Both consumers and producers are at the mercy of trends. Consumers often feel the need to upgrade or update everything from their technology to their wardrobes, based on current trends. Producers often redesign or rebrand products in order to gain alignment with trends. The lumber industry is no exception.
As a major importer of genuine Burmese Teak, J. Gibson McIlvain is fully aware of what’s in vogue within the boat-building industry. A current tendency toward using a greater variety of species within the cabins is perplexing to many boat builders. When their staff has worked with only one species, bringing in a new product can be a daunting task.
Consider this scenario: one of your oldest and best customers comes to you, desiring to use Walnut in some of their yacht cabins. As you scan the specifications for the job, you realize that the request reflects a familiarity with Teak but would be basically impossible to fill considering your cursory knowledge of Walnut.
As you discuss the varying size and grade issues, as well as your customer’s current and projected future needs, you realize that further education will be needed before you can progress.
So you gather a team of their designers, carpenters, and sales personnel and meet at the J. Gibson McIlvain lumber yard in Baltimore for a tutorial on lumber grading. Along with a survey of the current inventory, the team begins to understand how the species distinctions of Walnut will impact every aspect of their business. Their former standards of width, length, thickness, and grade would have to be entirely re-evaluated. Being used to exotic species, these builders and designers are not used to working around knots. It’s a complete game-changer, and not a welcome one.
It’s not just education, but training that will be needed in order to learn how to work around defects when a perfectly clear board cannot be found — or afforded. Even though most other species seem to be value-priced, when we compare them to Teak, the price difference between perfectly clear Walnut and FAS Walnut definitely makes a little problem-solving worth a try.
Now armed with more reasonable expectations with a little know-how and elbow grease, your customer is equipped to plan for a new Walnut line. On the flip side, we as the lumber supplier can purchase Walnut in the future, knowing what will be needed for our new Walnut customer. Since we know there is an emerging market and we have a specific buying plan for a higher grade of “premium” Walnut, we will also have a specific grader informed to pull suitable lumber for your customer as it arrives in our lumber yard.
The result of such meetings is greater respect for the lumber and for one another’s roles as well as more accurate orders and less waste. At the end of the day, we all save money and frustration, especially as we navigate the waters of new industry trends.