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FIBER SUPPLY AND DEMAND

One of the most basic and important factors in determining the success of a forest products manufacturing operation is having access to raw material that meets quality requirements, is readily available year round, and is cost effectively priced. Firms considering building a new facility or expanding an existing facility need a detailed understanding of the fiber supply situation in their supply area. This applies to all types of raw materials including sawtimber, pulpwood, logging residuals, and mill residuals.

The Beck Group is well versed in the supply and demand of all these raw material types and provides clients with valuable insights into this important area through research including:

  • Historical sales and harvest levels in targeted areas

  • Standing timber inventory by ownership

  • Completion of growth-to-drain analysis

  • Changes in environmental laws and regulations, and their impacts

  • Viability of producers purchasing timber

  • Supply and demand of mill residuals

CASE STUDIES

Hemlock Veneer Market Study—The Beck Group completed a Western hemlock veneer market study for a confidential client that was evaluating the potential for developing a veneer manufacturing operation in Western Canada for domestic and export markets. Beck’s assistance focused on West Coast veneer markets (U.S. and Canada). The project assessed the existing supply and demand balance for softwood veneer in the West, utilizing a proprietary database of veneer producers and consumers maintained by The Beck Group. The project also entailed providing basic market information such as veneer grades, historic pricing data, product standards, analyzing transportation economics for supply to multiple regional locations, and historic and forecasted future supply and demand for two key markets: softwood plywood and laminated veneer lumber.

Growing specialty markets for mass plywood were also evaluated. Finally, Beck staff identified potential key customers and assisted the client by making introductions to these customers.

 

The Beck Group’s proprietary database of veneer producers and users, as well as our in-depth industry knowledge and key contacts, were invaluable to the client in their assessment of the opportunity and risks associated with a new veneer business.

Pacific Northwest Mill Residual Supply and Demand—The Beck Group recently assisted a confidential client who was considering a major capital improvement project aimed at increasing production. As part of the project’s due diligence, Beck assisted by utilizing our mill database to provide an analysis of the current and projected supply and demand for mill residuals (chips, sawdust, and planer shavings) in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Our benchmarking work provides us with the most up to date and accurate information available about mills’ operational status, capacities, and by-products production. The client can now make solid plans based on a well-informed assessment of the project’s raw material supply and demand.

Review of Log Procurement Practices—A sawmilling fundamental is that efficient log procurement activities are essential to profitable production. Thus, Beck was asked to review the log procurement practices of a milling facility in the Western US. This review included analyzing: log supply opportunities; harvesting and trucking capacity in the mill’s supply region; and the costs of procurement activities. Beck also assessed the company’s information management system and its efficiency for handling the administrative side of log procurement. Finally, Beck evaluated the procurement function’s staffing levels and provided procurement staff with an introduction to return-to-log (RTL) calculations. Beck recommended further analysis to determine the type  of logs (size, length, species, etc.) which provide the greatest return to the mill. While not part of the original scope, Beck also discussed the handling and storage of logs near the mill. The review of mill operations also led to recommendations for modifications to mill equipment to better match the log supply in the area.

 

Beck staff has over 30 years of raw material procurement experience including managing teams of procurement professionals. This experience was utilized to review the client’s practices from the forest to the mill, which resulted in the client reducing logs costs and increasing profitability.

Timberland Acquisition Due Diligence—The Beck Group was recently retained to assist a confidential client in assessing the future supply and demand for pulpwood and sawtimber in the region where the client was contemplating a timberland investment. Beck’s tasks included using its mill supply and demand database to identify all the pulpwood- and sawtimber-consuming mills in the region and comparing their estimated annual consumption to historical harvest levels. Beck also developed a sawtimber stumpage price forecast given the supply and demand balance in the region.

 

Our mill database is based on the most recent and accurate information that is not available elsewhere. The client can make an investment decision based on the most complete information, filtered for relevancy and tailored to its needs.

Fiber Supply Assessment—The US Forest Service retained The Beck Group to complete a biomass and timber supply assessment in a three-state region including Southeast Idaho, Western Wyoming, and Northeast Utah. In this region, where landownership is dominated by government agencies, The Beck Group interviewed numerous land managers about historical levels of forest management and plans for future levels of forest management. Beck compiled all of the information gathered into a report documenting historical harvest levels, projected harvest levels, current utilization standards and existing utilization facilities. Beck also evaluated opportunities for forest products industry expansion in the region.

