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Assessing changes in the U.S. hardwood sawmill industry with a focus on markets and distribution

Formally Refereed
Authors: Omar Espinoza, Urs Buehlmann, Matthew Bumgardner, Bob Smith
Year: 2011
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: BioResources. 6(3): 2676-2689.


The U.S. hardwood sawmilling industry has experienced significant changes over the past decade. A slowing housing industry, competition from imported products, higher transportation costs, and high stumpage prices have changed the business of manufacturing and marketing hardwood lumber. Also, hardwood lumber buyers are changing their business practices by shortening lead times, requiring a more customized product, and buying smaller lumber quantities to cut costs and increase operational flexibility. A survey of hardwood lumber manufacturers was conducted in the fall of 2009 to assess changes and adaptations within the industry. Among respondents, average hardwood lumber sales decreased by 13.2 percent during the study's focus period from 2004 to 2008. Respondents also identified a change in customer demand with smaller, more frequent orders becoming more common. Moreover, the species mix shifted, with red oak losing considerable market share. Intermediaries, such as hardwood lumber distributors, were able to capture more of the industry's business. Respondents identified the slowing housing market and high energy costs as major factors affecting their businesses. While the survey's responses reflected the extremely challenging economic conditions, industry participants are aggressively adapting their businesses and pursuing new opportunities with the understanding that markets will eventually recover.


Hardwood lumber, Hardwood sawmills, Hardwood distribution channels, Supply chain


Espinoza, Omar; Buehlmann, Urs; Bumgardner, Matthew; Smith, Bob. 2011. Assessing changes in the US hardwood sawmill industry with a focus on markets and distribution. BioResources. 6(3): 2676-2689.