Friday Offcuts 22 July 2016
We cover a story this week on the “rise and rise” of industrial robotics in the powerhouse of global manufacturing, China. As the country's working age population shrinks, the supply of lower paid unskilled workers is drying up, the minimum wage is rising and the demand for Chinese goods globally starts to ease, Chinese companies increasingly are turning to robotics and automation for their manufacturing operations.
It’s being described as a revolution in Chinese (read global) manufacturing. Guangzhou for example is aiming to have 80 percent of their manufacturing operations automated by 2020 (four years from now). A growing number of industries are adopting the technology as robots become smaller, cheaper and much easier to use. According to Goldman Sachs, it now only takes on average 1.3 years for an industrial robot in China to pay back its investment. In 2008 payback was 11.8 years. The shape of manufacturing as we know it is changing – and changing rapidly. It's going to impact on this region sooner than you think. Further details and a link to the story is contained in this week’s issue.
More news again this week on engineered wood products and tall timber buildings. On the plus side, globally, new research is projecting that engineered wood products are going to continue their stellar run with the market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 26% through to 2020. On the other side, the booming success of cross laminated timber as a building material is obviously making itself felt. On Monday, the US industry advocate for concrete came out with some fairly inflammatory (excuse the pun) statements along with a new video. In them, they're questioning not only the use of timber for construction but are specifically targeting safety around the use of CLT in the family home. Take a look at the video in the story below.
Finally, every week it appears that yet another tall timber building project is being announced. This time it’s a residential tower for Vancouver that its developers claim will be the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world. You’ll remember a month or so ago, PLP Architecture and researchers from the University of Cambridge revealed a concept for London's first wooden skyscraper – a 300-metre-tall building. The architect that’s being commissioned to design the new Vancouver tower is well known to Kiwi’s. It's the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. He's renowned for his work with wood-based products like paper and cardboard tubes and of course was involved in designing the temporary cathedral that was opened in August 2013 for earthquake-hit Christchurch. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Robot revolution sweeps China's factory floorsIn China's factories, the robots are rising. For decades, manufacturers employed waves of young migrant workers from China's countryside to work at countless factories in coastal provinces, churning out cheap toys, clothing and electronics that helped power the country's economic ascent.
Now, factories are rapidly replacing those workers with automation, a pivot that's encouraged by rising wages and new official directives aimed at helping the country move away from low-cost manufacturing as the supply of young, pliant workers shrinks.
It's part of a broader overhaul of the economy as China seeks to vault into the ranks of wealthy nations. But it comes as the country's growth slows amid tepid global demand that's adding pressure on tens of thousands of manufacturers.
With costs rising and profits shrinking, Chinese manufacturers "will all need to face the fact that only by successfully transitioning from the current labour-oriented mode to more automated manufacturing will they be able to survive in the next few years," said Jan Zhang, an automation expert at IHS Technology in Shanghai.
Shenzhen Rapoo Technology Co. is among the companies at ground zero of this transformation. At its factory in the southern Chinese industrial boomtown of Shenzhen, orange robot arms work alongside human operators assembling computer mice and keyboards. "What we are doing here is a revolution" in Chinese manufacturing, said Pboll Deng, Rapoo's deputy general manager.
The company began its push into automation five years ago. Rapoo installed 80 robots made by Sweden's ABB Ltd. to assemble mice, keyboards and their sub-components. The robots allowed the company to save $1.6 million each year and trim its workforce to less than 1,000 from a peak of more than 3,000 in 2010.
Such upgrading underscores the grand plans China's communist leaders have for industrial robotics. President Xi Jinping called in a speech last year for a "robot revolution" in a nod to automation's vital role in raising productivity.
Authorities have announced measures such as subsidies and tax incentives over the past three years to encourage industrial automation as well as development of a home-grown robotics industry. Some provinces have set up their own "Man for Machine" programs aimed at replacing workers with robots.
Guangdong, a manufacturing heartland in southern China, said in March it would invest 943 billion yuan ($148 billion) to encourage nearly 2,000 large manufacturers to buy robots, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Guangzhou, the provincial capital, aims to have 80 percent of manufacturing automated by 2020.
