Friday Offcuts 26 September 2014
Also out of Australia, the second leg of the Wood Innovations 2014 technology series run by FIEA finished on Wednesday this week. Well over 200 leading wood treatment and manufacturing companies along with suppliers and researchers attended this latest series. The event highlighted an array of new and innovative technologies around chemical and heat treatment of wood as well as providing insights from world leaders on commercialising, producing and distributing some of these new wood products.
As reported last week, modified wood and wood plastic composites – produced locally and imported – are already making inroads into local wood markets – just as they’ve already done in international markets. Two well-known commercial products profiled over the last couple of weeks highlighted the kind of growth being seen internationally. Thermowood (thermally modified timber) has shown more than 18% annual sales growth from 2001 through to 2013 (even through the recent economic downturn) and Accoya, an acetylated wood product, has demonstrated impressive sales growth figures of 45 percent in 2012/13, 78 percent in 2013/14 and already in Q1 of 2014/15, 37 percent growth. As one presenter observed, “it’s now taking wood where wood has never been before”. Both the New Zealand and Australian presentations will be available to delegates next week.
In line with new innovations, we’ve got results from a recent survey of Australian small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that show that SMEs are now investing more in innovation to improve their sales growth. Innovation is thought to be crucial for ensuring future growth and around 70 percent of the more than 800 respondents surveyed expected to receive a return from their business' innovation investment within one year of the initial investment (see story below).
Other new innovations covered in this week’s issue include some paper that with the help of an iPhone or iPad enables you to project the music from an album cover, we’ve got a story on some autonomous helicopters or UAV’s that have been developed by robotics researchers at CSIRO who along with Biosecurity Queensland are using them as a new biosecurity surveillance tool and we’ve run a small piece on international property and infrastructure firm, Lend Lease, who are taking their CLT building system from Melbourne into the densely populated city of Singapore.
Finally, it may not exactly be new – but it’s certainly very impressive. Check out the video this week of a heavy duty mulcher (take this out to tidy up your back yard this weekend) in action. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Australia's forest products companies poised for growthThe first forest product industries annual business confidence survey suggests companies are emerging from the global financial crisis and are well positioned to help the economy weather the decline in the mining sector. The surveys headline Business Confidence Index for FY 2014 /15 is +13.73 (out of a possible 40). Of the states, South Australia is showing the most potential with 77% of executives expecting to increase their capital investment this year.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Mr Ross Hampton said, “Through the last decade the forest products industry was hit very hard by the triple crunch of a stubbornly high dollar encouraging a massive growth in imported timber, the global financial crisis (GFC), and soaring input costs such as energy”.
Mr Hampton said, “Our Forest Products Industry companies are now leaner and well positioned to take advantage of the forecast recovery in the retail sector for consumer goods such as tissue and paper, and timber for new housing starts which are hopefully moving back toward pre – GFC levels of about 150 000 a year. In addition to this domestic demand, analysts predict that the USA will again build up to some 1.5 million housing starts and that, of course, is dwarfed by the potential in China which will soon be 15 million a year”.
“The Australian forest products industry is well placed to take advantage of this fibre boom. The Government is to be congratulated for its ongoing support for the industry, most noticeably through the recent formation of the Forest Industry Advisory Council and its understanding that the industry needs a national fibre and forestry plan”.
“It should be noted however that, with the decline of managed investment schemes, tree planting for forest products has effectively come to a halt in Australia. Policies to promote greater innovation and value-adding of this fibre will also be important”.
Source: Australian Forest Products Association
Tasmania to overhaul anti-protest laws aimed at forestryControversial anti-protest laws proposed by the Tasmanian government to help forestry workers but labelled “draconian” by civil libertarians are to be overhauled. In a move the Liberal government hopes will see the laws pass parliament, the resources minister, Paul Harriss, announced on Wednesday that after public consultation he would remove “perceived ambiguities and unintended consequences”.
