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Friday Offcuts – 16 February 2018

For those in the Australia timber industry, it’s now time to act. Submissions can now be made on the draft 2019 National Construction Code for the country. Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) along with industry back in 2016 led the charge. They were successful in getting code changes made which enabled timber for the first time to be used in apartments, hotels and offices up to eight storeys in height. This in large part has been responsible for the spike in interest being shown by developers, property managers, architects, engineers and builders in wood construction.

Extensive modelling has recently been undertaken to demonstrate timber construction systems can meet all of the required building and fire safety standards. The Australian Building Codes Board’s technical committee is now supporting the extension of the earlier approvals for timber construction systems (traditional framing and EWP) to all buildings up to eight storeys high. A huge opportunity is now open to the timber industry to support the proposed changes to the Code. Further details on the code and process can be found below with submissions closing on 13 April 2018.

We’ve included another article this week on the urgent priority being paid to retaining and upskilling existing workers in our rapidly changing workplace. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report says that around 14 percent of the global workforce may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt our workplaces. As well as the numbers here, the real challenge to business is the sheer pace of change.

Whereas in the past workforce changes have been brought in over decades through natural attrition, the task now confronting us is how to retrain and redeploy tens of millions of midcareer, middle-age workers. From the survey, sixty-two percent of executives believed they’d need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization. The forestry industry isn’t immune to this change. Check out the story and link to the report in this week’s issue.

However, with changes being sought in workforce skills, the message is don’t discount the institutional and operational knowledge of all those middle to older age workers. We cover a story this week that argues that in the age of social media, online catalogues and email, that the travelling saw salesman is an essential part of communication to and from our saw-doctors (particularly for this part of the world where the saw-doctor’s groupings no longer exist).

They’re still an essential resource for passing on practical and technical information from one saw-shop to another. They’re spending most of their days talking about saws. They read about saws and they’re working with the people who build and use the saws. The article finishes by saying that the best way for us to keep our salesmen and knowledge of saw design and operational innovations flowing is for the industry to really make use of them. Enjoy this week’s read.

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New era for Australian commercial timber construction

Quicker, cheaper and greener construction of retail shops, carparks, storage warehouses, laboratories, hospitals, schools and aged care facilities in Australia would be enabled under proposed changes contained in the draft 2019 National Construction Code (NCC).

The move would make it easier to use fire-protected timber in all buildings of up to eight storeys in height and builds on the program of work undertaken by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), which previously co-ordinated similar changes for apartments, hotels and offices into the NCC 2016.

FWPA’s proposal has achieved the support of the Australian Building Codes Board’s technical committee – which includes a broad range of representative industry groups such as the fire services, architects, builders, building surveyors, building designers, engineers as well as state planning and building authorities – with extensive modelling to demonstrate timber construction systems can meet the required building and fire safety standards.

Timber construction systems permitted under the Code would include both traditional ‘stick’ framing and newer ‘massive’ timber building systems utilising glue-laminated timber, laminated veneer limber (LVL) as well as cross-laminated timber products, used in buildings such as Library at the Dock in Melbourne and International House in Sydney.

FWPA National Manager Codes & Standards Boris Iskra said that under the proposed changes, builders and developers wanting to use timber would no longer have to undertake time consuming and expensive ‘performance solutions’ to gain building approval, as long as their designs met the deemed-to-satisfy requirements.

“At FWPA, we do everything we can to remove unnecessary restrictions on the use of timber. In 2016, we were successful with introducing similar changes for apartments, hotels and offices – and now we’re on the brink of extending that to other types of buildings,” he said.

“We’re proud to have successfully made the case to the authorities that timber can meet the required standards, and would urge the timber industry and progressive builders and developers to make submissions supporting the proposed changes to the Code – it’s a great opportunity.” Fire protection measures under the proposed changes include fire-protective grade plasterboard; fire-resisting cavity barriers; and a compliant sprinkler system; as well as hydrants, hose reels and portable fire extinguishers as required.