A relentless surge in wages is adding impetus to the automation revolution. China relied on a seemingly endless supply of cheap labour for decades to power its economic expansion. That equation is changing as the country's working age population stops growing and more Chinese graduate from university, resulting in a dwindling supply of unskilled workers, annual double-digit percentage increases in the minimum wage and rising labour unrest.
Deng said Rapoo's wage bill rising 15-20 percent a year was one big factor driving its use of robots. "Frontline workers, their turnover rate is really high. More and people are unwilling to do repetitive jobs. So these two issues put the manufacturing industry in China under huge pressure," he said.
China's auto industry was the trailblazer for automation, but other industries are rapidly adopting the technology as robots become smaller, cheaper and easier to use. It now only takes on average 1.3 years for an industrial robot in China to pay back its investment, down from 11.8 years in 2008, according to Goldman Sachs. More >>
Concrete Association now questions CLT safetyOn Monday this week, Build with Strength, a coalition of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) in the US, released a new video expressing their concerns with the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) in construction. The video joins an ongoing effort to inform the design / build and construction communities about the importance of utilizing strong and resilient building materials in the Seattle, Washington market.
"Within the United States, cross-laminated timber is really a new material, a new process," said Jon Narva, Director of External Relations for the National Association of State Fire Marshals. "We still don't know a lot about it, we're trying to understand better how to protect the public with those buildings frankly coming into being. It's certainly a fair statement to say we understand concrete and what it's going to do under fire conditions better than we do cross-laminated timber."
“If you're not building with concrete, you're playing with fire. There's no substitute for building with strength, and in the case of homes for families, the potential for disaster with Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) is simply too great at this time” is the message being pedaled by the NRMCA.
The nature of timber alone should give reason for pause; it's prone to fire, termites, earthquakes, and humidity. At the moment, sufficient testing has not taken place to verify the durability and strength of CLT.
Last year, Washington State experienced the largest wildfire in state history, during which 175 homes were destroyed and more than a million acres burned. Should such an event happen again, the best bet would be to make sure one's residence is built with the most resilient material available: concrete.
"Before designers and builders, and even legislators, proactively encourage the use of wood products in construction, especially in the low- to mid-rise residential sector, greater testing must take place," said Kevin Lawlor of Build With Strength. "There's no substitute for building with strength, and in the case of homes for families, the potential for disaster with CLT is simply too great at this time."
Source: Build with Strength: A coalition of the NRMCA
Key line-up of value chain specialists for SeptemberTransport currently contributes around 30-40% of delivered log costs. The opportunities for the forest products industry to improve efficiencies, productivity and safety within the supply chain is significant. Two years ago, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) ran a wood transport and logistics event that ran in both New Zealand and Australia. Over 300 forestry managers, harvest and resource planners, transport schedulers and trucking operators from throughout the region attended.
The focus in 2014 was on new innovations, operating practices and technologies that had the potential to significantly improve efficiencies through the wood supply chain. The two-day programme identified a number of key areas where immediate gains could be made; harvesting, skid site operations, log transport planning, truck scheduling and innovations around log storage, handling and marshalling at our ports.
Changes since the 2014 event have been significant. Increased industry collaboration has resulted in improved economies of scale. This has enabled participating companies to step outside traditional supply chain models. This trend is already being felt within the wood supply chains of both countries.
Some of the key presenters involved in this year’s technology series, Wood Flow Optimisation 2016 include;
Mark Rance, ICT Manager, ANZCO Foods, New Zealand (Director, GS1 New Zealand).
Mark is a member of the senior Management team at ANZCO Foods, one of New Zealand’s largest Meat companies and an IT professional with over 20 years’ experience in the Agri-business sector. Mark is also a director of GS1 New Zealand. As part of the senior leadership team, he has taken a leading role in ANZCO’s journey from a NZ$30M business to one with a turnover of NZ$1.6B and operations in 8 countries.
