation of wood, was turned into hatchet chains to increase the speed of the operation (Tropper 1995). Sawmill apparatuses were named based on the process step involved. We find debarkers, primary and secondary breakdown machines, edgers, trimmers, planners and classifiers. T o these can be added value-added products machinery such as k i l n dryers and drum debarkers for pieces of 11 wood that are not usable as lumber. Although, as previously mentioned, these did not considerably change in their appearance over the years, some mechanical improvements were added to the initial form of machines. Curve sawing is one example of these increments. A curve sawing machine is initially a bull edger to which infeed and outfeed rollers where added in order to follow a log's longitudinal curve when processing the piece of wood (Tropper 1995). The redesign of the bull into something more technically advanced and especially more efficient allowed the recovery of a significant amount of material. Such systems are giving to the owners stability, viability, recovery increments and precision in wood-cutting. For these reasons, mills are greatly satisfied a short time after installing such a device (Stirling 1996). This improvement can be qualified as a mechanical improvement. O n another mechanical level, the hydraulic part of the process certainly needs to be monitored and improved, as hydraulic devices are used to position the raw material before it enters the transformation device. Fifty years ago, no one would talk about such systems, today, they are mostly outdated because they are able not to sense the position of the material it transports. Tomor row is made of magnetostrictive position sensors. This device works using the old principle of magnetic field properties (Miller 1996). The combination of mechanical devices wi th electronic and computerized elements propelled the industry to a higher technological level. The creation of positioning tables combined these devices, allowing once again a substantial gain in terms of raw material as well as productivity coefficient. O n this matter, some producers argue that it allows an increase of 10% in raw material recovery (Lavertu 1994). Finally, electronic and computerized components added to the process are certainly the most technologically advanced technological elements used in the treatment. These devices contributed to improving the process by incrementing the control over the different steps along the conversion of logs into lumber. Lasers are pieces of electronics that were added parsimoniously along the process either to give the operator the best vision of the raw material, or simply to read the material for further use by computers. Computers, were also massively added to the process, allowing a better evaluation of the raw material, often taking the place of 12 the operator in analyzing data. In sawmilling, production is often a higher priori ty than quality. Machines are contributing to increased production rates (Tropper 1995, 1994). 3.1.2 Process Technologies M u c h more important than the equipment itself is the process technology, and management technologies. These technologies can be divided into continuous and discontinuous technologies, the first one represented by little changes occurring very frequently as incremental improvements (Cohen and Sinclair 1992). These were well described in the previous section. Undoubtedly, to maintain or improve a mi l l performance, the adoption of these innovative technologies is certainly a key element in today's run for market shares (Cohen and Sinclair 1990, Porter 1990). In 1987, research conducted in eastern sawmills of the United-States showed that the main reason for new equipment was to increase productivity and improve yield. In other words, increasing efficiency and volume is more important to these firms than diversification into new products or markets. (Bush and al. 1987) Cohen and Sinclair conducted research i n 1988 on the N o r t h American Structural Panels and Softwood Lumber industries concerning the use of innovative technology. The main conclusions of this survey were that Canadian producers had invested i n four fields of production: computerization, process monitoring, productivity increases and, measurement of wood intrinsic properties affecting engineering use. These four sectors are representative of the technological advancement of mills and, at that time were the answer to improvement and competitiveness, according to sawmillers. Unfortunately, the study did not go any further at that time, evaluating only nine variables of the production: M S R lumber, abrasive planer, T D A L drying, computerized edger, log merchandising, small kerf at the headrig, C o n t . / H i Temp. D r y , Comp. Log Carriage, Log Scan at headrig and automatic sorter (1989). Another important study was conducted i n Quebec from 1992 to 1993, jointly by the Natural Resource Minister and the Quebec Industrial Research Center (CRIQ) , trying to evaluate the productivity augmentation potential for the Quebec Softwood Sawmill. In order to establish indicators of this potential, they fixed analysis criterion for each process step. These were: 13 evaluation of the raw material, information obtained, processing procedure, implementation of the solution, and the principle regulating this operation. The main conclusion highlighted the need for increasing technologies, process control, and specialized workers i n the Quebec sawmills (Gravel 1993). Adopt ion of new technologies is also synonymous wi th equipment replacement. Historically, equipment substitution was established based on the functioning or the non-functioning of a mechanical piece or more simply, on the age of that machinery, without even thinking of performing any study or performance analysis. It has been shown that by such techniques as linear programming combined wi th performance studies and replacement analysis, considerable amount of money could be saved (Carino and al. 1995). Therefore, these conclusions highlight the growing need for studying production and ensuring sufficient human resources as well as financial resources are available to the engineering department. These process control activities w i l l therefore be discussed in the next chapter, the quality control activities. 3.1.3 Technological Improvements and Equipment's Adaptability Since equipment's technology is made of successive incremental improvements, it becomes difficult to measure the industry's amelioration over the years. Some researchers have tried to do it and interesting results emanate from these studies. In the administrative region called Abi t ib i -Temiscamingue, a large study was conducted in 1984. A m o n g the principal equipment pieces, 84 ring debarkers were counted, which represented an over-capacity. A t the first headrig, the favorite devices were the canter-canter, the canter-twin and the chip-N-Saw. Regarding the tr imming of lumber, only one m i l l used a trimmer optimizer, the others would use manual and automatic devices in a proportion of 82% and 14%. Overall , the conclusion draws the need of improving the optimization system to increase yield and performance, but judged the technology appropriate for the raw material available (Anonymous 1987). The C R I Q study, i n 1993, recommended the enlargement of the utilization of positioning table and electronic measuring systems for the headrig, the secondary breakdown and the edging stations. General conclusions stated that, the bigger a mi l l is, the more improvements it shows (Gravel 1993). 14 H o w is the Quebec Sawmilling Industry doing in 1995? This aspect is to be covered in the next section. 3.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile A sawmill is made of different pieces of equipment. Although each m i l l has its own preference according to different managers and builders, general tendencies can be described. In the following paragraphs, the preferences of Quebec's sawmillers w i l l be elaborated for each process step. 3.2.1 Processing Stations • 3.2.1.1 Debarking Debarking is usually among the first processing steps because by taking off the bark, it makes it easier to evaluate the raw material for further transformation and also, since wood chips are sent to papermills, they need to exclude impurities such as bark. The most widely used device for log debarking in the softwood lumber industry is the ring debarker. This is certainly due to the fast speed of such equipment in processing logs, and also because the size and nature of the raw material i n Quebec allow the use of this type of equipment. Out of 39 mills, 36 or 92% were using such a device as the primary system for this process step. T o complete the equipment used and to recycle residues, 6 mills also used a drum debarker as complementary unit to the ring device. T w o other mills used "cambio" debarkers, the main reason for it is that they were also transforming hardwood species that need special attention. Finally, one single m i l l did not debark the raw material as it was already done when the material came to the mi l l . 