The Managing Director of FWPA, Ric Sinclair, said buildings made from sustainably sourced timber are greener than alternatives in a number of respects. “Obviously, wood stores carbon dioxide over the life of the building, which other materials don’t. It performs well thermally, so it doesn’t require as much energy to heat and cool. It also lends itself to prefabrication and quick installation, meaning less disruption to neighbours and fewer truck movements,” he said.

“The other major advantage is the speed of construction. Time is money when it comes to building.” The draft 2019 National Construction Code can be found at www.abcb.gov.au and is open for public and industry comment until 13 April 2018.

Photo: International House, Barangaroo, Photo: Ben Guthrie

Source: FWPA


JNL confirms changes to Gisborne mill

Forestry and wood processing company, Juken New Zealand on Monday confirmed it is going ahead with changes to the products made at its East Coast Mill in Gisborne to return the plant to profitability and secure its long-term future.

The company told staff on January 23 that is was considering stopping production of Plywood and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) products and reducing the manufacture of Structural Laminated Veneer Lumber (SLVL) at its East Coast Mill because those parts of the business had been operating at significant losses for a number of years.

The Mill will continue to make high-value solid wood products used for high-end residential and commercial interior cabinetry, furniture, solid doors and feature walls and, overtime, this side of the business will expand.

Juken General Manager, Dave Hilliard said that the final number of roles to go at the Mill as a result of the changes wouldn’t be known for another two weeks. “Now that we have made the decision to go ahead with these changes, we will be working through a process to confirm exactly which roles and how many will go as result,” said Hilliard.

“This is a tough time for our people and their families. We’re a major wood-processing and forestry employer in Gisborne so a decision like this that cuts local jobs is difficult. But for local companies like us, it’s even more critical for the future of our communities that we consolidate into a sustainable business. We can only do this by making high-value products where we have a competitive advantage, so that we can keep growing job opportunities here into the future.”

“There are around 100 roles impacted by the changes, but we anticipate that the final number of redundancies will be less than this, as a number of staff have applied to take voluntary severance and we also have some roles in our sawmilling side of the business that we’ll look to redeploy people into.” More >>.


Death of the saw salesman?

For as long as filers (saw-doctors) have been hammering saws, the manufacturers have sent smiling representatives out into the wild seeking the fertile ground of working filing rooms to sow their seeds of promise: saws, tools and machinery that will make their mills faster, stronger and cheaper to run.

Sometimes the results ran short of the promise, but it doesn’t matter because progress is in the trying of new things and the salesmen always have something new to try.

The weather doesn’t matter and the distance between mills is a minor inconvenience at best. The sales rep is always there with a box of doughnuts and a bag of brochures on the latest and greatest development. But the true gift of the road salesman is the virus-like way they spread the testimonials from other saw filers using new technologies, modifying tools and machinery, and running saws in ways nobody else has thought of.

Many of the safety rules we have in place today are a result of saw filers being aware when an accident happened in another mill, what caused it, and how it was addressed. Salesmen are, to a large degree, responsible for that.

In today’s world of social media, online catalogues and email, it is easy to forget just how hard it was for information to pass from one filing room to another; the salesmen filled that gap. Without their efforts there would be no consistency in the industry. One mill would be running 700 pounds of bandsaw strain while 300 miles away another was running 21,000.

Thin-kerf and critical speeds would be phantoms whispered about at saw filers conventions and nobody would really know what was a good invention and what was snake oil. Eventually it would all catch up through filer migration and social interactions, but technology would never have progressed at the rate it has without the small army of manufacturer representatives constantly circulating from mill to mill.

Recent developments in the Canadian manufacturing landscape have seen the four largest saw companies join forces to become one and suddenly competition for market share is less important than it used to be. There is a real fear amongst saw filers that perhaps the era of one-on-one interaction with a direct representative from the supplier could come to an end.