In its initial guise, the planned law hit protesters who disrupt businesses with a AU$2,000 on-the-spot fine and, for a second offence, a minimum mandatory three-month jail sentence. But the legislation was slammed by the Law Society and Civil Liberties Australia, who were joined by unions and environmentalists, with the Tasmanian Greens claiming the bill was a draconian proposal.
The move follows a Liberal election promise to tackle the threat radical protesters posed to Tasmanian business operations, particularly the forestry industry.
Source: The Guardian
South Australia outlines innovation & investment opportunitiesA blueprint outlining future innovation and investment opportunities for South Australia’s forest and wood products industry has been released. Forests Minister Leon Bignell said the Blueprint for the Future South Australian Forest and Wood Products Industry (2014 – 2040) would help to ensure the long-term sustainable growth of the industry.
“South Australia’s forest and wood products industry is an important part of our economy, generating annual revenue of around AU$2.6 billion, and creating jobs especially in the state’s regions,” he said.
“Despite a range of economic challenges, the industry has not sat idle, with dozens of representatives contributing ideas for advancing the forestry and wood products sector during the 18-month consultation on this new blueprint.
“The document sets out different ways to grow the industry through investment and innovation in sustainable resources, processing capacity and products, marketing and promotion, and workforce development.”
Minister Bignell said the blueprint and the Government’s policy statement would build on key South Australian Government initiatives, including the Cellulosic Fibre Value Chain Study, the South East Forestry Partnerships Program (SEFPP).
“The release of the Government’s policy statement was the first step in implementing some of the opportunities listed in the blueprint, sending a clear message that South Australia continued to support our forestry industry and was open for business,” he said.
“Other steps identified in the blueprint included engaging with the Victorian Government on cross-border issues, and the recent announcement of phase two of the SEFPP to further deliver on the recommendations from the Cellulosic Fibre Value Chain Study.”
“Key areas include the creation of an enabling business environment, collaborative investment in research and development, and actively engaging the community on the benefits of sustainable plantation wood” says South Australian Forestry Industry Advisory Board Chair Trevor Smith. Mount Gambier relies more heavily on forestry sector employment than other regions and large cities in Australia, with 11% of its workforce in the industry. For more information click here.
Ruggedization of mobile devices in the forestProtecting and managing 191 million acres of land is truly rugged work. Each year, hundreds of U.S. Forest Service field engineers go deep into the nation's forests and grasslands to collect data on natural resources and wildlife to be used in a variety of surveys and projects.
For decades, the Forest Service has equipped its fieldworkers with rugged devices that meet military specifications — units that can withstand shock and extreme temperatures and are impervious to dust, upgrading the devices as technology has improved.
"Our handheld devices are subjected to a high degree of punishment. They've been dropped off bluffs, submerged in mountain streams, even carried 150 feet high into trees to record insect counts," says Art Clinton, National Mobile Computing Program Manager for the Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department.
This means that any rugged device the Forest Service provides for its fieldworkers must not only meet current military standards, but also be dustproof, water-resistant and shock-resistant. The device must have enough battery life for a full day's mission, and screen resolution viewable in bright sunlight. The agency also requires such devices to have ergonomic input features.
The use of rugged and semi-rugged mobile devices from manufacturers such as Panasonic, Getac and General Dynamics has grown considerably over the past several years. Typically, government users are fieldworkers who are exposed to harsh conditions — such as extreme temperatures and environments with large amounts of dust and other particulates or vibrations — that can adversely affect the performance of mobile devices that are not designed to operate in these environments.
"We have witnessed significant advances in terms of overall industrial design and ergonomics of these devices," says David Krebs, vice president for enterprise mobility and connected devices at VDC Research. "While rugged devices will always be heavier than similar-sized, nonrugged devices, the difference is shrinking, especially for devices designed to be more portable, such as tablets. And the drop specification continues to improve as vendors become more aggressive with their product positioning and capabilities."