3.2.1.2 Bucking Stem bucking determines the length of the logs to be sawn. Contrary to common opinions, longer is not necessarily better, because if some defect can be eliminated, it can save money and time. Fo r stem bucking, many different pieces of equipment are used. Before expanding on the subject, it would be of interest to know that a new tendency can be observed more and more often i n the industry. This propensity is the appearance on the harvesting site of multifunctional units, that harvest trees and do the stem bucking in the field. Also , from the mills interviewed, 45% received only cut to length logs, and therefore did not need go through the bucking step. 15 Another 13% received partly bucked stems and partly tree length stems. For the mills performing the bucking operation, most of them used a multiple device (86%). For the other 10%, they used an individual system that would allow optimization. The last 4% rather cut the trees in the m i l l yard using mobile equipment. O n l y one of the respondent mills used a stem bucking optimization system. It is right after the bucking station that logs are sorted for the primary breakdown. That operation is performed 64% of the time. The use of scanners and lasers were used in 76% of the cases, otherwise, logs are sorted manually or in an automatic manner. There were also 6 mills using lasers and scanners to measure the logs without sorting. In other words, they measured the log and instantly sent it to the headrig center. In that case these lasers or scanners become part of the headrig optimization device. 3.2.1.3 Primary Breakdown A m o n g all existing devices for primary log breakdown, Quebec's most popular remains the canter, wi th a usage level of 29%. The second favorite is the canter-twin used in 28% of the respondent mills. The headrig equipment profile is presented in figure 2. Figure 2: Equipment Distribution at the Headrig, 30% 5 0 27% 12% 12% 7% 6% 5% 1 1 . Canter Canter-Twin Carriage Canter-Canter Twin Multifunctional Curve Sawing Equipment 16 It is interesting to note that 30% of the control system devices were still manually operated. Computer assisted devices were used in 48% of the sawmills. The remaining 22% were optimized devices. Regarding sawing patterns either used by computers or by human operators, the following graphic present these proportions. Figure 3: Number of Sawing Patterns Used 21 @ 40 More than 40 6 @ 10 30 ,8% Another important device in sawing lumber is the positioning system since this allows one to process wood exactly as evaluated. O n l y a third of the responding mills had a functional log turner to position the log before the headrig. Positioning tables, recognized as a highly advanced device to process wood, were used in only 5 mills (13% of the mills) at the headrig when the survey was conducted. 3.2.1.4 Secondary Breakdown A m o n g responding mills, only 36 required secondary breakdown. F r o m that number, 58% use a bull as the principal resawing unit. Horizontal saws were also used in 14% of the cases. The other mills used both horizontal and vertical devices. Globally, 73% of the machines are vertical array bulls and the other 26% were composed of horizontal devices. Most of the control of these apparatuses were computerized (73% of the cases). Positioning tables are used much more frequently for secondary breakdown than at the headrig, 10 mills (28% of respondents) utilized these computerized appliances for secondary breakdown. 17 3.2.1.5 Edging Edging is not needed for all mills, especially in the cases when logs are very small and a secondary breakdown is performed. In these cases, secondary breakdown is synonymous wi th edging. For the 29 mills having edging devices, most of them (80%) used bull edgers. The second tool used is the 3-faces edger, composed of saws and knives. 3.2.1.6 Trimming Exactly 95% of the respondent mills performed tr imming prior to drying. The most widely used device is the Canadian trimmer wi th two-saws, used in 52% of the mills. Fol lowing that one is the optimizer, wi th 45% of the mills employing it. The trimmer-optimizer is certainly the oldest optimizing device in sawmills and, therefore its usage is frequent. 3.2.1.7 Drying Drying , even if recognized as a major value-added process, is still not performed by all mills. Financial justifications are often evoked as the main reason for not having a dry k i l n in the yard. Nevertheless, 70% of the mills had their own drying k i ln . They might not be drying all their production but at least they dry a part of it. Dry ing technology has evolved in recent years allowing more and more kilns to be computerized. Eighty-seven percent of kilns in operations were optimized while the others were still manually operated. Eighty-seven percent of the mills used vapor kilns, followed by direct fire kilns, accounting for 11% of the devices. Finally, dehumidification units were used. Where things become interesting is that many mills used residues as a main source of energy. Actually, 70% of all units were residue powered; 59% sawdust and 11% bark. Although it seems logical to use gas because of its high performance, only 11% of kilns were operated with this type of fuel. Electricity and o i l were the least favorite device obtaining only 4% utilization each. 3.2.2 Engineering In spite of the fact that equipment constitutes a big part of the process, without engineering, wood transformation is simply not possible. In the engineering function is included all performance and utilization studies as well as modification decisions and design. 18 3.2.2. / Performance Studies Some mills never completed performance studies in 1995, wi th 6 mills out of 39 never running analysis on machine centers. Fortunately, among the other mills, 26 were regularly running such studies. Concerning the 7 other mills, they performed line studies if a problem occurs and they want to find the cause of this problem, or for example, if they want to change a machine. The responsibility for conducting these studies was under the quality controller i n 42% of the mills. Then, the engineer, if there was one, or a consulting firm managed the operation, each wi th an 18% response rate. Finally, some mills answered that the foreman was doing the job (15%). 3.2.2.2 Modifications Regarding the production lines' modification, the mills were asked who was doing it. In most cases (56% of the mills), internal resources were the ones responsible for redesigning the mi l l . In some other cases (33% of the mills), consulting firms were responsible. Other times, cooperation between internal and external personnel performed the necessary changes. What has brought the need of changing m i l l design? Most often (38%), m i l l managers answered that it was a question of increasing the efficiency and to obtain a better recovery coefficient. The second most frequent answer, wi th 24% of the response rate, was to increment productivity and to reduce machine breakage rate as principal motivations behind equipment changes. The third answer, cost reduction was definitely an important justification. 