Mark has taken an active role in a wide range of industry wide initiatives including a number investigating improved supply chain visibility and traceability, using RFID and the adoption of GS1 open standards and data. Mark will be presenting in the New Zealand leg of the upcoming series on traceability within the supply chain.
Scott Brownlee, Chief Executive Officer, Coda Group, New Zealand
Scott is the Chief Executive of Coda Group, one of New Zealand’s leading freight management companies, formed in May 2015 as a joint venture between Port of Tauranga and Kotahi. Scott was previously Chief Executive of Dairy Transport Logistics, the Fonterra-owned entity that is now part of Coda. This follows a 15-year career in the supply chain sector, including in Fonterra and as a supply chain consultant with PwC and IBM.
Scott will detail the benefits of “real scale” by stepping outside traditional supply chain options. Coda, having relationships with over 60 of New Zealand’s leading domestic logistics providers, has been able to leverage the benefits of collaboration that are difficult to achieve through traditional supply chain options.
Owen Trumper, Chief Operating Officer, OneFortyOne Plantations, Australia.
Owen is well known in the forestry industry having had an extensive international background in forestry, specialising in harvesting, transport and general supply chain management. Previously he had spent 8 years as the Gippsland General Manager for HVP in eastern Victoria (Gippsland) overseeing the community relations, establishment, harvesting and sales of the estate.
Prior to this role he has held various senior forest management positions in New Zealand and British Columbia. Owen, as part of the Australian leg of the upcoming Wood Flow Optimisation 2016 series will provide an insight into issues, opportunities and drivers for change within Australia’s wood supply chain.
The two-yearly technology event is being run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 14-15 September and then again for the Australian forestry and wood transport industries, the following week on 20-21 September in Melbourne. Full details on the programme for both venues can be found on the event website, www.woodflow.events.
Harvesting in Victoria’s Central Highlands worth AU$573 mA newly released study has found timber harvesting in Victoria’s native forests north-east of Melbourne generates AU$573 million worth of economic activity each year. The study was undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics (DAE) and focussed specifically on the Central Highlands Regional Forest Agreement area which covers 623,000 hectares of public land to the north-east of Melbourne.
VicForests CEO, Robert Green, said AU$573 million in revenue is generated as a result of timber harvesting operations on 0.3% of the public land in the region each year. “This study is a fact-based analysis of the economic benefits provided by any part of the native timber industry in Victoria and the findings highlight the important economic contribution the industry makes to our economy”.
“DAE found native timber harvesting in this specific region of Victoria alone supports more than 2,100 direct jobs. “Other studies suggest there are thousands more jobs in secondary processing and further downstream manufacturing that rely on timber from this region in addition to the direct jobs recognised in this latest report.” Mr Green said.
Mr Green said DAE modelled the impact of the native timber industry in the Central Highlands RFA area on Victoria’s economy using its Regional General Equilibrium Model (DAE-RGEM) which predicts changes in measures such as GDP, employment, export volumes and investment. DAE is Australia’s pre-eminent economic advisory practice and this study used conservative assumptions to ensure the findings were robust and can be widely distributed.
Another report recently released by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) suggested it costs AU$5 million to create a single job in the native timber industry in Victoria. Mr Green said that this report ignores the revenue generated by primary processing of native timber in Victoria, as well as the thousands of associated jobs that are required for processing timber after harvesting and haulage operations”.
A full copy of the DAE report is available to view at www.vicforests.com.au
NZ log export volumes and prices increase in 2016New Zealand continues to be the world’s leading exporter of softwood logs followed by Russia and the US. These three countries accounted for almost 50% of globally traded logs in 2015, with a majority being destined for the Chinese market, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ).
New Zealand is exporting over 50% of the country’s total harvest in log form. In 2015, New Zealand exported 14.7 million m3 of Radiata pine logs, of which almost ten million m3 was shipped to China. This was down from a record high of almost 12 million m3 in 2013. In late 2015 and early 2016, Chinese log buyers became more active in the New Zealand log market with shipments increasing from 1.8 million m3 in the 3Q/15 to 2.5 million m3 in the 1Q/16.