Art Clinton is one of the people at the forefront of supplying computers in the field. It has been his job to evaluate, purchase, package, maintain and upgrade the many handheld portable computers used throughout the Forest Service’s Pacific North West region. Art will be presenting on “Selecting and Implementing Rugged Mobile Devices into Your Field Operations” at this year’s ForestTECH 2014 event running in Rotorua on 19-20 November and again in Melbourne on 25-26 November. Full details on both programmes can be found on www.foresttech2014.com
New guide for pine foliage diseases in NZFor those interested in pine diseases and control, a team from Scion has developed a useful guide for foresters to identify common foliage diseases of pines and lists available methods of control. The common foliage diseases in New Zealand pine plantations include; dothistroma needle blight, cyclaneusma needle cast, physiological needle blight (PNB) and red needle cast (RNC).
Control of needle disease is dependent on the correct identification of the disease, as applying the wrong treatment will be a waste of time and resources. For more information and a link to this new guide, check out the latest issue of R&D Works.
New Zealand Log Prices - August 2014In-market log prices have increased again and are currently averaging US$130/JAS in China. This totals a bounce of approximately US$10/JAS off the price floor reached in June. Inventory levels are still reported to be very high, at over 4 million m³. On the whole there is optimism in the export market for rising prices at the moment but the higher prices without a significant decrease in the high inventories has some exporters looking at the market more cautiously.
Despite lowered supply from NZ, the inventories have remained at high levels. This has led to a decreasing proportion of Radiata logs in inventory in China, as it is replaced by supply from PNW. Some exporters are expecting larger declines in inventories once PNW supply slows, which would bring the market back into balance.
The Agrifax Log Price Indicator increased by 2.5 points in the past month, led by increasing export prices. A-grade exports were up 10% in the past month, while pruned logs and K-grade increased 8%. The increase follows in-market log prices which have been pushed up in the past two months by US$10/JAS. Some of this increase is influenced by speculators, looking to secure as much volume as possible at low prices. This has meant that log inventories haven’t actually decreased, and sales off ports have declined.
The domestic market has remained relatively flat, in comparison to exports. There are regional differences in log supply, with some mills being offered excess supply that can’t find a home in export markets. Pulp prices in the North Island have eased 3-4% due to the higher availability of export industrial logs that are being sold in the domestic market. In the Central North Island pruned supply is growing tighter, which could result in higher prices for the fourth quarter. Structural timber demand is increasing, and the summer is expected to be a very busy one for construction. This could mean increases in prices over summer, but for now structural log prices have remained flat.
The Agrifax log price data is a weighted average of prices collected each month from a range of New Zealand log buyers and sellers. Log prices shown in the table will vary regionally and by supplier and should only be used to provide a broad trend of log price movements.
Innovation the linchpin to drive SME sales growthAustralian small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly investing in innovation in a bid to improve productivity in a low growth environment. According to the latest July 2014 Bibby Financial Services Barometer, more than half of SMEs surveyed (53.1%) are focused on undertaking innovation in the short to medium term, primarily to focus on future growth.
Almost one third of SMEs are committed to innovate in the next 12 months, while a further 21% intend to innovate over the medium term (after 12 months). Over 70% of SMEs say that innovation is important to compete with larger business.
Technological innovation is the main priority for medium sized business, with 67.4% of respondents citing this as a high priority. For small businesses, with between 5 and 19 employees, product innovation is a top priority (53.3%) and for micro businesses, with less than 5 employees, customer acquisition innovation is a top priority (51.5%).
The key benefits of innovation identified by SMEs include future growth; improving productivity; generating higher quality products and services; increased customer satisfaction and having more efficient work processes. More >>
New timber technology a game-changer for SingaporeThe idea of using wood for building walls in Singapore must have sounded outlandish to the authorities back in 2012. After all, wood is flammable and the country requires that the structural elements of buildings be fire-proof. But this year, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officially revised its fire code to allow the use of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) for structural components in buildings after a thorough safety assessment.