19 4. Q U A L I T Y C O N T R O L 4.1 Literature Review Quali ty is certainly the most " in" word of the decade, although it is not at all a new concept. In a sawmill, quality control can actually take multiple forms from the lumber size control, up to the process control and total quality management. The truth is that a wrong decision anywhere along the process is reducing the possibility of maximizing the raw material value by the end of the transformation process (Maness 1993). It has been said that the costs of improper quality and dimension classification can reach up to 25% of the annual budget of an enterprise. In Quebec, the non-quality costs $20 bil l ion annually, that represents 15% of the provincial G D P (Gilbert 1994). Therefore a skillful quality control program is needed. One tool that can be used is statistical process control. B y definition, it is a technique allowing one to monitor the production and identify when the process performs i n any other way than expected. It embraces lumber size control. Doing statistical process control has to be done regularly for it to be useful. Previous studies have shown that thickness variation, for example, was monitored about once a shift in the best cases (Maness 1991). It is not enough, especially knowing that most lecture devices required for real time process control are already installed under the form of scanners and material-optimizers and that therefore, they could be used to monitored the process (Maness 1993). The management of quality is often more important than the way data is taken, and programs that can lead to ISO standards are therefore crucial tools. Many firms at the present time provide help to industries wil l ing to implement such programs. The essential thing to remember is that the customer is king in all quality matter; the customer is the one who sets the definition for quality and the one who decides if your product is above or below their expectations (Hansen 1996, Gilbert 1994). H o w are the mills reacting to such new concepts in lumber production? The research conducted by Maness in 1993, shows that British-Columbian manufacturers' priorities were set on value recovery, volume recovery and finally on dimension uniformity. T o achieve this, they would 20 emphasize primary breakdown and then stem bucking, for it is there, according to their opinion, that quality is to be achieved and financial returns maximized. Regarding quality control programs, it has been shown that generally, mills producing specialty products mainly directed to overseas markets put more emphasize on quality control than mills producing commodity products (Maness, Cohen, Smith 1993). 4.2 Quebec Sawmi l l ing Industry Profi le Quali ty control is indeed a very large topic because many topics related to quality are grouped under that title. For this reason, many people are working for quality, and the time they are spending on quality is also very hard to quantify. That might explain that the costs of quality are not very well known. A m o n g the three fourths of mills who put a price on quality, 13% admitted not spending a penny on quality control. O n the other hand, 25% spent over $100 000 a year! This difference is enormous. In between these two extremes, 23% spend an average amount ranging from $50 000 to $100 000. For the rest of the respondents, they spent from $ 10 000 yearly up to $50 000. In mills spending over $100 000, it would seen that one person was i n charge of quality control on a full time basis. Indeed, 46% of the respondents have a full-time employee responsible for quality control. In another 23% of cases, a technician is in charge of this task, and i n 5% of the mills an engineer. For the other mills, a production or mechanics foreman managed quality control, when he had time. Different reasons and motivations behind quality control activities may explain a lot of this variation, as well as why some mills put money in such programs or simply hire a full-time employee responsible for Q C . If a manager does not believe i n the benefits of performing Q C , then, obviously, he w i l l not be able to give material support to this activity. Fo r that reason, respondents were asked about their priorities. Number one priority is definitely the customer wi th one fourth of respondents answers. In second position comes volume recovery as a major issue, representing 15% of respondents. Dimensional uniformity (13%), costs (12%), and value recovery (11,5%) were among other answers. Respondents were asked where i n the m i l l should 21 resources be invested to be sure to attain quality goals. In order, respondents listed headrig (28%), planning and tr imming (11,5% each), and drying (10%). 4.2.1 Quality Control Type M a n y types of quality control exist ranging from dimension control to preventive maintenance. What specific type of Q C is used in Quebec Sawmills? A n d how is this realized? The answers are detailed in the following paragraphs. First, it would be of interest to examine the distribution of such activities in sawmills, shown in table 2. T a b l e 2: Q u a l i t y C o n t r o l A c t i v i t i e s Activities Uti l izat ion (%) Dimension control 100% Standards 95% Machine Calibration 82% Preventive Maintenance 64% Quali ty Management 44% Logs' Identification & Source 44% Preventive Contro l 41% Measuring Devices Calibration 33% O n l y a few mills were using statistical process control, although they regularly take data on the production line. O n l y 61,5% of the respondents were systematically doing data analysis. Another 13% analyze data only if they have a problem. Moreover, only 59% of respondents could eventually establish the l ink between data at one work station and data from another work station. A n additional 10% of the respondents would be able to establish this relationship if a problem needed to be solved. Analysis in modern terms also implies the use of computer software packages, at least for the three fourths of the respondent. The favorite software is a spreadsheet (such as Microsoft/ Excel or Lotus 123) accounting for 75% of computer users. Fifty-eight percent used dimensions control software and 33% used a database. There is a new tendency towards customized software. It is not wide spread but current users were very satisfied because this software was created especially for one specific mi l l . These were i n use in 8% of interviewed mi l l using software in data analysis. A m o n g the reason cited for software use, 22 performance was cited most often wi th 68% of respondents. Another practical reason is the ease of use, mentioned 21% of the time. Addit ional questions were asked regarding the drying related Q C activities. Table 3 presents the results. Table 3: Q u a l i t y C o n t r o l A c t i v i t i e s Related to D r y i n g Activities Number of Mi l l s % of Respondents Moisture Content after Dry ing 28 71,8 Dry ing Process 27 69,2 Load Preparation 26 66,7 Equipment 25 64,1 Lumber Degradation 24 61,5 Species Separation 23 59,0 Y a r d Inventory 22 56,4 Moisture Content before Dry ing 10 25,6 4.2.2 Secondary Products Although secondary products have gained a lot of importance during the last years, their quality control seems to be insufficient. W o o d chips were definitely the most controlled product wi th 90% of mills performing some kind of control over chips' characteristics. This can easily be explained by the final destination of wood chips, which is paper mills. For that reason, chips need to be clear from bark, dirt, or any other contaminant material in order to produce homogeneous pulp. Hence, chip quality control was done directly at the pulp m i l l by pulp engineers or controllers. Analysis would then be sent to the sawmill wi th two or three days delay, making it difficult to correct sawing mistakes. Nevertheless, these numbers would be used for a better understanding the sawing process and the knife behaviors. It is still important to mention that some sawmill have their own "mini-laboratory" to perform studies on wood chips size, moisture or bark content. In that case, data is used as indicator for the on-going process, especially regarding the amount of bark left over by the debarkers. Unfortunately, the proportion of mills using such laboratories was not measured by the present study. 23 O n bark, 31% of the respondent were using some sort of control. Sawdust and shavings were controlled i n only 9 mills (23%). Most l ikely this analysis is related to boiler devices and burning control security. 