Sometimes it’s helpful to run an idea by somebody who has the background to understand what you are getting at and whether it can be done from a manufacturing standpoint. Sometimes you need somebody to tell you that you are out of your mind and why. Sometimes you just want a free doughnut and some gossip about the industry. We know what a sad day for saw filing it would be if the travelling saw salesman became yet another relic of our past.

Thankfully for us, the new management team for the big four is committed to continuing to send their representatives out into the mills and understands their special role in the saw filing trade. Even though most of the saws in Canada will be coming from one source, the smaller manufacturers are still out there making good products at competitive prices albeit on a lesser scale.

The opportunity for a small company to become a large company is never more than a group of dissatisfied consumers away and the large players cannot afford to rest on their laurels and ignore the needs and concerns of their customers. The best way for them to keep informed is and has always been through the ears of their salesmen on the road. Yes, there will be fewer of them and their range will be more restrictive than in the past, but given the alternative I think that’s a good deal for us.

The best way for us to keep our salesmen is to use them. They spend most of their days talking about saws, reading about saws, and working with the people who build the saws. For the most part they are not saw filers and they can’t bench a saw to save their lives, but they do know what has worked in the past, what people are trying and what new products are on the horizon.

They have the ability to design saws for you and to suggest modifications you may not have considered. Innovations in blades and saw-consumables are happening all the time so there is always something new to try and so little by little, our trade moves forward, thanks in part to the often under-appreciated travelling saw salesman.

Source: www.woodbusiness.ca


Retraining and reskilling workers

Executives increasingly see investing in retraining and “upskilling” existing workers as an urgent business priority that companies, not governments, must lead on.

The world of work faces an epochal transition. By 2030, according to the a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, as many as 375 million workers—or roughly 14 percent of the global workforce—may need to switch occupational categories as digitization, automation, and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work. The kinds of skills companies require will shift, with profound implications for the career paths individuals will need to pursue.

How big is that challenge? In terms of magnitude, it’s akin to coping with the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that occurred in the early 20th century in North America and Europe, and more recently in China. But in terms of who must find new jobs, we are moving into uncharted territory. Those earlier workforce transformations took place over many decades, allowing older workers to retire and new entrants to the workforce to transition to the growing industries.

But the speed of change today is potentially faster. The task confronting every economy, particularly advanced economies, will likely be to retrain and redeploy tens of millions of midcareer, middle-age workers. As the MGI report notes, “there are few precedents in which societies have successfully retrained such large numbers of people.”

So far, growing awareness of the scale of the task ahead has yet to translate into action. Indeed, public spending on labour-force training and support has fallen steadily for years in most member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Nor do corporate-training budgets appear to be on any kind of upswing. But that may be about to change.

Among companies on the front lines, according to a recent McKinsey survey, executives increasingly see investing in retraining and “upskilling” existing workers as an urgent business priority—and they also believe that this is an issue where corporations, not governments, must take the lead. Our survey, which was in the field in late 2017, polled more than 1,500 respondents from business, the public sector, and not for profits across regions, industries, and sectors. The analysis that follows focuses on answers from roughly 300 executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues. More >>.

Source: www.mckinsey.com.


Timberlink launches Tasmanaian advertising campaign

Timberlink has launched its “Made of Tasmania” advertising campaign to emphasize Timberlink Australia’s link to the Tasmanian community, economy and environment.

The print, radio, outdoor media and online advertising campaign highlights the positive role that Timberlink’s sustainably produced timber has in the Tasmanian community. The advert shows all of the Tasmanians employed in the production of Timberlink timber, from the forest, to the mill, through to the retailers’ shelves, as well end users and the community groups that Timberlink supports.

Timberlink Australia now employs more than 200 Tasmanians and has a 150 million dollar direct and indirect impact on the Tasmanian economy per annum.

Timberlink’s CEO, Ian Tyson, said the campaign reflects Timberlink’s leadership in the industry, impact on the local community and the continued growth of the company. “The campaign is a great way to show our customers, their customers and all Tasmanians, how Timberlink positively impacts upon Tasmania” Mr Tyson said. “Timberlink has a great story to tell. We are the only large scale, forestry-integrated plantation softwood sawmilling business operating in Tasmania”.

