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Shamrock names new director of operations

Jeremy Keel-1Memphis, Tenn.—Shamrock Plank Flooring, a manufacturer of hardwood flooring, has named Jeremy Keel—a previous employee—director of operations. In his new position, Keel will manage and direct plant operations in all Shamrock manufacturing facilities. He will be responsible for tuning up operations, optimizing processes and ensuring quality that meets or exceeds NWFA standards.

“I am glad to welcome Jeremy back and have him on the Shamrock team,” said Jack Shannon, Jr., president of Shamrock Plank Flooring. “He’ll be a big part of our strategic plan to strengthen our operational infrastructure. Jeremy brings experience and professionalism with him that will take us to the next level.”

Keel is returning to Shamrock from View, a manufacturer of “glass with an IQ” that is best known for its dynamic glass found in businesses like the headquarters of Overstock.com. He was previously the assistant operations manager at Shamrock.

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Wood: Demand for raw materials impacts lumber pricing

June 26: Volume 32, Issue 1
By Reginald Tucker

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 9.29.41 AMFor much of 2016 and the year before that, U.S. hardwood flooring suppliers reported more stable pricing trends compared to the 2010-14 period, which saw more volatility. This trend is based on a number of variables ranging from winter weather patterns in the top growing regions for lumber that will eventually be used for wood flooring to shifting demands for solid and engineered flooring in various markets around the country.

But there’s another factor impacting the price and supply of lumber utilized for hardwood flooring: competition from other building material sectors that utilize the same raw materials, albeit different grades and species. Topping the list are cabinetry/millwork manufacturers as well as suppliers of materials for industrial applications (i.e., railroad tiles and pallets).

A recent report from Matt Bumgardner of the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station, shows production of eastern U.S. hardwood lumber is down precipitously from its lofty perch in the late 1990s, when output exceeded 12.5 billion board feet. After steep declines in 2000-01, the market leveled off between 2003 and 2006 before slipping once again from 2007-09. After hitting a low of 6.5 billion board feet in 2009, the lumber market has been steadily rising, hitting 9 billion board feet in 2015—the latest period for which statistics are available.

One of the major shifts in U.S. hardwood lumber consumption over the 1991-2015 period, the report shows, is in the ratio of “appearance-based” applications (which include hardwood, cabinetry and millwork) to “industrial-based” uses. For example, in 1991, appearance-based consumption of U.S. hardwood lumber accounted for 48% of the business while industrial applications represented 40%. Fast forward to 2015 where industrial applications now account for roughly 50% of consumption with appearance-based usage down to about 37%.

The reduction in U.S. hardwood lumber consumption has directly impacted employment in the sector. According to the Bumgardner report, there were more than 1,579 sawmills employing upwards of 23,590 people in the Appalachian region—a key growth area for U.S. hardwood products. (Armstrong Flooring reports its solid hardwood floors are made utilizing Appalachian hardwood, prized for its tighter grain and consistency.) Looking at 2015, the number of sawmills fell by more than 28% to 1,128, with employment in the sector dropping nearly 27% to 17,231 workers. Industry observers cite various reasons for the decline, including increased automation and new technologies as well as a rise in imported raw lumber and finished flooring products.

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Made in the USA: Could new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber backfire?

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

The Trump Administration recently announced a new 20% tariff on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The move is in response to U.S. lumber industry objection to the low Canadian stumpage rates (charges for logging on Canada’s government-owned lands) and transportation costs—something the President described as an unfair advantage. In short, U.S. producers contended Canada was subsidizing its lumber industry by allocating timber in a non-competitive manner.

While softwood (cedar, pine, spruce, Douglas fir, etc.) is not used in the manufacture of solid hardwood flooring, the materials are nonetheless utilized by many American construction and home repair industries—sectors that, combined, employ thousands of Americans. The U.S., which currently imports more than $5.6 billion worth of softwood lumber from Canada every year, is heavily dependent on the import of timber from that country. Domestic supplies, analysts say, are insufficient to meet customer needs.

While President Trump sees the move as a victory, based on sentiments he expressed during the campaign, some critics believe the tariffs could do more harm than good. In an opinion piece written for Forbes magazine, France Coppola, a 17-year banking industry veteran explained how the move could backfire.

“The Canadian dollar has already dropped sharply vs. the U.S. dollar: the weakness of the loonie, if sustained, will mitigate the impact of the tariff on Canadian producers, while the dollar’s strength will make all imports from Canada—apart from softwood lumber—cheaper. The tariff will, therefore, raise input costs for lumber users and make it harder for other American businesses to compete with imports from Canada. It is obviously intended to hurt Canada, and it will of course have some impact there. But the principal pain will be felt by American citizens.”