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Product life cycle and determinant attributes : an investigation of the Japanese structural panel market Welbourn, Derek George


Japan is the largest structural panel importer in the world and currently consumes predominantly plywood. Oriented strand board (OSB) has been available in Japan since the early 1990's but has made only modest inroads. For example OSB represented 2.5 percent of the Japanese structural panel market in 1999 and has averaged approximately 2 percent for the previous 5 years. By utilizing the product life cycle concept to compare the development of the Japanese structural panel market to that of North America, there is evidence to suggest that OSB could be positioned for significant growth in Japan. However, whether OSB becomes a dominant structural panel in the Japanese market will depend on how well it can meet the critical needs of panel customers. In order to assess which characteristics of a structural panel have a significant effect on Japanese customers', a determinant attribute analysis was done. Questionnaires were filled out during personal interviews with Japanese structural panel purchasing companies that included trading houses, distributors and builders. The determinant attribute analysis identified the critical characteristics that Japanese panel customers consider when making purchasing decisions as being (in order of significance): Competitive Price, Thickness Swell, Panel Size, Shipment Arrives In Good Condition, Long-term Supply, Formaldehyde Emissions, Environmental Forestry Practices, Uniform Panel Thickness and Linear Expansion. The determinant attribute analysis suggests that OSB is not ready to immediately enter into the growth phase of the product life cycle in Japan. OSB needs to improve its performance on the technical determinant attributes and maintain competitive pricing relative to competing panel products. The relevance of these results could be substantially altered if the demand for structural panels in Japan was to change significantly, which could be the case with the trend towards structurally improved building methods in Japanese traditional homes.

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