This change came about thanks to the efforts of international property and infrastructure firm Lend Lease, which has been leading efforts to promote the use of CLT technology in Singapore as a cost-saving, environmentally-sustainable building system.
Over the years, the government has been cutting back on foreign manpower quotas to soothe the growing friction between locals and foreigners in the densely-populated city. The price of sand has also jumped as several Southeast Asia countries have banned the export of sand and granite to Singapore, citing environmental degradation caused by sand extraction.
Lend Lease in Australia had done three years of due diligence on CLT technology before embarking on its Forté project, comprising 23 CLT apartments in Melbourne, which was completed in 2013. Forté was completed 30 per cent faster than if reinforced concrete had been used.
Mann Young, Head of CLT Business (Asia) for Lend Lease, shared with Eco-Business in a recent interview that the SCDF and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) granted their in-principle acceptance of CLT technology mid-last year after 18 months of discussions, presentations and overseas study trips.
But even then, they stipulated that CLT buildings could not exceed four storeys. Eventually, the height limit for CLT buildings was increased last November to a maximum of 24 metres, or six or seven storeys, after authorities conducted a further European study tour of CLT buildings.
Earlier this month, Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) launched a new platform called the ‘Pre-Project Innovation Consortium’ to promote integrative design and enable building industry players to collaborate on sustainable buildings early in the design stage. Under this initiative, Lend Lease will be leading a consortium and plans are underway to test-bed the use of CLT in Singapore. More >>
Robotic helicopters used for biosecurityAustralia's rare and precious rainforests, like the iconic Daintree region of Australia, could have an unexpected aerial ally in the battle against weeds - autonomous helicopters. Two Project ResQu helicopters developed by CSIRO completed trial flights near Cairns, locating weeds like the dreaded 'purple plague', Miconia calvescens, faster and more reliably than ever.
Developed by robotics researchers at CSIRO, in partnership with Biosecurity Queensland, the unmanned helicopters found weeds using sophisticated imaging technology. The helicopters are safer and a more convenient way of mapping weeds in remote and difficult terrain.
CSIRO Biosecurity flagship science director, Dr Gary Fitt, said "Miconia is among the worst of a number of weeds that pose a significant threat to Australia's precious rainforest remnants," Fitt said. "Unless detected and eradicated early, they can cause irreversible damage to our native plant and animal populations.
"In the biosecurity space effective surveillance is critical - we need to be able to detect incursions quickly and accurately. Technologies like the autonomous helicopter or other autonomous platforms provide us with another tool in the fight against these biological invasions."
The unmanned Project ResQu helicopters surveyed rainforests at El Arish, near Cairns and found not only found Miconia but several other weed species. The helicopters can navigate obstacles without human control while recording locations and images for biosecurity staff to scan for evidence of weeds.
Queensland Science Minister Ian Walker said the robotic helicopter played a key role in protecting native flora from weeds and was a good example of using new technology to provide better outcomes. "This not only saves money but also means we can boost our biosecurity by carrying out more effective mapping" Walker said.
Project ResQu is a two-year, AU$7M project led by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA) in a collaborative project between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), CSIRO, Boeing and Insitu Pacific with the support of the Queensland State Government.
Australian Timber Design Award 2014 winners announcedOn Thursday 18th September at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, the winners of the Australian Timber Design Awards 2014 were announced with overall award going to Bates Smart (in collaboration with the Irwin Alsop Group) for the Dandenong Mental Health Facility. All winners and finalists of all categories with photos and information are now available to view online at www.timberawards.com.au.
DJ’s album cover doubles as paper turntablePrinting circuitry on paper stock has led to innovations from a real-working paper keyboard to RAM storage cells, but this technology’s latest offering could make you the life of the party. For his forthcoming album this fall, DJ Qbert is offering his fans an album cover that doubles as a turntable, allowing users to touch the paper and scratch over his music with the help of an iPhone or iPad projecting the music, Popular Mechanics reported on 22 August.
