EWP Producers Are Ready To Run
Story by Rich Donnell,
You’ll notice a short article in this issue on the current state of engineered wood products. One of the comments I’ve heard to best sum it up comes from Brian Luoma, Vice President, Engineered Wood Products, Louisiana-Pacific Corp. Luoma said, “We’ve built this great race car. We’re ready for the race to begin.”
Luoma was referring to LP’s plant at Houlton, Me., which was one of LP’s early OSB plants, but which in recent years LP has converted to laminated strand lumber (the plant can still produce OSB). The product is intended to complement as well as substitute for certain LVL applications, and obviously for lumber applications. LP is excited about the plant, about the product, and about its people who are behind it. But as Luoma alluded to, the building products market needs to pull in the yellow flag and start waving the checkered one. Many EWP producers are in this same fix. Waiting. The challenge is a little steeper for LP, in that while traditional EWP producers, including LP, are waiting for the market to pick up steam, LP is also waiting to see how its new product will be received in a real builders market.
I’ve always compared the competition within the EWP industry to a chess match. To even sit down at the table you have to know what you’re doing; understand all the pieces and know their capabilities and limitations (the knight can do what?); quickly form an idea of how your EWP competitor is approaching this same match. The game often progresses very slowly, incrementally, delicately. Your best laid plan may be stymied and you have to regroup. Or perhaps your plan continues to evolve with absolute clarity until you’ve forced your opponent into an inescapable corner, and maybe even before he knows it. Alas, but there can be sudden surprises. A flurry of activity. You’ve overlooked something—the knight no less. Just when you thought you were winning the day, the day is lost.
Meanwhile, the traditional commodities guys have been slugging it out on the checkers board. A lot jumping and crowning. This is the third day at Gettysburg mentality—Pickett’s charge! Here I am and I’m coming. Well, here I am, come on. When the checkers game ends, the two opponents drink out of the same pond. When the chess match concludes, the opponents, win or lose, return to their respective laboratories to make themselves better.
But I get the sense that the EWP producers are about fed up with all of this jostling for position. They’re tired of playing scrimmage games against each other. They’ve fine-tuned themselves about as finely as they can. To return to Luoma’s analogy, they’re ready to see how they’ll perform in the big race.