The Wood Industry
Many people think of the wood products industry as paper and lumber and that is a large component. But what about paneling, furniture, snowboards and guitars? What about log homes, window frames, doors and pool cues? Everywhere around you are products manufactured from wood.
This industry is enormous. It’s also going through massive changes.
More sustainable harvests mean shrinking timber supplies. Companies have to do more with less. They’re bringing in new technology. They’re becoming computerized. They are doing everything they can to stay competitive.
And they need employees who are on the cutting edge.
Employees who understand the industry.
Employees who are good with wood.
What is the Wood Products Industry?
Wood products are, quite simply, products made from wood. That’s ALL products made from wood and includes anything from paper and lumber, to fine furniture and snowboards. There’s a lot you can do with wood.
This huge industry can be divided into two separate yet equally important groups…
PRIMARY and SECONDARY
PRIMARY refers to pulp mills (where they make paper) and sawmills (where they make lumber). These are generally the first places logs are processed. Thus, the name “primary." Because the wood products industry is so HUGE, this website does not deal with the pulp and paper side of things. But pulp mills are a large component of this industry and you should be aware they exist.
SECONDARY refers to all the manufacturing done after the wood leaves a sawmill. That means secondary manufacturers are the companies that make specialized products out of wood. Everything from beautiful guitars, to the spindles on your staircase, to the special cut of wood needed to make a window frame and the dinner table you eat at each night.
Suppliers are companies that support the primary and secondary manufacturers with specialized equipment and/or technical expertise used in production. Suppliers can sell machinery, high-tech tooling or innovative software. Suppliers can also be engineering consultants, public relations people and human resource (HR) companies.
Like the primary and secondary industries, suppliers would love to get more skilled employees.
You may have heard the term "Value-Added" before. It's used a lot.
Value-Added basically means lumber that has become more valuable because it has been manufactured, processed or selected, allowing producers to sell it for more money.
All secondary manufacturing is Value-Added. That means everything from pianos, furniture, doors and picture frames. Because the wood has been converted into these higher value products, the manufacturing is considered Value-Added.
But there are less obvious examples of Value-Added in secondary manufacturing. Many companies now glue a thin piece of beautifully-clear wood veneer over less than perfect boards. This creates an illusion of perfection (which is good enough because people are buying them). These companies are adding value to these boards and stretching our supply of perfect timber.
The optimizing process is another example of adding value. Raw lumber is "optimized" by cutting out defects and leaving shorter lengths of beautifully clear board. When these shorter lengths are glued back together, the new defect-free lumber is considered a higher value than the raw lumber it started out as.
A Changing Industry
The wood products industry is in the midst of a technological revolution. New computerized machines are eliminating the need for unskilled, menial labour.
And that means the jobs are changing focus. The industry needs individuals who can program, operate and design these high-tech machines.
For example, in sawmills raw logs are being scanned by “optimizing” computers. The computers figure out the best way to cut the logs so as to get the most lumber possible. That means less waste and more profits.
Secondary manufacturers are using computerized machines to mould and shape wood. They also use robotics. They can program a machine to carve an intricate pattern into a piece of wood. This allows a variety of beautiful work to be mass-produced with a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine and a computer program.