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A survey on high-value recovery manufacturing in European sawmill industries Chrestin, Hauke

Abstract

Lumber manufacturing technologies in British Columbia's sawmill industry originally developed for high volumes of commodity products to be produced at high speed nowadays turn out to be inflexible and prevent sawmills from producing custom-tailored, high-value lumber products that would give them a competitive edge on today's world markets. In European sawmills, on the other hand, value is often added to lumber not only through drying and planing but also, for instance, by strength grading of structural lumber or the manufacture of products such as gluelam, roof trusses, edge-glued panels, and more. The production strategy of many European mills is customer-oriented and product-driven; cutting-to-order is standard rather than an exception. By means of a qualitative survey, sawmills in Europe were interviewed about their raw material supply, processing technologies, product mix, and marketing techniques. A two-page questionnaire in three languages was mailed to nearly 1,600 companies in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland selected in a modified simple random sampling procedure. Approximately 300 companies replied, about 70% of which returned a completed survey. Almost all of these mills began optimising the extraction of high-value wood products already on their log yards where they sorted logs by diameter, species, and according to the intended purpose. Many mills were specialised for certain lines of products and processing technologies were well tuned to the mix. The majority of the interviewed mills were cutting between 60% and 100% of their production to specific customer orders, and besides standard dimension lumber many of them also produced gluelam, laminated window stock, and other secondary products. Based on the survey, recommendations are made to softwood lumber producers in British Columbia and throughout Canada on how they can change their manufacturing strategies to achieve a value-uplift of their production output and how more jobs per tree felled can be generated.

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