Air-Conditioned Sawmills?

by  David E. West

FRA Map

I recently had the opportunity to tour a southern sawmill that had just gone through a significant rebuild. While there was a lot of exciting new technology, as is the case with most new sawmills these days, the one thing that stood out to me was that the sawmill was air-conditioned. In discussions with employees of the mill, I was told that one of the primary reasons for the air-conditioning was due to the competition for labor. An automobile manufacturing facility had been built nearby, which, along with associated businesses, provided a huge demand for labor. Most, if not all of these options for employment allow workers to enjoy a climate-controlled atmosphere while they work. Working in 90 to 100+ degree temperatures is not that appealing, especially when there are numerous other options. Hence the air-conditioning.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’m driving on an interstate in the South. Believe it or not, I actually saw one billboard that wasn’t an advertisement for a “billboard lawyer.” It was an advertisement by a sawmill looking for labor. In my 40 plus years in the forest products industry, that was the first time I had seen that!

This led me to think about the adaptability of our supply chain. In the previous two examples, companies are adapting to the changing labor force, particularly the competition for labor. But all the links in our supply chain must be ready to adapt, some more frequently than others. Loggers must adapt to weather and changes in the market. Landowners face market fluctuations due to changes in demand, both positive (new demand) and negative (mill closures), as well as environmental factors such as threatened and endangered species. Consuming mills must adapt to changes in demand, driven by the US and world economies, new products and governmental policies, to name a few. Of course, all these changes also impact our associate members such as equipment dealers, insurance providers and transportation companies.

Over the past few months there have been several announcements that will impact demand going forward, some positive and some negative. With that will come opportunity and change, and I’m sure our supply chain will adapt, as it has done for many years. The staff at Forest Resources Association wishes each of you a prosperous new year, and we look forward to serving you.