However, during the first five months of 2016, total NZ shipments to Asia have increased slightly with 2016 year-to-date volumes being two percent higher than the same period in 2015. The biggest rises so far this year have been in shipments to India and South Korea, while exports to China were down 10%.
The good news for log exporters in New Zealand over the past 12 months has been the steady increase in log export prices. The average log export price in May of this year was 36% higher than its six-year low in September last year. The FOB prices for the major destinations in May 2016 had converged to a range of US$100-106/m3, reports the WRQ (www.woodprices.com).
Over the past four years, prices for logs exported to Asia have been on a roller-cost ride, averaging just over US$90/m3 in 2012, reaching an all-time high of US$130/m3 in the 1Q/14, falling to US$82/m3 in the 3Q/15 (the lowest level since 2010), then rising significantly in early 2016. These export log price fluctuations have strongly impacted the price trends for both sawlogs and pulplogs consumed by the domestic forest industry in New Zealand over the past ten years.
Source: www.woodprices.com, Scoop
Northland forestry award winners celebratedA self-driven, go-to man scooped the pool at the inaugural Northland Forestry Awards that ran in Whangarei, New Zealand last Friday. Nigel Harrison walked off with the Northland Forestry Skilled Professional of the Year as well as the Harvesting Excellence Award.
The 39-year-old father of two from Wise on Wood was the toast of the sold-out formal dinner, which attracted 280 people to Toll Stadium in Whangarei where the very entertaining Eric Rush was MC.
The multi-skilled Harrison can do any task in a ground-based logging crew – from faller to digger operator, loading, fleeting, shovelling, operating a harvester processor and falling, a skidder, bulldozer, forwarder and more. He’s the one who leads by example, who prides himself on making sure the forest owner gets all they can from their stand. Harrison is considered the go-to man for many in the Northland industry, who call him for advice, to bounce ideas, or just ask his opinion . . . and he’s always happy to help.
In 2013 he became a FITEC (now Competenz) assessor, following that a year later with contract training and assessing for North Tec. He is known for his attention to health and safety and environmental unit standards believing they go hand in hand with the hands-on tasks.
Harrison was introduced to the world of wood when his family started logging exotic trees, and milling them to build houses. He gained a national certificate in carpentry and discovered what was to become a life-long passion. He continued in the family business with his parents and older brother for more than 20 years, creating a very successful ground-based harvesting operation between them.
Tombleson Logging also did well this evening, with the family taking home the Forestry Family of the Year Trophy and employee Jeremy Gunner winning the Trainee of the Year certificate.
Hancock Forest Management northern area manager Andrew Widdowson, who is the spokesman for the Northland Forestry Health and Safety Group, the organisation behind the establishment of the Awards campaign, was delighted with the response to the inaugural awards. “It is great to see many from the wider industry getting in behind the event,” said Widdowson. “It is all about lifting the profile of forestry in Northland and an opportunity to recognise the experience, commitment and skill of all involved.”
He highlighted particularly those who are held up as real role models through a range of different operations that make up the industry – from engineering through to distribution. “It’s a real celebration for us all.”
Widdowson is confident a strong foundation has now been set for the awards going forwards for an industry that is a significant contributor to the regional economy. “The whole process for our awards will improve over time,” he said.
Photo: Left - Andrew Widdowson, representative Northland H & S Forestry Group with Nigel Harrison, Wise on Wood winner of Northland Forestry Skilled Professional of the Year
Google Earth's new mapping system for forest managersNew images released recently by Google Earth from the Landsat 8 satellite are giving viewers a crisp, stellar glimpse of our planet. In a blog post, Google Earth Engine program manager Chris Herwig explained exactly how the updated technology takes the satellite view of earth from extraordinary to breath taking.
According to Herwig, the new images harness the power of the Landsat 8 satellite. Google Earth had relied on images from the satellite’s predecessor, Landsat 7. However, Landsat 7 images taken after 2003 suffered a setback when a hardware failure created large, diagonal gaps of missing data.
