Industry News

Total turnover of UK furniture industry on the rise but British manufacturing is suffering, BFM warns

According to the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM), total turnover and orders in the furniture manufacturing industry just passed the £8 billion mark in 2015, up 4.6% on 2014. 

Nonetheless, in comparison with 2014 figures, it appears that the furniture manufacturing industry’s turnover is boosted by almost 19% by income from sources other than in-house manufactured furniture sold at factory gate prices. Those include for example the sale of products manufactured by sub-contractors or invoiced services. 

The BFM also underlined the increase of furniture imports to the UK: in 2015 they fell just short of £6 billion - a rise of over 8% on 2014 - with China accounting for one-third of the imports.

Exports from the UK also improved over the year with sales of furniture on the rise by over 6%, with the USA as the major destination.

New informative Manual on wood products released by Snows Timber

Snows Timber, one of UK's leading importers, distributors and processors of wood products, has recently released an informative Timber Manual.

The catalogue is intended to raise awareness of wood products qualities and uses providing information both for sector operators and members of the public.

“We wanted our Snows Timber Manual to be an enjoyable and informative read, as well as a reference point for product queries”, said Mark Bowers, Snows’ Commercial Director.

“Timber is a fascinating business and we hope to open up some of the history and science of our world to interest our merchant customers. We’ve also included sales advice for merchants, and other information to give anyone wanting to learn more about timber products both encouragement and useful background to the products they sell”, Mr. Bowers added.

The Manual can be downloaded here.

CTI signs petition to save Wood Science program at Hamburg University

The Confederation of Timber Industries supports the online petition launched by students and professors of the University of Hamburg to save the local BSc and MSc programs of Wood Science and Technology.

As reported by The Centre for Wood Science & Technology at Edinburgh Napier University, the closing down of forestry and timber related courses has been ongoing for years because they attract relatively small numbers of students.  

Unfortunately this negative trend has also been affecting the UK over the past few decades further reducing the offer of Timber related courses and apprenticeships at each level (read more here).

"Universities are, of course, fully entitled to consider the economics to them of offering courses…but perhaps the forest industries are not active enough in explaining how these small courses provide vital skills and knowledge. Impact and reputation are valued by universities too", write the petitioners.

Here is the English translation of the petition text:

University of Hamburg – Save the Center of Wood Science and Technology!
Wood is fascinating – it has been used for thousands of years throughout the world as a raw material and is still an unrivaled genius as a renewable material. Wood has everything modern bio-materials need:
– sustainably available
– renewable
– climate neutral and a carbon-storage
– clean disposal as a source of energy
To equip the timber industry for the tasks ahead and the road to the bio-economy, there is no question that it needs experts. At the University of Hamburg there are the BSc./MSc. programs of Wood Science and Technology, where such experts have been trained for over 75 years. This is the only University course of its kind in Germany. Graduates come out as “Holzwirte”, successful decision makers throughout the world, who are involved in research, development, production, trade and politics.
All this will now come to an end, because the University wants to save money. It seems comparatively easy to wipe out a small program like ours, but they’ve underestimated us! Show your solidarity with our motto “we won’t be cut off” (#wirlassenunsnichtabsägen) – help us so wood has a renewable future in Hamburg!

We are convinced that the wooden path is the right path, and shutting down the program and its institution is a future in the wrong direction. More than 60 jobs, over 250 current students and the entire future of the industry are threatened!

To join the petition click here.

[Photo courtesy of Gerrit Pfennig]

WikiHouse movement could help UK fix its housing crisis

According to a growing number of experts, WikiHouse could revolutionise the construction industry, helping the UK tackle its endemic housing crisis.

Born as an open source building system, WikiHouse movement is focused on building an online database of timber frame building designs, which developers or individuals can download for free.

The prototype UK WikiHouse project, WikiHouse 4.0, was built at the Building Centre in London in 2014 featuring a design by Arup and Alistair Parvin of Zero Zero Architects, with a frame made of SmartPly OSB3.

"The Government has pledged to build 400,000 homes over the life of this Parliament and there is currently little sign of that being delivered", underlined Mike Harrison, Marketing Magaer at Coillte Panel Products, a company specialised in SmartPly Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Medite Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) production. "There needs to be alternative visionary on how this will happen and WikiHouse is one route that needs to be taken more seriously. As part of an affordable answer to the problem, OSB can provide a cost-effective construction solution which also has a credible sustainability story behind it, in the case of SmartPly OSB3 offering full FSC accreditation."

Allegedly, WikiHouse could reduce build costs by up to two-thirds, which is why housing associations have begun to take a keen interest faced with a reduction in rent income as Right to Buy is extended. South Yorkshire Housing Association is one of the first to take it forward with a plan to build a pilot home in the village of Darnall, again to a design by Alastair Parvin. The housing association is looking to construct it for around £50,000.

Confor presses Scottish Government on planting targets

Confor has urged Scottish Government to do more to meet its announced woodland plants targets.

In November 2015, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised to deliver 100,000 hectares of new woodland in the decade to 2022, but the process has still a long way to go.

In particular planting targets could be affected by the long and complex approving applications process, exacerbated by the switch to a new computer system.

"We welcome the Scottish Government's planting ambitions, but if we are to deliver their targets, we need to get everything working better, whether it's new computer systems now or the process of approving new planting schemes in future", said Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall.

"Initially, the target required 10,000 hectares of new planting a year. We have not been meeting this and Confor calculates that we now need around 13,000 hectares a year to hit the target by 2022. This needs to include 8-9,000 hectares annually of productive conifer species - softwoods which supply the timber needed by Scotland's wood processing businesses. They are investing around £50 million a year, but need the long-term supply of wood guaranteed", Mr. Goodall adedd.

Forestry and wood processing represent a vital portion of Scottish Economy - as recently highilighted by a Forestry Commission Scotland report - contributing £1 billion to Scotland's economy and employing thousands of workers.

"If we plant now, we secure the future of rural communities where forestry and timber is becoming a real bedrock employer, from tree nurseries through to hi-tech sawmills. Planting trees also soaks up carbon and helps to prevent flooding by 'slowing the flow' of water in upland areas - as well as providing great habitats for wildlife and for recreation", said Mr. Goodall.

"We will also be discussing with Aileen McLeod (Scottish Forestry MInister e.d.) the importance of the government continuing to provide funding for the Strategic Timber Transport Fund. This fund has been enormously helpful in taking timber off rural roads - by creating new forest roads to bypass local communities. Where that is not possible, it has supplemented local authority's roads budgets to improve minor roads to make them fit for purpose for today's needs", Confor CEO concluded.