Timberlink is proud to be an environmentally sustainable company, manufacturing renewable plantation pine timber. Timberlink is also an integral part of its local community, using Tasmanian businesses and personnel wherever possible, as well having a strong involvement in community groups, schools and sporting clubs.

“Perhaps most importantly the business is a proud economically sustainable Tasmanian manufacturer” said Mr Tyson. “We are here for the long term and we want to convey this to Tasmanians.”

Using the tagline, “Timberlink. Made of Tasmania”, the campaign includes the launch of a new www.madeoftasmania.com.au website. The site will feature extended videos on key sections of the business, including an in depth look at Timberlink’s use of carbon positive, sustainable, pine plantations.

Source: Timberlink


US forestry machine to clear former Australian plantations

Meet the Aussie and the American who hope they are about to solve a problem that has had others stumped. Naracoorte’s Brad Dickenson knew he was looking at something special when he saw a video clip on social media of a machine in the US wrenching old stumps out of the ground.

Brad is a mechanic and he saw it as the perfect solution for removing unwanted blue gum stumps from the so-called green triangle of southeast South Australia and western Victoria.

“I always keep my eye out for new technologies coming out,” he said. “I’ve been fixing all these machines in forestry and realising they’re slow, they break, and they cost a lot of money to fix. When I saw this machine, I started doing my research very quickly before anyone else saw it so I could snap one up for myself and get out there in the field before anyone else jumps on board.”

The machine was developed by US company Savannah Global Solutions. Director Mark Sauer says the inspiration for the “stump plucker” was a machine from the 1970s that was being used to extract Christmas tree stumps. Mark said the challenge to replicate this machine was set by a client who processed harvest residuals and recycled wood into biomass for boiler fuel to produce electricity.

The machine has two lifting wheels mounted so that it rolls over the stumps and pulls the stumps into their midpoint, and it grabs them with enough force to pull them out of the ground. The Australian machine is patent pending, a hydraulic compression system that “really allows us to run longer with less downtime than if we were using the spring option on the original product”, Mark says.

The current version in Australia was released in WA last September and Brad had the chance of seeing that machine in action. The stump plucker works in conjunction with a separate rake, which Mark says is mainly to pile the stumps to minimise the area they occupy.

The “stump plucker” imported by Brad Dickenson. Although Brad says it could be used for different trees, blue gums are the target. “The industry here has just come to a stage where the blue gums are all getting chopped down, and basically, they’re getting pulled out. People don’t want them anymore,” Brad said.

“The price of land has gone up. The price of stock, cropping has all gone up, which has all played a part in getting rid of the blue gum — and the chip price is not so good for blue gums, it has gone down from where it originally was.”

Part of the challenge for land owners wanting to covert old plantations back to agriculture land is keeping stump removal costs low — and less than the difference between the price of the land with the stumps, and price without it. Brad says this machine moves up to 10 times faster than an excavator and twice as fast as a mulcher.

His new company is called GT Stump Pulling (GT refers to “green triangle”). Brad and his dad, Ian, are directors, and their wives, Sabrina and Ruth, are also involved. Savannah is manufacturing the machines, and is entering Australia as Asyannah Agro-Forestry Solutions.

Source: www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/


USA's largest timber office building proposed

Yes, plans for another tall wooden building have been announced. Canadian studio Michael Green Architecture has just unveiled plans for a massive timber office complex on the waterfront of Newark, New Jersey, which is expected to be the largest of its kind in the USA.

The Vancouver-based practice's design comprises three stepped volumes in rising heights of six, eight and 11 stories, which will be built with a mass-timber structure – a collective term describing engineered wood products like glulam and cross laminated timber.

Measuring 500,000 square feet (46,451 square metres), the scheme is expected to surpasses the overall area of any other office building in the USA that also uses engineered timber construction.