4.2.3 Schedules Up-Dating Another aspect of quality control includes the reference table and schedules updating for on-line workers or for machines along the process. This operation is very important in achieving a high log recovery coefficient. Knowing that, the study showed that in 18% of the visited mills this schedule updating was simply not performed. Moreover, in another 10% mills, it was done only if a problem was detected. In other words, in roughly 30% of the sawmills, there was absolutely no consciousness about how the wood is sawn and about the amount of wood utilized. It is amazing to realize how much money is spent annually on high-tech equipment when resources are not available to do easy follow-up on basic parameters. Nevertheless, 56% of the respondents were regularly up-dating this schedule. Another 15% up-dated schedules if a major change occurs i n the price of lumber or in the raw material, which can also be considered as a regular schedule updating. The person responsible for that task was most often the quality controller (38%) or, a foreman (21%). Otherwise the engineer or the electrician would do it. 4.2.4 Preventive Maintenance Preventive maintenance is starting to be common in Quebec sawmills. Out of 39 mills, 25 were using a preventive maintenance program. F r o m these 25, 8 had a computerized system to manage equipment tune-up. Generally, the electrician or the mechanic would manage it (68%). Sometimes a foreman (16%) or an engineer (12%) would be responsible for this maintenance program. Another topic similar to maintenance is machine calibration which is more popular than preventive maintenance wi th 79% of respondent doing it on a regular basis. T o that proportion can be added another 18%, for mills performing calibration if a problem occurs. Responsibility for machine calibration was left to the electrician or the mechanics in 50% of the cases. The foreman or superintendent was responsible in 16% of the mills. A n operator or the quality controller were each responsible in 13% of the cases. 24 4.2.5 Communication Machine calibration, schedule updating, statistical quality control: all these have one point in common, they all generate data for analysis. In order that an analysis' be useful, the results need to be transmitted from staff to line-employees, as for any other important information generated anywhere in the mi l l organization. For that reason, managers were questioned on the means used to transmit information. The most frequent answer was that information was transmitted orally, in an informal way (36%). For other respondents, a regular meeting was the preferred method. (35%). A little less important, was written information, wi th a response rate of 30%. A closer look to that data set revealed that if you were a salaried employee, manager or foreman, you most l ikely attended regular staff meeting (42%) to gather all pertinent information regarding the m i l l operation, or you might get part of it in writing (35%). O n the other hand, if you are a line-employee or a member of the maintenance personnel, chances are that you receive news orally, the method most open to misunderstanding. Unfortunately, illiteracy and innumeracy are still a reality in many mills, although no one talks about it. In this case it makes written information useless and brings the training need to the forefront. The next chapter w i l l cover that topic. 25 5. T R A I N I N G 5.1 Literature Review In many countries, competitiveness is now synonymous wi th the employees' qualifications (Bernier 1996). The reason is indeed simple. The use of more specialized skills is an element of an economic vision by the enlargement of knowledge within an institution (Porter 1991). Knowledge resides in information and in training (Gilbert 1994). Besides, today's customers are more demanding; they want quality, quality assurance, and many other value added products. For example, products identified wi th bar codes are growing in importance these days, they need more versatile workers, wi th a broader knowledge. In addition, the increased use of computers and electronic devices creates the need for more specialized workers to keep them working properly. There are but a few reasons for the need to increase training i n industry. In 1987, Cohen and Sinclair conducted a study across the United States and Canada for which one of the conclusions underlined the importance of broadening the knowledge of the industry's structure, strategies, and characteristics in order to improve the global competitiveness of N o r t h American wood products industry (1990). Enlargement of knowledge is possible by increasing professional personnel training at the base itself; in the mills. Already, the Quebec Government introduced on January 1, 1996, the 1% policy, forcing managers to spend 1% of the annual gross salaries on training. Although this policy did not please all producers, it indeed increased the amount of training programs and sensitized most sawmillers to the importance of expenditures on such activities. It also puts professional personnel training at the center point i n enterprises by its impact on promotions, downgrading and hiring processes (Bernier 1996). According to Porter, there is a need to create a training culture. This increment must come from managers, not from workers or their union even though they can have a hand i n it (1991). Does Quebec have that culture? Is the social cohesion to implement a professional training culture existent i n Quebec? Some industrial relations comities have been implemented but that may not be sufficient (Bernier 1996). 26 Dur ing 1993, a study was conducted in Quebec to assess the management practices and training priorities i n the sawmilling industry. Eighty-eight coma eight percent of the on-line workers were enrolled in training activities and 69,8% of the salaried employees. M a i n training fields were, i n order, continuous improvement of quality, continuous improvement of productivity, preventive maintenance of equipment, quality control and assurance, and finally health and security at work. A m o n g the topics in which workers and management staff wanted to increase the training activities were lumber grading and equipment maintenance (hydraulic, pneumatic, etc.) (Anonymous 1994). Another study result showed that 55% of British Columbia sawmills spent a moderate amount of money, in between $1 000 and $5 000, on outside training activities. Also , another 30% of mills spent below $1 000 annually on this function (Maness 1993). It is important to know the importance given to training today in Quebec sawmills. 5.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile Training, as well as quality control, has a cost. Unfortunately, this value is sometimes very hard to measure because the separation between professional education, new employee training, and daily advice is difficult to draw. Furthermore, many people either from wi th in the business as well as consultants, are involved in this educational process which also complicates the cost evaluation task. Finally, training expenses sometimes includes employees salaries and on-line workers' replacement costs while they are in training. Indeed, it makes two different salaries to pay. F r o m course prices to employee salaries, training may represent a large investment. For that reasons, many managers can not evaluate annual costs of training activities. Nevertheless, 59% of respondents still gave a price. More than 38% spent over $20 000 annually on training activities while 13% did not even spent $5 000 a year. Contrasts are big. When sawmillers were asked to rate training importance on a scale ranging from 0 to 5 (5 being indispensable), 77% of them said 4 or 5, qualifying training as a very important or even a mandatory activity. Another 18% qualified training as important (3). The last 5% w i l l confess that training is not important or that they did not give any formal training to their employees. 27 The proportion of external versus internal training was inquired on an informative level, and results showed that 54% of training activities are given by external resources. About the type of training perform, an increasing number of people are now integrating continual training programs to their regular activities, wi th 51% of the respondent having such programs. Still too few people have a quality group inside their mills (only 20% reported having them). This is quite low considering the number of adherents to continual training programs who know that the two programs are closely related. The device most widely used is the posting board wi th 77% of the mills having boards to distribute information. Besides, as previously mentioned, illiteracy and innumeracy are problems often encountered in mills and therefore, it does not allow people wi th this type of problem to get the information posted on boards. 