Australasian Timber - - FRONT PAGE -

WITH A his­tory dat­ing back to the Egyp­tian Pharaohs, ply­wood has been used over the cen­turies for dec­o­ra­tive prod­ucts, pack­ag­ing, boats, planes, build­ings, and more. Ply­wood is an in­cred­i­bly ver­sa­tile tim­ber prod­uct.

In Aus­tralian con­struc­tion, com­mon uses of ply­wood in­clude floor­ing, cladding, roof­ing, brac­ing, and lin­ings. Its uses also in­clude tem­po­rary struc­tures for con­crete con­struc­tion, with over­laid form­ply of­ten be­ing used in the con­crete form dur­ing the con­struc­tion of con­crete struc­tures. Ply­wood sound bar­ri­ers are vis­i­ble along the edges of free­ways and rail cor­ri­dors in our cap­i­tal cities. By chang­ing the ori­en­ta­tion of ve­neers, a uni-di­rec­tional ply­wood prod­uct – bet­ter known to­day as Lam­i­nated Ve­neer Lum­ber – caters to an even wider range of uses; in­clud­ing joists, bear­ers, truss chords, lin­tels, por­tal frames, scaf­fold planks, power pole cross arms and more.

Ply­wood, and more gen­er­ally en­gi­neered wood, are prod­ucts which have been his­tor­i­cally rel­e­vant in Aus­tralian con­struc­tion, and their ver­sa­til­ity will con­tinue see these prod­ucts be­ing used in de­tached hous­ing, com­mer­cial, and medium rise con­struc­tion.

Sourc­ing re­li­able lo­cal prod­uct

With so many uses, ply­wood has to be re­li­able enough for the high­est risk ap­pli­ca­tions. Bonds need to be re­li­able and struc­tural ply­wood needs to meet the stress grade that it claims. If these fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ments aren’t met it will, at best, re­sult in de­lam­i­nated prod­uct hav­ing to be re­placed or sag un­der load – both are is­sues that spell trou­ble for the in­staller and the sup­pli­ers. More sig­nif­i­cantly, a dis­re­gard for these fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ments risks cat­a­strophic fail­ure and po­ten­tial for loss of life.

The En­gi­neered Wood Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­trala­sia (EWPAA), along with the ply­wood pro­duc­ers who subscribe to the EWPAA’s ply­wood cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, recog­nise the high im­por­tance of prod­uct qual­ity. The com­plex­ity in­volved in mak­ing a re­li­able ply­wood prod­uct is far greater than most peo­ple would imag­ine. Man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tend with com­plex in­ter­act­ing vari­ables in their pro­cesses. In spite of these vari­ables, they vol­un­tar­ily open their mills for reg­u­lar au­dits of their man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses. In ad­di­tion to their own in-mill test­ing they sub­mit on a daily ba­sis sam­ples for in­de­pen­dent bond and struc­tural test­ing.

Vol­un­tary in­volve­ment in the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram re­flects pro­duc­ers’ com­mit­ment to de­liv­er­ing a fit-for­pur­pose prod­uct that can be trusted to per­form. These are busi­nesses who have in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars in man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment specif­i­cally to sup­ply Aus­tralian mar­kets. Their lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing pres­ence sets them apart from trans-global sup­pli­ers who can turn to other in­ter­na­tional mar­kets if their prod­ucts fail in Aus­tralia, or when the Aus­tralian mar­ket is flat.

Prod­uct sus­tain­abil­ity

On top of the need for a re­li­able prod­uct, spec­i­fiers are in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in the sus­tain­abil­ity cre­den­tials of tim­ber prod­ucts. All man­u­fac­tur­ers of ply­wood in Aus­tralia have Chain of Cus­tody cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to AFS/PEFC stan­dards, and a num­ber also have FSC cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The EWPAA is in­volved in en­sur­ing that man­u­fac­tur­ers have ro­bust sys­tems for de­ter­min­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of their log and other wood in­puts, and how they man­age their wood flow. If you are pur­chas­ing or spec­i­fy­ing EWPAA cer­ti­fied ply­wood prod­uct from an Aus­tralasian man­u­fac­turer, you are buy­ing a sus­tain­ably sourced tim­ber prod­uct.

Changes in reg­u­la­tions

A ma­jor is­sue af­fect­ing the Aus­tralian build­ing prod­ucts in­dus­tries has been non-con­form­ing build­ing prod­ucts. Aus­tralian reg­u­la­tions have not been ef­fec­tive in en­sur­ing that con­struc­tion prod­ucts are fit for pur­pose, or that they con­form to the Aus­tralian stan­dards they claim. This has been a frus­tra­tion to Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ers as cheap non-con­form­ing prod­ucts are de­valu­ing their mar­kets and cre­at­ing rep­u­ta­tional is­sues through prod­uct fail­ures.

This prob­lem has been recog­nised in dis­cus­sions at the COAG Build­ing Min­is­ters Fo­rum in De­cem­ber 2016, and is the sub­ject of a Se­nate en­quiry. The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment has re­cently tabled a Bill in­tend­ing to ad­dress prod­uct con­form­ity. Sub­ject to ap­pro­pri­ate al­lo­ca­tion of re­spon­si­bil­ity and en­force­ment, this ini­tia­tive has the po­ten­tial to ad­dress is­sues with non-con­form­ing prod­ucts, re­in­force the qual­ity propo­si­tion of Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ers and have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the qual­ity of Aus­tralian build­ing stock, and on the safety of peo­ple work­ing in con­struc­tion.

Prod­uct cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is one way of sup­pli­ers gain­ing an as­sur­ance of prod­uct con­form­ity. How­ever, the rigor of prod­uct cer­ti­fi­ca­tion needs to match the risk. The con­form­ity of life-safety prod­ucts should be based on an ISO type 5 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, en­com­pass­ing ini­tial test­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing au­dits, on­go­ing sur­veil­lance of the man­u­fac­tur­ing process, on­go­ing sur­veil­lance test­ing, in-mar­ket as­sess­ment, and man­age­ment sys­tem au­dits. This com­pre­hen­sive process, par­tic­u­larly the el­e­ment of on­go­ing mar­ket sur­veil­lance test­ing, en­sures that a ran­dom sam­ple of any prod­uct pro­duced within this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme will at­test to its fit­ness-for-pur­pose, much the same as a ran­dom au­dit by health and safety au­di­tors should at­test to safe work­place prac­tices. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion which is based on a one-off test cer­tifi­cate is not an ad­e­quate ba­sis for de­ter­min­ing that a prod­uct con­forms.

Ply­wood has a well estab­lished rep­u­ta­tion estab­lished over many years. Le­git­i­mately con­form­ing prod­ucts have been and can con­tinue to be part of build­ing so­lu­tions to­day and into the fu­ture. Spec­i­fiers and build­ing prod­ucts sup­pli­ers need a means of en­sur­ing that they use con­form­ing prod­ucts. The EWPAA’s type 5 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and the cap­i­tal in­vest­ment of EWPAA cer­ti­fied man­u­fac­tur­ers in do­mes­tic mar­kets present a very strong case for prod­ucts which con­form.

EWPAA lab staff do­ing me­chan­i­cal prop­er­ties test­ing on ply­wood here in the EWPAA lab.

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