It will be more than double the size of Michael Green Architecture's office and retail tower in Minneapolis, which was named the "largest mass-timber building" in the US when it was completed in 2016. More >>.

Source: derzeen.com


1,218 drones fly in unison at Olympics

This was an interesting piece that popped up this week. The opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang included a record-setting performance by machines to kick off the competition between people. Intel launched 1,218 drones in a choreographed dance displayed during the ceremony.

One computer coordinated the entire light show, which was not performed live at the opening ceremony but was pre-recorded in early December in case of bad weather and to forestall any possibility for a technical mishap. Check out the story – the technology being used – and the very impressive result on the night.


Fresh take on housing takes on building industry

With massive economic and environmental advantages, it is no surprise that prefab and tiny houses are trending worldwide. Founder and CEO Graham Bloxham developed the eco tiny iPod tiny home product to disrupt the NZ building industry by providing a fresh take on ready-to-go, portable and stackable housing.

“So many New Zealanders are in need of affordable houses but don’t have access to finance, land or insurance. The building industry is stumbling along, overcharging with long wait times. In some cases, 2 years.

We have found ways around all this" Bloxham says. "I started Eco tiny to make housing affordable and I don't mean $500k affordable I mean 100k. For under a hundred grand Bloxham says you can be in an off the grid stylish Scandinavian styled tiny pod in 10 weeks including consent."

Eco tiny will build homes nationwide in particular for;

- IWI wanting to get Whanau out of cars and sheds.
- A farmer on the edge of a tourism hot spot looking to add value and make extra cash.
- Infill housing in the suburbs.
- Stack-able pods in the CBD around buildings.

Eco tiny houses are self-contained small homes 22 studio and 34 sqm 1 brm units, often built on wheels – perfect for first home buyers, anyone looking to get on the property ladder or if you’re hoping to reduce your carbon footprint.

Built from NZ steel eco panels the iPods are flexible, strong, super warm, healthy and exceptionally cool. Bloxham says Eco tiny can manufacture 10 iPods a month currently and will be able to get up to 50 a month all going well.

Eco tiny’s design process allows consumers to mod their pod and add off-the-grid elements such as wind generation, Bloxham has driven the cost out of solar systems and added in a myriad of IOT Internet of things and sensors to mod the pod up and get connected.

Off-the-grid doesn’t mean off-the-radar. You may have seen the tiny house stolen from Canberra, Australia in September. Eco tiny's iPod tiny homes come equipped with a security system that syncs with the Eco tiny's dashboard app on your smartphone.

You can also check your iPods vital stats including water and solar collected, income tracking if plugged into air bnb which links to Xero and does the tax on the fly, battery levels, warmth and add other gadgets for a connected life.

Bloxham is dedicated. Eco tiny's goal is to sell 3000 tiny homes by working within the changing regulatory environment. Infill housing rule changes, Auckland just freed up 35,000 + sections and Hutt City wants 2000 + more homes.! There is a lot going on with Eco tiny resorts & villages and affordable housing on IWI land. I can see a time very soon where there will be a land over supply so we are buying land wherever we can.!

At 3.1m by 7.2m long and a giant deck, Eco tiny’s iPod require only 35 sqm of land to get started.

Source: Scoop.


Southern forestry companies optimistic

Log export prices are having a 25-year high, with southern industry insiders optimistic longer-term gains are likely to be sustained. As of December 17, key indicator the At Wharf Gate price for A-grade logs 30cm or more at the small end, stood at $148 per export cubic metre, according to the latest available data from PF Olsen Ltd.

Invercargill-based Log Marketing NZ Ltd general manager Greg Lindsay said that put average prices at their highest since August 1993. The peak had been driven by strong demand from Chinese and Indian markets.

"China has had environmental constraints applied reducing domestic log production, which has contributed to increased export demand. Shipping rates are also relatively competitive currently. Allied with strong domestic and Australian demand during recent years, typical seasonal price peaks and troughs were also diminishing”, Lindsay said.