28 Part III : Products & Markets 29 6. P R O D U C T S & M A R K E T S 6.1 Literature Review Canada is the leading forest products exporting country in the world. Its export value accounts for 20% of the total wor ld export of forest products, they were worth $155 bi l l ion i n 1994. Its principal export commodity is softwood lumber. In 1994, the Canadian provinces sent abroad more than $11 bil l ion, or 46% of the total wor ld trade in softwood lumber. The principal importers are the United Kingdom, Western Europe, the United States, and Japan (Natural Resources Canada 1996). It is also important to know that the Pacific R i m constitute an interesting potential market, and a particularly extremely competitive market because of the emergence of new players as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil , Scandinavia, Chi le and New-Zealand offering highly competitive prices on commodity products (Natural Resources Canada 1996, Puttock 1994). In 1995, the major final destination of the Quebec softwoods was the Uni ted States, taking directly 61,4% of all our production. The next table presents the total distribution of the Quebec softwoods for 1995. Table 4: Quebec Shipments of Softwood Lumber for 1995 Country Shipment Canada 36,0% U n i t e d States 61,4% North-east 24,4% South 22,8% Center North 12,8% West 1,4% Over-Seas 2,6% Europe 1,3% Middle-East 1,2% Other 0,1% Source: Anonymous. 1996. L'industrie du sciage au Quebec Association des manufacturiers de bois de sciage du Quebec. 30 Unfortunately, the North-American market is cyclical (Natural Resources Canada 1996, Jean 1996). Therefore, to counter-balance these cycles, two solutions are often proposed: 1) increase the value-added products available, and 2) open the frontiers to overseas markets (Jean 1996). Before describing these options, there w i l l follow a discussion of production and product types. 6.1.1 Products Quebec's production of softwood is characterized by its spruce-pine-fir (s-p-f) class which provides 95% of its total production. Most of that production is of standard dimensions and increasingly, it takes the form of special size products (Jean 1996). A m o n g the softwood lumber, 2x3, 2x4, and 2x6 are the most favorite sizes accounting for 11, 42, and 19% respectively of the total Quebec production. Boards (1 inch thick lumber) are also produced but i n less important amounts, accounting for 12% of the total volume produced. Globally, studs represent 35% of production and dimension lumber accounts for the other 65% (Tropper 1995). One constraint is that from time to time, the raw material is changing, leaving huge amount of residues (slabs, edging, pallet stock, flitches, etc.) as new sources of raw material. Recently prices have declined for such residues as chips and wood waste. O n the other hand, prices have increased for round-wood supplies. One part of a solution could be green dimensioning, i.e. changing the basic production sequence to give a final shape to wood pieces before the drying. In other words, it means asking the consumer what he w i l l do wi th the product to be delivered, bringing the marketing strategies to the top level of the industry's priorities (Gephart and al. 1995). Another solution is to increment the value-added products, as described in the next section. 6.1.2 Value-added products The diversification into higher value-added products, among which engineered products are very important, is considered a future possibility (Natural Resources Canada 1996). " N e w engineered wood-products have been developed to meet the demands of the 21 s t Century" (Guss 1995). Indeed, this solution is one that many producers are wil l ing to try in the near future. Moreover, the fabrication of value-added products is possible not only for big mills but also for smaller size enterprises. Obviously, big firms are favored by their larger financial and material resources 31 because this allows the research and development function to be completed internally (Jean 1996). 6.1.3 Opening frontiers A s regards to broadening markets, it is important to know that export market demand depends on the need of the importing countries, the exchange rate, the availability and demand i n Nor th -America, and finally the tariff and non-tariff barriers (among which economical policies and treaties are very important) (Jean 1996, Puttock 1994). One impact of the North-American Free-Trade Agreement, is that the survival of enterprises in such a new competitive framework was linked to the development or acquisition of the most advanced technologies (Bernier and al. 1991). Other studies also concluded that Canada was not a leader of technological innovation (Anonymous 1989). 6.1.4 Distribution A s demonstrated by the study conducted in Quebec during 1993, the distribution chain for forest products was expected to become more direct wi th the reduction of intermediaries in the distribution chain. That makes producers and end-users closer to each other. Often, alliances w i l l result from this rapprochement. Frequently, alliances and especially the choice of manufacturers included in these groups is based on their aptitude to master the new information technologies and how good they can integrate these into their process (Jean 1996). Once again, it would be appropriate to find out where Quebec stands on this aspect. 6.2 Quebec Sawmilling Industry Profile 6.2.1 Products 6.2.1.1 Principal Products Quebec softwood lumber industry produces many different products ranging from the traditional dimension lumber to value-added products, including M S R lumber. It is important to remember that coniferous species are known and recognized for their strength properties, and for that reason, softwood sawmills are in essence producing structural lumber. Obviously the industry is a primary one, which means that treated wood as well as remanufactured wood as 32 trusses are not primary outputs for Quebec sawmills and therefore are not included i n these figures. The actual proportion for each type of products produced by respondent mills is presented i n figure 4. Figure 4: Production1 100,0% 90,0% 80,0% 70,0% -I 60,0% 50,0% -I 40,0% 30,0% 20,0% -I 10,0% 0,0% to <u . o b 10 O CD 2 C 0) 3 TO ^ w .a I I 0. d) i I 0i 6.2.1.2 Secondary Products Secondary products are gaining more importance in Quebec. Their increasing value means that if a m i l l can not get r id of its residues, it w i l l have to shut its production down. M a n y things are responsible for this fact. First, economics is an important one; burning residues is not allowed and, i f residues can not be sold, they w i l l have to be buried at a relatively high cost. Figure 5 presents the possible avenues for wood-waste products. 1 Dimension lumber: Surfaced softwood lumber of nominal thicknesses from 2 through 4 inches and nominal widths 2 inches and wider, designed for use as framing members. Boards: Surfaced softwood lumber of nominal thichnesses 1 inch. Structural joists and planks: Surfaced softwood lumber of nominal thicknesses from 2 through 4 inches and nominal widths 5 inches and wider Posts and timbers: Rectangular softwood lumber, rough or surfaced, of nominal thicknesses from 2 through 4 inches and nominal widths 2 inches and wider. Beams and stringers: Rectangular softwood lumber, rough or surfaced, of nominal thicknesses 5 inches and thicker, with nominal widths more than 2 inches greater than thickness. MSR: Machine stress-rated lumbers. 33 Figure 5: Secondary Products Use 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Wood Chips Sawdust Planing & Shavings Bark El Stocked • Burned B Burned • Other • Liters • Energy • Panels B P & P 6.2.2 Sales 6.2.2.1 Clientele The buyer is priority number one for the Quebec softwood lumber producers. Whereas, 60% of them affirmed that their clients and especially the client's opinion is imperative for the good health of a mi l l : without the customer, we are nothing, they said. Another 10% gave the customer and his opinion a grade of 4 out of 5 (very important), and 15% ranked them as important. That leaves still a 15% of the producers considering the client as non-important, the only thing that matters according to them is the production. For people who care about the buyer's perceptions, they have to collect customer information i n some way. Many mills simply referred to the sales department or just denoted the number of claims received to amass customer's opinion, respectively 37% of mills and 7%. Others conducted surveys (17%). Finally, 16% of respondents visited their buyers to inquire about their opinion, 13% asked for it when their clients visit, 11% of respondent did not collect these comments. 