New rules, new opportunities

Published:  19 June, 2014

This time last year, the industry faced the implementation of the European Timber Regulation. Here, SmartPly’s George Watson takes a look at how this and other legislative changes have affected the company’s business and the market at large over the past year.

In last year’s Timber Trading supplement I reported that the future for wood products, particularly OSB panels, looked positive with the implementation of the European Timber Regulation (EUTR). However, 2013 saw a raft of legislation impacting on the timber industry. While the administration involved was cumbersome for merchants and suppliers alike, the changes undoubtedly provided an opportunity for product sales.

One year on and we are seeing the fruits of the administrative investment these changes have required. An upturn in the current housing market – with 15% more private-housing starts forecast for this year – is driving an increased demand for wood panels. The law has made it an offence throughout the EU to sell or purchase illegally harvested timber products. This has meant a considerable decrease in the presence of products such as cheap tropical plywood, with OSB panels, for example, offering a sound environmental solution.

New legislation in the form of the Construction Products Regulation appears to be working in support of this trend and the environmental considerations of using timber. All relevant products must prove they have been tested for compliance with a visible CE mark, backed up by Declaration of Performance (DoP) certification, which means increased incentive to choose materials from reliable suppliers who have their processes and paperwork in place.

For merchants working with such suppliers, there is confidence in the technical, legislative and sales support a manufacturer can provide. Customers entering the branch know they will find the products needed, while merchant staff can rely on the knowledge a supplier’s team is able to pass on.

The challenge now for those who have already established processes for buying, handling and selling wood products, is to manage the auditing required to ensure consistency of due diligence. Though, where suppliers have locally integrated supply chains, there will already be a tight chain of custody in place for the resulting products.

There has also been a downstream impact on the market, with positive repercussions for the merchant. This has influenced manufacturers to develop their product offerings, not only to meet new legislative demands, but also to fulfil the aspirations of an increasingly environmentally focused audience.

By virtue of its integrated supply chain, with all panels manufactured from wood locally sourced from its own forests, SmartPly complies with the EUTR. It also has all DoP certificates available to download online. Now it is working hard to deliver on the needs of the housebuilding and construction sector by developing value-added products with these needs in mind.

For the timber frame construction sector, a SmartPly FR/FR Build OSB panel responds to the Structural Timber Association’s ‘Design Guide to Separating Distances During Construction’ requirements for fire performance of timber-frame buildings above 600m2 total floor area. The customer, whether a developer or contractor, now has an opportunity to achieve the appropriate level of fire protection within walls and floors, while using a high quality, strong and environmentally sound OSB. Equally, the merchant can capitalise with the ability to provide differentiation within the core product range, thereby providing customers with more choice and a greater variance of solutions.

There are also opportunities to sell on the internal benefits of OSB. SmartPly DryBacker provides an engineered modular panel to aid in the swift installation of non-structural metal stud wall constructions – most prevalent in the commercial and non-residential sectors. Designed to be convenient for the contractor, specifier and end client, it can provide a rigid, strong anchor for further fixtures and fittings for any internal wall.

In fact, SmartPly OSB is being developed in many ways, and can even be used to protect whole construction sites. SiteProtect is a coated site-hoarding panel designed to save both installation time and money, perform reliably and bring legal peace of mind.

Merchants who are already reaping the benefits of increased sales may look back on 2013 as a distant memory. Yet, the documentation and due diligence processes required to remain compliant with its legislation cannot be overlooked. Working with suppliers who can support this, at the same time as grasping new market opportunities to drive innovation, is the best method for merchants to optimise future growth.

This article first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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