Southern Wood Council chairman Grant Dodson said market indicators suggested current good prices would be sustained. "We expect some volatility with price up and downs across the year. This is business as usual for forestry but fundamental demand and market conditions remain strong."

Although council members across the region were "very positive" about industry prospects, Dodson highlighted possible concerns on the horizon. "The impact of the recent share market correction is yet to play out. There may be some impact depending on how significant the correction ends up," he said.

"Additionally, although local log demand is strong, local mills are having to compete with export log prices, which is causing some discomfort while markets adjust. But forest owners and mills are simply working through this as they have many times in the past. It's great to see strong returns from forestry and lots of busy domestic mills."

Rayonier Matariki Forests managing director Paul Nicholls was also positive, while urging perspective over current prices. "Log prices peaked in 1993 but, when adjusted for inflation, there have been several other price peaks higher than today," he said.

Rayonier had operated in the south since 1992, with current market conditions allowing for greater business flexibility, he said. "We're in a good position to export the logs that don't meet domestic processors' specifications. We're also able to harvest and export minor species established by the Forest Service that have been uneconomic until now. This allows us to establish more commercially-focused plantations."

Source: stuff.co.nz


Ikea to launch paper furniture line

One day, the material used to make packaging for Ikea products could also be used to make the products themselves. After experimenting with different types of paper-based materials such as molded pulp and washable paper, and identifying nine different paper-based materials that could be of use, the Swedish retail giant said it will be launching a line of paper furniture in the near future.

Ikea’s designers have been experimenting with paper sofas, bookshelves and tables, and part of the inspiration comes from increasing the use of sustainable materials, according to the company website. “A cradle-to-grave approach means putting a product together so that it’s easy to take apart and separate once the lifetime of the product has run out,” Ikea designer Maja Ganszyniec said. “A paper sofa follows this logic.”


Sales climb 18% for Rayonier’s NZ operation

Rayonier reports Q4 net income of US$64.2M, on revenues of US$239.7M, up from income a year ago of US$48.3M on revenues of US$229.3M, and 2017 net income of US$148.8M on revenues of US$819.6M. It’s reported that the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand and Real Estate performed strongly for the company.

For New Zealand, fourth quarter sales of $59.3 million increased $9.2 million, or 18%, versus the prior year period. Harvest volumes increased 16% to 649,000 tons versus 562,000 tons in the prior year period, driven primarily by incremental volume from recent acquisitions. Average delivered prices for export sawn timber increased 11% to $115.77 per ton versus $104.26 per ton in the prior year period, while average delivered prices for domestic sawn timber increased 7% to $83.02 per ton versus $77.41 per ton in the prior year period. The increase in export sawn timber prices was primarily due to stronger demand from China. The increase in domestic sawn timber prices (in U.S. dollar terms) was driven by strong local demand for construction materials, partially offset by a modest decrease in the NZ$/US$ exchange rate (US$0.70 per NZ$1.00 versus US$0.72 per NZ$1.00).

Excluding the impact of foreign exchange rates, domestic sawn timber prices increased 11% from the prior year period. Operating income of $16.1 million increased $4.4 million versus the prior year period due to higher prices ($5.3 million) and higher volumes ($2.1 million), which were partially offset by lower carbon sales ($2.8 million), higher road maintenance costs ($0.1 million) and higher depletion rates ($0.1 million).

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... and one to end the week on ... window replacement

Last year I replaced all the windows in my house with that expensive double-pane energy efficient kind, and today, I got a call from the contractor who installed them.

He was complaining that the work had been completed a whole year ago and I still hadn't paid for them.

Hellloooo,..........just because I'm blonde doesn't mean that I am automatically stupid!

So, I told him just what his fast talking sales guy had told me last year, that in ONE YEAR these windows would pay for themselves!

“Helllooooo? It's been a year!” I told him.

There was only silence at the other end of the line, so I finally just hung up. He never called back.

I bet he felt like an idiot.

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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