6.2.2.2 Where are we selling? The most important market for the mills surveyed as well as for the rest of Quebec is the United States. 50,5% of the 1995 production of the mi l l surveyed was directly sent to our American 34 neighbor. In the Canadian market, 19% went to Ontario and 2,5% to the Maritimes. Quebec kept 26% of the production. Adding all these numbers, the result tells that 98% of the production stayed within N o r t h America. The 2% left-over was sent overseas. A m o n g the most frequent overseas market cited, the United Kingdom gets 0,7% of the Quebec production, according to the survey. After the U K , the Middle-East accounts for a little more than one percent, and Asia less than one percent. Strangely the regions that seems to export the most are A b i t i b i and the Chaudiere-Appalaches, wi th a little from the Saguenay/Lac-St-Jean. 6.2.2.3 How do we sell? Regarding the distribution of the products, most of the time brokers were used. O n the Nor th -American market, 61% of the lumbers sales was transacted by brokers. In second position, always on the North-American market, agents gathered about 15% of the production. Otherwise, some manufacturers sold their product to other manufacturers or re-manufacturers, that can rework the primary products. This happened 13,5% of the time. Finally, direct sales to the retailer occurred in 10% of the cases. In overseas markets, agents are favored gathering 68% of the production. Otherwise, brokers were used. 6.2.2.4 Adaptability A last question was asked to manufacturers in order to verify the future perspective on market openings and production expansion. They were asked whether or not they could produce lumber for export, especially regarding metric dimensions and quality. In almost 70% of cases the answer is yes. So why so few mills export? Producers were very clear about this; the price is not right, especially when compared to sending softwood to the American market. Sawmillers stated that there must be a $100 premium over the North-American price to export overseas. Generally, sawmillers consider themselves being able to export, but it is important to remember that the Quebec sawmilling industry is a very traditional industry and distinctly non-liberal one. Fo r that reason, implementing a change is often a very long term operation. 35 Part IV: Technology-products-markets synergy 36 7. S Y N E R G Y Subsequent to the preliminary analysis of data, a more detailed analysis was conducted i n order to l ink the different technologies employed in mills across Quebec to their market penetration. The first observation is that only a few mills exported over-seas during 1995. Moreover, the diversity of their products was narrow. For these reasons, it was not possible to study the interactions between technology parameters and the final destination of Quebec production. The statistical method selected to investigate data relationships was a partitioning clustering technique, the K-means cluster analysis. Using this technique, it was possible to identify 4 clusters: two regarding the equipment optimization level, and two regarding the intensity of the quality control activities performed in the sawmills. In the following pages, the two analysis w i l l be presented, followed by a description of the 4 groups as well as the elements differentiating high technology mills from low technology mills. 7.1 Equipment T w o clusters were established based on the technological sophistication level of equipment. The first group includes 26 mills, while the second group consisted of the other 13 mills. The variables used for the cluster analysis are listed below, in Table 5. This table shows the final proportion of mills that answer yes to the initial question: do you use this piece of equipment? In order to perform the cluster analysis, all the initial data was coded in binary form; either the m i l l was using the equipment (1) or not (0). Then, the analysis was performed wi th the computer package SPSS asking to classify data into two clusters in a maximum of 10 iterations wi th a convergence criterion of 0,02. After that, the mills in each clusters were grouped. Table 5 presents the summary of the proportion of mills using each piece of equipment belonging to each cluster. The exponents a and b appears when there is a significance difference in the proportion or the average for each technology group. This difference was tested by an hypothesis test (z-test for proportion and t-test for means) at the 37 significance level of a=0,05. This is also valid for table 6, and all tables placed in appendixes. Table 5: Variables Used in Clustering the Equipment Technological Level Equipment Aspect Cluster 1 H i g h Technology Cluster 2 L o w Technology - Lasers-scanners for log 95.,7%a 18,8%b classification Headrig Computerized control 95,7%a 18,8%b Log-turner 52,2%a 6,3%b Positioning table 21,7%a 0,0%b Sawing patterns D o not know 0,0%a 25,0%b 0 @ 5 13,0% 25,0% 6 @ 1 0 34,8% 25,0% 1 1 ® 20 34,8% 25,0% 2 1 @ 4 0 4,3% 0,0% + de40 13,0% 0,0% Secondary breakdown Computerized control 56,5% a 63% b Positioning table 34,8% 12,5% Tr imming Trimmer-optimizer 69,6%a 0,0%b Dry ing Computerized unit 95,0% 70,0% What makes the difference between a m i l l rated wi th a high equipment technology level from a m i l l rated wi th a low level? Characteristics of each group are elaborated in the following paragraphs. A complete table presenting all results separated into each clusters is presented in appendix. 38 7.1.1 High Level The first observation regarding the high equipment level group is that the mills belonging to that group have a higher annual production than the ones of the second group. Possible explanations are that higher material and human resources are available to the first group. A mill technologically more advanced than others regarding equipment often requires lasers and scanners to read the logs prior to the headrig. The device used at the headrig will most probably be a canter-twin, with computerized control for the primary breakdown. It is also likely that a log-turner precedes the headrig to set the log defects on the proper side, often accompanied by a positioning table to complete the operation of log placement for sawing. The secondary breakdown will be computerized. For the trimming, optimizers are the most frequent devices used. Finally, drying is very important and most mills do dry their lumbers. Engineering, productivity and performance studies are regularly conducted. In this way, it becomes possible to closely follow the production output and sometimes suggest modifications to improve the effectiveness of the process. Most frequent answer among the mills' member of the high level group regarding the reason behind modifications is to increase efficiency and recovery. Quality control also has a major role for the high equipment level mills. For most of them, preventive quality control programs can be found. Both data collection and analysis are done on a regular basis. Most of them have such quality control programs because the dimensions' uniformity is crucial to them. In order to reach their quality goals, the bucking station is emphasized. Training also seems to be more important for these mills, and the average annual expenditure on training is higher for members of this group. Moreover, most of them are involved in a continuous improvement program. In summary, the mills rated with a high level of equipment are generally first class industry, leaders, and are recognized as such. These mills possess sophisticated and high-technology 39 equipment. In these mills, it is also possible to observe complete quality control programs and more training activities. 