Similarly, Herwig wrote, when satellite images are taken, they are often cloudy, but in different locations. To remedy this, the team combed through millions of images, chose the clearest pixels and stitched together a resulting cloud-free, seamless image of Earth.
“Landsat 8 captures images with greater detail, truer colours, and at an unprecedented frequency — capturing twice as many images as Landsat 7 does every day,” wrote Herwig. “This new rendition of Earth uses the most recent data available -- mostly from Landsat 8 -- making it our freshest global mosaic to date.”
Landsat is a joint effort of the USGS and NASA. It has been in operation since 1972. The program uses the same Earth Engine APIs that are used to track tree cover, loss and gain and to predict global malaria outbreaks. In 2013, Landsat 8 launched into orbit and has provided twice as many images as Landsat 7, according to Google Earth.
Images can now be viewed using Google Earth or the satellite layer on Google Maps.
The use of free satellite multispectral imagery from Landsat and Sentinel 2 sources will be part of this year’s ForestTECH 2016 event that is being planned and designed with forestry companies at the moment. The annual technology update for resource foresters and remote sensing specialists will run in Rotorua on 16-17 November and again in Melbourne on 22-23 November. Further details can be found on the event website, www.foresttech.events. If you wish to keep updated on programme details you can subscribe to updates via the event website. Further information will be available shortly.
Plans for world's tallest hybrid timber structureJapanese architect Shigeru Ban has been commissioned to design a residential tower for Vancouver that its developers claim will be the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world. Called Terrace House, the apartment tower is slated to rise near the waterfront in central Vancouver, where a curved apartment tower by architect Kengo Kuma is also being built.
Although information about the Ban-designed structure's height has not yet been disclosed, a rendering of the building shows a glass-clad tower with a sloped roof. Its upper portion will be formed by a timber frame supported by a concrete and steel core.
"The project will set the benchmark for the tallest hybrid timber structure in the world, in addition to being Shigeru Ban's tallest project to date and first-ever project in Canada," said the developer, PortLiving, which is due to release more details about the project later this year.
The tower's upper portion will feature timber framing supported by a concrete and steel core, the developer said. The wood will be sourced from British Columbia. "This innovative design marks a milestone for the industry and a global benchmark for timber design and liveability," the developer stated.
The project is the latest example of the timber tower trend, with wood-framed high-rise buildings proposed or being built in several American and European cities. The world's tallest wooden building to date is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway, but several more are in the pipeline.
In April, PLP Architecture and researchers from the University of Cambridge revealed a concept for London's first wooden skyscraper – a 300-metre-tall addition to the Barbican housing estate. "This is the beginning of the timber age," UK architect Andrew Waugh told Dezeen last autumn. Building with wood is "super-fast, super accurate, and also makes the most amazingly beautiful spaces." He said: "These are buildings that feel very good to be in."
Ban is renowned for his work with wood-based products like paper and cardboard tubes, which he has used to provide shelters following natural disasters and build a temporary cathedral for earthquake-hit Christchurch. The architect's humanitarian work and wider contribution to architecture won him the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2014.
The effects of genetic improvement on wood densityDensity is a key wood quality trait and has been the focus of selective breeding efforts in radiata pine. The aim of this recent Scion study was to quantify realised genetic gain in radiata pine wood density and to incorporate it into existing modelling systems for predicting growth and wood quality.
A national model of radiata pine wood density was modified by researchers to account for the effects of genetic improvement on whole-log average density and the variation in density within a log. Simulations showed a strong positive relationship between the GF Plus rating for wood density and Wood Density Index.
The effect of genetic improvement on wood density has been quantified and included in growth and yield modelling systems. This enables forest managers to estimate wood density in radiata pine plantations for any site and management regime established using tree stocks with a specific wood density rating. For more information and a link to the study and results, visit the latest issue of FWPA’s R&D Works.