The turntable was made possible by a programmable, Bluetooth-enabled chip that’s affixed to the paper stock and electricity-conducting ink used to print circuitry on the paper. Together, they work together to allow users to create different sounds with the touch of an album cover.
Imtech Industry International
Excavator mulcher in actionCheck this clip out. Ideal you’d think for intensive vegetation control, land clearing, roadside clearing and cleaning up around transmission lines.
Global CO2 emissions reach unprecedented levels in 2013Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels reached a new record of 36 billion tonnes last year. At the same time, the pace of emissions from burning fossil fuels continues to grow at a high rate.
Executive-Director of the Global Carbon Project (GCP) and co-author of the 2014 report CSIRO's Dr Pep Canadell said the carbon dioxide level was "unprecedented in human history". Dr Canadell said fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase 2.5 per cent this year, bringing the total carbon dioxide emissions from all sources above 40 billion tonnes.
The report shows that Australian emissions continued to decline in 2013, adding to a downward trend that began in 2009, largely due to the decline in electricity generation from coal power plants. The largest emitters in 2013 were China, USA, the European Union, and India, together accounting for 58 per cent of global emissions.
Fossil fuel emissions are tracking the high end of emissions scenarios used by climate scientists to project climate change using global circulation models. The GCP provides an annual report of carbon dioxide emissions, land and ocean sinks and accumulation in the atmosphere, incorporating data from multiple research institutes from around the world.
The full data and methods are published today in the journal Earth System Science Data Discussions, with associated papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change. Data and other graphic materials can be found at: www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget.
Export log market updateNew Zealand
At-wharf-gate prices have increased this month, with the NZ average for A-grade up 10%. Most prices were up $7-10/t, and pruned logs were up $10-13/t. Wharf-gate prices are up to $91/t in the Northern North Island, which is a $10/t change from July. The increase reflects changes in in-market log prices, as well as foreign exchange movements, though it was offset to some extent by increases in shipping prices.
Log exports in July were up 6% on June exports, with a month-on-month increase in exports to China. However, for the third month in a row, exports to China were lower than a year ago, which brings the rolling quarter average to a 14% year-on-year drop. For the three months to July, total exports were down by just 4%, which reflects the increases in exports to other destinations. Exports to South Korea and India were down slightly, but that was offset by an increase in exports to Japan.
China’s log imports increased in July, up 8% from June and were marginally higher than July 2013. Supply from Russia, Canada and the US was up, but supply from outside of these areas decreased. However, the rapid increase in supply from areas outside of the three major suppliers that was driven up by high prices towards the end of 2013 and the start of 2014 has not abated much.
China’s imports from these areas, such as Ukraine and Australia, were up 27% year-on-year in July. With real estate sales slowing, there is likely to be much lower construction activity this year. China is in the busy season for construction and due to lower investment and falling house prices, it is unknown how significant the effect on construction for this season out to winter will be.
Demand in South Korea has been increasing, with imports for the three months ending July up 36% over the three months previous. It is reported that sawmills are increasing production with expectations of higher demand and the lower log prices available increasing margins. Exports have increased in South Korea, which increases demand for industrial packaging.
Pacific North West
Supply from the Pacific North West continues at high rates, driven mostly by US exports, from where China’s imports have increased by nearly 300,000t in the three months to July, over the previous three month period. This market appears to be experiencing some lag in correcting downward for the lower prices in China. The US domestic lumber market is still strengthening, and imports from Canada have increased, which also signals increased US domestic use. This appears to be affecting lumber exports to China, which have been trending downward during 2014. This may offset some of the increase in log exports to China.
Buy and Sell
...and one to end the week on ... the most dangerous thing of all
A doctor was addressing a large audience in Oxford.
And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.
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