7.1.2 Low Level The profile of a m i l l belonging to the second equipment class is described as followed. First of all, it is generally a smaller sawmill than its counterparts, wi th a more family-based management type, and most likely located in the Bas-St-Laurent region. The equipment that can be find at the headrig device in this type of sawmill is typically a carriage or a twin. This primary breakdown is most often manually controlled wi th no precise sawing patterns employed. O n l y a few pieces of high-technology equipment (e.g. scanners, lasers, computers, or positioning table) can be found here. Tr imming is generally done manually using a Canadian trimmer type with two saws. The engineering department is a very small department most often organized and managed by a production foreman that also is in charge of the performance studies. These studies are done only when there is a problem to be solved. Regarding the tables up-dating of computers or the ones used by on-line workers, is done only when there is a major change i n price or raw material, otherwise, they remain unchanged. The electrician is most l ikely responsible for this up-dating operation. Finally, preventive maintenance is not used in these mills. Quali ty control programs found in mills rated low equipment level are of an elementary level. Sometimes data are collected but their analysis is done only if there is a production problem. Communication, in terms of management directions, study results, or other advice, is most l ikely transmitted to workers in an oral manner, irregularly, and informally. O n l y a little money is spent annually on quality control activities, and justification for quality control can be reduced to product appearance. The most important work center for quality goal achievement, if there is one, is the packaging of the final product. Training is rated 3 out of 5, or important, as well as the importance that is given to the customer's opinion. Often, client's comments are collected by the means of a survey. 40 In a few words, the mills rated lower equipment level are often family businesses where there is an enormous desire to do well . Unfortunately, the necessary knowledge and resources to play i n the major leagues are missing. 7.2 Q u a l i t y C o n t r o l The quality control activities performed by the Quebec sawmills in 1995 generated two levels of intensity as for the equipment; high intensity level in the quality control activities and low intensity level. The first cluster, or high intensity level in Q C activities regroup 26 mills, the 13 other mills belonging to the low Q C intensity level. The variables used to established these two clusters are presented in table 6. 41 Table 6: Variables Used in Clustering the Q C Intensity Level. Equipment Aspect Cluster 1 Cluster 2 High intensity Low intensity Schedule Up-dating Not doing it 7,7%a 38,5%b Price or raw material change 4,2%a 62,5%b If problem 16,7% 0,0% Regular 79,2%a 37,5%b Secondary products Chips, control 96,2% 76,9% Sawdust, control 30,8% 7,7% Shavings, control 30,8% 7,7% Bark, control 38,5% 15,4% Preventive maintenance Not doing it 19,2%a 69,2%b On paper 61,9% 100,0% Computerized 38,1% 0,0% Control activities Dimensions 100,0% 100,0% Machine calibration 80,8% 84,6% Measuring devices calibration 42,3% 15,4% Preventive control 57,7%a 7,7%b Standards control 96,2% 92,3% Log identification and source 53,8% 23,1% Planning station 96,2%a 69,2%b Chipping station 73,l%a 38,5%b Packing station 96,2%a 46,2%b Analyze No 0,0%a 76,9%b Yes 88,5%a 7,7%b If problem 11,5% 15,4% Links No 3,8%a 84,6%b Yes 84,6%a 7,7%b If problem 11,5% 7,7% Computer software None 4,5%a 100,0%b Spreadsheet 42,9% 0,0% Database 19,0% 0,0% Sawing dimensions 33,3% 0,0% Other 4,8% 0,0% Most likely mills belonging the high equipment sophistication level also belong to the high intensity level in the quality control activities. The next table presents the existing relationships between the equipment and quality control clusters. 42 Table 7: Mills distribution in the different clusters. Equipment, high level Equipment, low level Total Q C , high level 20 6 67% Q C , low level 3 10 33% 59% 41% 100% It is then possible to draw the picture of each cluster of quality control activities' intensity. It seems of interest to know that in most cases, characteristics from the first class of Q C activities' intensity are the same as for the high level of equipment sophistication. A complete table presenting all aspects covered by the research and regrouping variables under the different clusters can found in the appendix. 7.2.1 High Level The most frequent log bucking equipment in sawmills showing high intensity of Q C activities is the multiple device. A t the headrig, most mills have a canter-twin unit. Often, a positioning table is found at the secondary breakdown, plus a trimmer optimizer to complete the sequence. Engineering is frequent for these mills. Schedule up-dating for example is done on a regular basis. Most of the equipment calibration is done by the electrician, responsible for this task. Qual i ty control activities are important to high intensity Q C mills. Their first concern is to perform a preventive type quality control. Moreover, it is possible to observe quality control at the planning, chipping, and packing steps of the process. Data analysis is regularly done, and the l ink between the different processing steps is established constantly. Most often, the person responsible for the quality control program is the m i l l technician. Great importance is given to quality control and for that reason, financial resources attributed to quality control activities are also high. The most important process steps for these firms are the secondary breakdown and the planning. 43 Quali ty is important, as is training. A lot of money is therefore invested in personnel training. Most mills belonging to that cluster are also involved in a continuous improvement program. A propos, it is interesting to know that regardless of the level for equipment sophistication or the intensity of quality control activities, the more money that is invested in quality control activities, the more money that is also spent on personnel training. It seems as though quality control and training were directly related. This connection has been shown i n 49% of the cases. The last differentiation between high and low intensity level in the Q C activities is about the customers. For the members of the first group, buyers are indispensable and all means are used to get closer to that client in order to better serve his needs. 7.2.2 Low Level A s for the low equipment sophistication level, mills belonging to the low Q C activities' level are mostly located in the Bas-St-Laurent region. Perhaps they are smaller but this size difference is not significant to conclude this. Regarding the equipment used in processing logs, often a carriage can be found at the headrig. The other pieces of equipment used throughout the m i l l are not of one special kind. The engineering department is generally a small department, when it does exist. In that way, the schedule up-dating w i l l be done only if there is a major change in prices or raw material, otherwise they are kept unchanged. For these firms, quality is often synonymous wi th productivity increases or the reduction in machine downtime. N o preventive maintenance and no data analysis is here done. It is indeed an elementary quality control program. Furthermore, very often there is no quality controller, and if by any chance there is one, it would be the engineer. For all these reasons, quality costs are most of the time unknown. Training is, in these mills, considered as important and therefore receives a mark of 3/5. Customers opinions are not very important, and are not collected. 44 7.3 Summary T w o major tendencies can be observed from the four clusters previously described. The first one is that the high-tech group, aware of the details that make the difference, also have the financial and material resources to serve the client better. O n the other hand, there is the familial business, wi th a tremendously high level of w i l l but without the technological means to achieve desired results. The next chapter draws the conclusions of this research, presenting hypothetical solutions and potential strategies to improve the Quebec sawmilling industry based on the results of this study. 45 8. DISCUSSION: I M P R O V I N G T H E INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE Quebec sawmills generally showed a relatively high technological level for the equipment used i n processing wood. Twenty-five percent of the respondents said that they spend over $100 000 annually and another quarter are motivated by quality control activities putting their customers at the top of their priorities list. The Quebec forest industry has always been exemplified by their high technological level and the adaptability of lumber manufacturers which maintains Quebec as the second largest producing province of softwood lumber. Nevertheless, Quebec must embrace the reality of globalization. A s a consequence, the industry must take steps forward to better serve its clients and maintain or gain international market share. This evolution has to be taken by improving the technology used in mills. Energy, resources and time should be invested in quality control techniques and personnel training programs since much of the equipment is already at a high technological level. The next section presents recommendations concerning this industry progress. 