Turnbull announces new ministry following election winFollowing his election victory, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has unveiled minor changes to his ministry, with Greg Hunt moving from Environment to Industry replacing Christopher Pyne who will become the Minister for Defence Industry. Josh Frydenberg has been appointed as the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Senator Anne Ruston was re-appointed as the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources with responsibility for forestry. The full ministry can be viewed in the following media release. The Coalition has promised to deliver a National Forest and Fibre Plan, in response to the Forest Industry Advisory Council’s work (which has bipartisan support), as well as AU$4 million in new funding for two hubs of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation in Mt Gambier and Launceston.
Source: VAFI The News Mill
Global EWP market growth projections to 2020International market research analyst Technavio predicts that the global engineered wood products market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 26% by 2020.
“The production of engineered wood products is growing at an impressive CAGR of over 26%. Engineered wood products are gaining popularity over hardwood owing to their sustainability. Various factors such as stringent regulations and rapid deforestation are likely to drive innovations in manufacturing engineered wood, decreasing the overall cost of production,” says Chandrakumar Badala Jaganathan, a lead textile, fiber, and composites research expert from Technavio.
The production of engineered wood products in Europe, the Middle East and Africa is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 29% over the forecast period. The engineered woods products market increased remarkably in EMEA since 2005. Currently, most of the production in Europe is consumed within the region. The consumption of glulam is expected to double between 2016 and 2020. The majority of the glulam in the region is produced in Germany, Austria, and Finland.
Most of the produce is sold in regional markets. However, Finland exports almost 65%-70% of its produce to Japan. Italy was the largest importer during the 2000s. However, the imports have declined in the recent years owing to the economic downturn. The primary markets are in Central Europe. These markets are projected to grow well during the forecast period, and many sawmills have already participated in extending their finger-joining capacity in the recent years.
The production of engineered wood products in North America is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 26% by 2020. The construction of non-residential buildings in the Americas has grown considerably since 2010 and an estimated 35% of the construction is wood framed making the US, one of the major markets for Canadian forest products. Moreover, the residential construction segment in North America is foreseen to grow rapidly as the US housing market is recovering from its prolonged slump.
The production of engineered wood products in the Asia Pacific region is predicted to grow at a CAGR of approximately 25%. The construction market in APAC is developing fast, owing to factors such as increased per capita disposable income which has resulted in an increase in spending on housing and furniture.
Although the price of American timber is rising in some markets due to the growing demand, the volatility of prices of regionally-grown timber especially in China poses a challenge to the wood producers in APAC. Further, substitutes such as plastic laminates and foils, which are similar to wood, are likely to intensify the threat. The non-wood flooring sector is also gaining popularity. “Manufacturers are focusing on providing the products regionally, rather than exporting,” says Chandrakumar.
NZ forestry planting scheme underwayNew Zealand’s Associate Minister for Primary Industries Jo Goodhew this week marked the success of the first round of the Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS), by planting a Eucalyptus Globoidea seedling at Ataahua on the Banks Peninsula. Following the re-launch of the scheme last year, NZ$3.77m will be invested in 2,900ha of new forest planted this year, through 81 separate grants.
“The new AGS builds on the success of the previous scheme and over the course of five years will see more than 15,000ha of new forest planted across the country,” says Mrs Goodhew.
“The AGS is an excellent way for people to make better use of low quality land by planting a wide range of tree species. The first round of the AGS was fully subscribed and I am happy to see that the recently closed second funding round is also on target, with a positive number of applications and hectares applied for, resulting in more forest to be planted this time next year,” Mrs Goodhew says.
Beautiful wood creationsThese are incredible examples of what a true “wood artist” has done with wood! Hope you enjoy the creativity of the projects and character of the material.
Buy and Sell
...and one to end the week on ... nuts
I turned around and saw an old lady. She said to me, "Sonny, would you like some nuts? I've got a couple hazelnuts and almonds if you'd like." "Sure.", I replied. Then she gave me a handful of nuts and went back to sit with her friends.
And on that note, enjoy the weekend. For all you sports nuts out there, may the best teams win this coming weekend as the Super 15 really gets into the sharp end of the season. Cheers.
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