In this article, Norbord’s industrial sales manager, David Sleigh, offers his thoughts on the healthy state of the supply chain for the industrial market …
We’re in the business of producing wood panel products – OSB, MDF and particleboard – and these are used in a multitude of industrial applications, from housebuilding to furnituremaking and packaging.
For industrial users, these products are basic raw materials. Without them, their manufacturing process, building activities and ability to deliver to their end-users would grind to a halt. These products are low-carbon, and turn materials once destined for the waste stream into versatile, durable and valuable commodities.
Norbord has been producing wood panel products for over 30 years and is the only manufacturer within the UK to produce a zero-added formaldehyde OSB product (in SterlingOSB Zero), alongside CaberBoard particleboard and CaberWood MDF brands.
This means that industrial users here in the UK are not reliant on imports. They can buy domestically produced boards made from wood fibre that is either grown in British plantations or chipped locally from recycled wood, such as pallets.
For an industrial user, this is of considerable importance because it guarantees availability and relative price stability. Transport costs are lower because the product doesn’t have to travel far to reach the customer (a benefit to the environment, too).
In recent years, OSB has enjoyed a huge increase in popularity. Once considered an inferior alternative to plywood, OSB’s quality and performance characteristics are now beyond question. It now derives its own market and is specified by type.
Five years ago, the UK OSB market was 350,000m3/year – today it’s nearer 700,000m3/year, and remains the fastest-growing panel product.
The OSB ‘revolution’ is a conspicuous success story, yet the market for MDF and particleboard remains strong too. Demand for MDF – in the shape of skirtings, architraves, MDF mouldings, and use in kitchens and bathrooms – is driven by a strong housebuilding industry.
Similarly, particleboard, the go-to option for domestic structural floors, benefits from housebuilding – as well as a growing demand for mezzanine flooring in the warehousing and retail sectors.
The biggest threat to the UK economy today is, of course, Brexit. But, whatever shape it takes – if, indeed, it ever comes to pass – Brexit will have minimal impact on the cost and availability in the UK of OSB, MDF and particleboard.
That’s a huge reassurance for our industrial customers, and good news for their end-users. And it’s good for the UK economy, too.