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Project 1991: the shape of things to come.

PROJECT 1991: THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME

Greater use of CNC equipment, increased reliance on panel use and concerns over the economy and skilled labor are among the findings of W&WP's exclusive second annual survey. For the second year in a row WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS readers were asked to peer into their crystal balls in the exclusive, industry-wide Project 1991 survey.

While uncovering projected trends and shifts in wood and panel usage, and machinery requirements, the survey results also provide an earful of the thoughts and concerns of industry executives.

In a two-wave mailing conducted by Vance Research Services, 1,720 surveys were sent out along with a $1 incentive to company presidents and owners selected at random from WOOD & WOOD PRODUCTS' circulation base. Those surveyed were asked questions about their company in 1990, and what they feel their company and the industry will be like down the road in 1995.

In all, 688 valid surveys, a response rate of 41.3 percent, were tabulated to obtain the results featured in a 58-page final report available for $95 from Vance Research Services. (Phone 708-634-2600)

Among the issues investigated in the Project 1991 study are: machinery, materials and supplies, finishing methods, glue systems, panel usage, and industry concerns.

Survey profile

Seventy-five percent of the survey respondents represent firms whose primary product is considered furniture, cabinets and fixtures. Lumber and wood products executives make up 24 percent of the survey, while 1 percent are primarily service oriented.

The respondents come from all areas of the country, but predominately from the North Central and the South. They employ an average of 36 people, and 64 percent of them said they will make more money in 1990 than they did in 1989. While 12 percent of those surveyed anticipated a decrease in sales, the average growth of firms in 1990 is projected to be 13 percent.

Equipment and supply expenses

About 74 percent of respondents said they spent less than $50,000 on machinery and tooling in 1990, while 15 percent said they spent between $50,001 and $150,000. In addition, most, or 31 percent of those surveyed, said their material and supply expenditures tallied less than $50,000, followed by 21 percent indicating expenses of $50,000 to $150,000. Interestingly enough, 16 percent of respondents said they spent more than $1 million on supplies last year.

The survey also questioned current and projected ownership of 23 woodworking machine types. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they own band saws, manual routers, and cutoff saws. Other machines most frequently mentioned in the survey results include shapers, 75 percent; ripsaws, 72 percent; knife planers, 67 percent; boring machines, 58 percent; and wide belt sanders, 58 percent.

The survey confirmed what many had long expected -- that CNC machinery will continue to be a hot item. CNC panel saws were owned by 14 percent of the respondents, and CNC routers were owned by 13 percent in 1990. Perhaps most telling, the survey indicates that by 1995, CNC routers will be found in 30 percent of the shops that currently do not own one; CNC panel saws will be in 15 percent of plants that do not currently have one. (See bar graphs on page 53.)

The survey also pointed to the differences between the machines used by furniture/fixture/seating/cabinets and lumber and wood product firms. Machines that are used primarily by the former group of manufacturers include band saws, manual routers, shapers, boring machines and edgebanders. Meanwhile, lumber and wood product firms use moulders to a greater extent, and knife planers and ripsaws to a lesser extent.

Raw materials

In terms of volume usage, oak remains the king of the hardwood species by a wide margin. Respondents said they used oak 49 percent of the time, with poplar coming in second with 10 percent. Oak is used by 53 percent of furniture, fixture, seating and cabinet manufacturers, as compared to 39 percent by lumber and wood products firms. Small- to medium-sized firms and firms located in the North Central and West were more inclined to use oak.

The survey also revealed that nearly three out of ten firms do not use softwood in their products. Of those who use softwoods, 15 percent said they use ponderosa pine, followed by yellow pine, 11 percent; and Douglas fir, 10 percent.

The issue of wood availability prompted a number of executives to express their concerns in the survey. One respondent simply said, "Save the rain forests!" Another suggested a percentage of every dollar earned should be used for forest management.

Still, another executive said that the increased costs of raw materials due to the environmental issues "may in the near future end ours and many others' success." He added he wants the environment to be saved, but hoped the future of small businesses could also be saved.

Another said the small shop will be a "relic of the past" or "will revert to a garage shop because of the increased costs of doing business."

Panel usage set to explode

The survey showed that panels will be used more and more throughout the entire wood industry. Seventy-six percent of those responding said their firms panel usage will increase by at least 10 percent during the next five years. Of that figure, 35 percent feel it will be a dramatic increase, and 41 percent said a slight increase. Only 17 percent of those responding said usage will not change, while 4 percent see a decrease in panel usage. (See chart on page 54.)

Looking at the industry as a whole, 74 percent of the respondents believe panel usage will go up by at least 10 percent; 22 percent of them think it will be by at least 30 percent.

Adhesives and overlay use

Hot melt (42 percent) and PVAC/EVA-dispersion (35 percent) were most often used in 1990, and will still be the most used adhesives in 1995. Only urea formaldehyde is expected to drop off in use, from 24 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 1995. (See bar graph on page 54.)

With regards to overlays, wood veneer is used by more than half of those surveyed, and this is expected to continue into 1995. As shown last year, high pressure laminate still is second with 43 percent, but respondents still feel there will be a decrease to 38 percent in its usage in five years.

Component and RTA production

The survey also revealed that 55 percent of participating firms "jobbed out" at lease some part of their production. In 1995, it is anticipated that 52 percent will job out at least a portion of their product.

It also showed that RTA furniture/cabinets is expected to grow. Currently, 8 percent of those surveyed said they are involved in RTA manufacturing. Of those who said they do not now produce RTA, 11 percent said they planned to go into this type of manufacturing. (See pie chart on page 56.)

Industry concerns

The economy, followed by the skilled labor and raw material availability are the top three concerns of those surveyed. (See pie chart on page 56.)

Ranges of views on the economy ran from "awful" and "stinks" to "stable" and "good." To stay competitive firms will have to continue modernizing their shops said one respondent, while another said that labor must be better educated.

As one respondent put it, "The USA cannot compete with the labor base we have and that we will have in 1995."

But, another respondent said the industry must police itself. "I think we need to be less self-serving and self-centered in our views of what is good for us and be concerned of the long view, not the next quarters profit."

Other comments include:

* Currently, I'm using the 32mm system and I think that system is going to be more popular in the near future.

* There will always be a place for quality work. I am pleased to see the Americans generally trying to catch up to European levels of quality in cabinet manufacturing. This bodes well for all of us.

* Skilled trades are becoming a thing of the past. Without apprentice programs and good vocational schools, the quality of the labor pool is deteriorating.

* I do believe in the near future, molded plastics will more and more replace wood products.

* Government bureaucrats will put an end to our business as we now exist.

* My biggest concern ... is the USA in general. We are turning into a tree farm for foreign countries.

* Quality control in purchased raw products is non-existent.

* Quality is number one.

PHOTO : The graph above shows the percentage of respondents who owned at least one of the specified machines in 1990, while the results of the graph below are based on those who do not currently own a specified machine.

PHOTO : The vast majority of Project 1991 survey respondents said they expect to increase their reliance on panels for manufacturing their products. Below, hot melt adhesives are expected to make the biggest gain in use, while the use of urea-formaldehyde glues is seen declining.

PHOTO : Top, 8% surveyed make RTA products; of those who don't, 11% said they will offer RTA products by 1995. Bottom, "other" concerns include: finishing emissions, 7%; wood dust, 4%; environmentalist pressures, 3%; and foreign competition, 1%.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Title Annotation:survey results and forecasts
Author:Adams, Larry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Words:1557
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