Information is always king
THE CHALLENGE for the timber industry in Australia is not who will buy the timber, evidence is that timber already has a pretty reliable market. No, the challenge is how can the timber sector do what other industries do and increase value and use innovation and communication as key factors to growing the sector.
The Australian timber market is slow to innovate. There are a number of reasons given for this, anything from need to maintain sales (the failure of sales success!) to lack of material availability; to everything in between. Yes, they are just excuses. We have all heard them and we all fall into the trap at some stage of our careers of pandering to them. The reality is, we need to confront the status quo of any of our products and services and look to how we can do it better. As so many industries has taught us, getting the value add comes from being at the forefront of technology and advancement. But to advance you need information – and this is the Achilles heel of the industry.
It is in my view the biggest issue the timber supply chain has - the lack of information regarding markets and opportunities and how timber is actually used. By way of example finding data on flooring, decking, cladding is difficult at best, and impossible at worst. So it answers the question why the timber industry has been so bad at understanding its customers. Without data and analysis you have no hope of understanding how the consumer drives the pull strategy for so much of the industry. So what we are doing at the TimberHub is calculating information about how timber is used so we can do something that other industries seem to do a whole lot better. Understand the consumer.
All too often I hear – “we don’t deal with the consumer!” or “they don’t pay our bills” and while these statements are correct in and of themselves the reality is the consumer is the powerhouse behind the demand and supply chains. We ignore them at our peril.
Yes we watch housing starts, but does that tell us what type of flooring people are going to be using or whether people are increasingly using composite materials for decking? Does it tell us whether renovation is ticking up as an growing market for engineered floors? The answer is we need to focus a lot more on the detail and look at people’s questions to work out what the influences are in the market.
The TimberHub has been watching the consumer regularly and building a lot of data about the way the market is trending. By way of example we know from consumers visiting the centre that consumers are doing a lot of looking at composites, and Architects are specifying a huge amount of jobs in composites has this seen a dramatic increase in market share? While some would say yes, other evidence indicates that the uptake of composites has stabilised while the consumers reignite their preference for timber.
The moral is staying on top of market information is vital to help understand where the market is heading, and what effect it is having on your market share (and therefore opportunities), and also to monitor what new products you may need to watch out for etc. etc. The TimberHub has the history of data that we are now supplementing with information from sources such as IBIS world, ABS and BIS so that we can help our supporters know and understand what is happening in their particular slice of the timber market. So keep in contact with us at the TimberHub, we see a lot of what is going on in the market place with a great deal more clarity than many would expect.