8.1 Potential Strategies and Possible Orientations Cluster analysis for quality control intensity and equipment sophistication level underlined some general tendencies of both high technology mills and low technology mills. These tendencies are reviewed in the next paragraphs, as well as some comments given by leading sawmillers during the interviews. The first consideration concerns equipment. It was clearly established that all leading edge technologies are very important. A m o n g these equipment types, the following are typical standards for the high technology mi l l , as shown by the cluster analysis: • Lasers and scanners, adding precision when reading pieces of wood for further transformation; • Positioning table and log turners, allowing wood pieces to be processed exactly as analyzed; 46 • Computerized process control in order to optimize sawing performance; • A l l optimizing devices; • Finally, wood drying. T o improve the technological level of Quebec softwood sawmills, equipment enhancement could be accomplished wi th the addition of control systems used to process logs (only 22% of the mills used optimized devices at the moment of the data collection). A s shown by the survey, lasers, scanners, and computers are other elements that can help facilitate the process, and therefore their use should be increased. The earlier in the process sequence that control is put i n place, the better the conversion of the raw material. Contro l starts at the log bucking station since, at this process step, everything along the sawmilling line can still change. Adding to equipment is a good start but may be insufficient. Engineering, performance studies, and production control are also very important variables in improving the technological level of a m i l l as indicated by low use in low technology rated mills. Likewise, those responsible for these tasks should be carefully chosen such that their specialization w i l l improve the efficiency of the operation. In addition, preventive maintenance seems to be of great interest to assure longevity of equipment and in managing mi l l operations (low technology cluster members did not use preventive maintenance systematically; 43,5% of the members of the low equipment cluster did not use it, and 69,2% of the low quality control level members did not use it). Regarding quality control, the time and resources given to these activities need to be increased. Thirteen percent of the respondents said that they were not spending money at all on quality control when the data was collected. Preventive quality control programs, allowing for a continual control on the wood transformation, are without a doubt the best choices; 57,7% of the members of the high quality control intensity cluster had such programs. Qual i ty control activities should be planned for every process step, including packing, chipping and planing operations. Statistical quality control should also be used more widely, including data collection and analysis on a daily basis as proven by the 88% members of the high intensity clusters for quality control. Many computer packages are now available. They should be used 47 and education is necessary so that more people can use them. A good way to widen their use is by giving the responsibility to education establishments. Another possible solution is the creation of discussion group within the different regions of the province so that different workers would could meet and exchange ideas. Personnel training also needs to be emphasized as it brings together equipment, quality control and process control in maximizing the raw material value. Training in a m i l l starts wi th communication wi thin different working levels (e.g. from the manager to the on-line worker). Research demonstrated that mills rated technologically high communicated more often i n written form and also met more often. Written information is more accurate than verbal communication and costly errors tend to be avoided. Likewise, regular meetings could provide the best means to transmit exact information to many workers, at once. Moreover, a meeting allows for the possibility of group discussion and problem solving. Continuous improvement programs are the favorite way of making employees motivated, as shown by the large amount of members of higher technological clusters enrolled in such program. Such programs indeed allow the specialization of workers and mills, at the same time as increasing the technological level of an industry. In 1995, the Quebec softwood market was almost exclusively North-American (98% according to this study) for many reasons including natural catastrophes (as major floods that occurred in the U . S . during 1995). T o remain internationally competitive, the market for Quebec's lumber needs to be enlarged and the products diversified. For now, Quebec's production is synonymous wi th the dimension lumber produced by all mills visited. T o integrate other markets, a shift to value-added products appears as a good solution. Moreover, many intermediaries are used in selling wood to every markets. These intermediaries keep the customer away from the producers, making it very difficult to gather feedback. Fo r all these reasons, it is of interest to get closer to the customer by reducing intermediaries, and i n that way, it would be much easier to produce exactly what the buyer wants. 48 8.2 Summary The Quebec softwood sawmilling industry is one that always seeks the opportunity of new technology to improve its performance. Consequently, many high technologies are found in mills, including a lot of scanners and optimizing devices, as shown by this research. The mills rated w i th high technology indicators were generally bigger in size and used more technologies than their counterparts. Hence, the next step in increasing the technological level of Quebec sawmills, besides the addition of equipment, includes focusing on human resources. Quali ty control and personnel training are two means to achieve this operation. Moreover, market knowledge also seems of prime importance and should therefore be widen. Using the leading equipment already installed in mills as well as existing human resources is the first step in maximizing the value of an always decreasing raw material resource and hence, enlarge the Quebec softwood industry. 49 9. R E F E R E N C E S 1. Anonymous. 1996. L'industrie du sciage au Quebec. Association des manufacturiers de bois de sciage du Quebec. 2. Anonymous. 1996. The State of Canada's Forests 1995-1996. Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service. 112 pp. 3. Anonymous. Novembre 1994. Analyse des pratiques de gestion et des priorites de formation dans l'industrie quebecoise du sciage 1994-1995. Societe quebecoise du developpement de la main-d'oeuvre. 4. Anonymous. 1989. S'adapter pour gagner. Rapport du conseil consultatif sur l'adaptation, Ottawa. Approvisionnement et Services Canada. 10: 77-96. 5. Anonymous. Mars 1987. 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Who does these tasks? 1.2.2 QC • Q C programs, what are they? • Amount of time and resources given to such programs? • Company philosophy: why is Q C important? What are the most critical process station to achieve your quality goals? • Data analysis: Who, when, how? • Q C report: Who, when, how? • Communication • Software used and why. • Who is affected to Q C ? (Number of people, study level, etc.) • Customers' opinion: Is it important? H o w do you measure their satisfaction? 1.2.3 Training • Is it important? • Programs? • Resources? • Who is responsible? 60 1.3 Products • What are they? • H o w are they sold and distributed? • Where are they sold? • R & D for new products? 1.4 Markets • Why do you export over-seas? • What in the production need to be change in order to send part of the production overseas? • What are the overseas customers requests? 61 w CQ < H - J o O o S 1 3 Qr LU 5 -2 CD ^ —' S =: oo o T -- J >o . 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