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Nashville Sets Perfect Stage For Lumber Conference

Lumber producers who made the trek to Room 205 and the 2023 Productivity & Efficiency Conference produced by Timber Processing and sponsored by Southern Forest Products Assn. (SFPA) were not disappointed as the event featured a wide range of speakers who delivered insights on different facets of mill operations.

According to Jessica Johnson, Conference Chairwoman who assembled the program, almost 100 southern sawmillers—and at least one from Colorado and one from Oregon—registered for conference. “We were so excited to be back at EXPO with SFPA. This year’s program had one of the best line-ups of sawmill-speakers we’ve ever had,” she said. “The range of experience among our speakers really showed the current landscape of the industry, especially in the Southern U.S. Ending the morning discussing a new training initiative for sawfilers widely supported by corporate mills really got the attention of the independents in the room.”

Kicking off the morning session was Bryant Beadles, General Manager of the Central Div., Canfor Southern Pine. Born into a sawmilling family, Beadles worked there and in the panel industry before operating his own sawmill that he sold to Canfor in 2015.

Beadles told of some of his experiences working with privately held companies, some of those with multiple owners (sometimes many) who don’t necessarily have the same priorities as mill management, especially when it comes to taking money from the company versus reinvesting.

With private companies, “Shareholders aren’t always involved,” he said.

Beadles added that Southern independent mills continue to seek buyers, that he’d been contacted by several in the past month. Going forward, Beadles noted that he’s taking an initiative to actively recruit younger sawmill management team members as labor issues continue and many supervisory personnel are nearing retirement age.

Tommy Stansell, Chief Operating Officer for CLAW Forestry gave a presentation detailing how his company acquired the legendary Anderson-Tully hardwood flooring mill at Vicksburg, Miss. and transformed it into a pine lumber producer.

He added that later this year, the company hopes to roll out a new branding to encompass its production facilities at Vicksburg and Ackerman, Miss.

Cade Warner, Chief Operating Officer for The Westervelt Co., gave a presentation detailing the company’s history that dates to 1884 and its evolution into five business segments today.

Looking at the company’s lumber business, Warner noted that key “tailwind drivers” for that segment include pent up demographic demand, underbuilt and old housing stock nationwide, new demand sources like mass timber and residuals markets and ESG-Sustainability investment trends.

Warner added that “headwind trends” challenging the lumber industry are material, labor and energy inflation, a changing workforce, international issues; logging constraints; and an oversupply of SYP on the market as multiple new producers come on-line.

One presentation in the morning session that left people talking into the lunch break came from Scott Ellsworth of Jobs for the Future and Paolo Morales of Reliability Solutions, who are heading up a new on-line saw filer training program,

Seeking to apply the traditional apprenticeship advancement process of the machinist to saw filer training, the two are seeking to further engage employers in developing and implement saw filer apprenticeship programs that can help in recruitment of new employees and retention of experienced ones.

“Invest and commit to your employees and they’ll commit to you,” Ellsworth said, noting that studies show most apprentices are still with the companies that have implemented the program one to three years later.

The presentation drew several questions and left Ellsworth and Morales involved in discussions as the morning session ended and the room emptied before lunch.

After lunch, three industry veterans covered the topic of primary and secondary breakdown profiling technology. Shawn Guibergia, President and COO of Real Performance Machinery, Bill Craig, U.S. representative for profiling pioneer Linck, and Tony LaSalata, product line manager primary breakdown systems for USNR, all presented insights into profiling technology.

Each company’s innovations and developments in profiling technology were covered, including options for sawing and system flexibility to meet customer requirements.

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