 

Beck consultants specialize in distilling timber-related information into forms best understood by managers, whether in the public or private sector. The USFS gained information that will help the Federal Government promote responsible, sustainable forest treatments that will take account of the local producers’ business needs and challenges.

Mass Timber Manufacturing Feasibility—The Beck Group recently assisted a confidential client by completing a mass timber manufacturing feasibility study. Beck assisted by analyzing the size of the glulam and CLT market in North America with specific focus on the Western U.S.; using its sawmill database to evaluate the supply and cost of raw materials; providing a third party review of financial modeling including estimates of capital costs, ongoing operating costs, and key metrics such as productivity, downtime, and raw material to finished product yield factors; and providing conclusions and recommendations about mitigating project risks. All of Beck’s work was summarized in a written report that the client will use to attract investors to the project.

 

The mass timber manufacturing supply chain is an area of Beck expertise based on nearly 10 years of involvement in the International Mass Timber Conference as presenters, International Mass Timber Report authors, and other project work similar to this one. The client now has the information needed to answer investors’ questions and demonstrate the project’s timely strengths.

North American Softwood Lumber Supply and Demand Balance—Over the last several years there has been a significant volume of European softwood lumber entering North American markets. A confidential client retained The Beck Group to analyze historical North American lumber production by producing region, and then to project future North American lumber production by region given key driving factors such as North American lumber demand, imports from offshore, lumber production capacity, and log supply. Beck used its mill database extensively during this effort. This interesting project identified several key trends in the North American supply chain that are sure to impact softwood lumber markets and pricing over the next several years.

 

The Beck Group’s understanding of softwood lumber markets and production across the North American continent is based on decades of research and statistical tracking. The client’s management team is now equipped to anticipate North American supply chain shifts and price movements.

Biomass Cogeneration Feasibility—The Beck Group recently completed assisting a sawmill client assess the feasibility of adding biomass heat and power to their sawmilling operations. Beck’s tasks included identifying the supply and cost of fuel available to the project. This included a portion of the sawmill’s own by-products and biomass fuel sourced from urban wood waste and logging residuals. Beck also estimated the capital cost for installing a new boiler, turbine generator, and interconnecting to the grid. Finally, Beck analyzed the market for renewable power and estimated the price at which the project could sell its power to the local utility.

 

Our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies; biomass utilization is one of our core competencies. This enabled management to make well-informed decisions about the viability of adding power generation to their facilities.

Statewide Biomass Supply & Demand Assessment—Drax retained The Beck Group to complete a statewide assessment of the supply & demand of woody biomass in California. Beck estimated the annual volume of biomass produced from forestry residues, mill residuals, forest health and wildfire mitigation treatments, ag/orchard removals, and urban wood waste.  Beck also estimated the annual demand for woody biomass materials in the state among users including biomass power generation, landscape and mulch, pellets, and other miscellaneous existing uses. Beck’s database of biomass producing and consuming mills was instrumental in completing the analysis. Beck also developed a comprehensive listing of biomass- and timber-consuming projects in various stages of planning and development.

 

With over a century of collective experience, Beck consultants can estimate the supply of and demand for many forms of biomass. The client came away with a better understanding of the California market, enabling management to decide how best to navigate its currents.

Strategic Planning—The Beck Group assisted a large user of industrial lumber products in strategic planning focused on the growth of their business. Beck’s tasks included assessing historical trends and forecasts in timber availability for key species used by the company, identifying possible alternative/substitute species that could be used, assessing the survivability of key lumber producers, identifying trends and factors in the dynamics of lumber imports and exports from the U.S., and evaluating the survivability of remanufacturing operations that convert industrial lumber into millwork parts.

 

Beck helped this client effectively and efficiently assess opportunities for gaining greater control of their raw material supply chain. Key to the analysis was Beck’s knowledge and experience of timber supply, as well as our knowledge and experience regarding the long-term viability of key sectors of the forest products industry infrastructure. 

US South Mill Residual Supply and Demand—The Beck Group assisted a confidential client to assess the supply and demand for mill residuals within a 150 road-mile radius of a proposed manufacturing facility, which translated into a three-state area in the U.S. South. Beck’s role included identifying potential supply mills for the prospective facility, estimating their annual production of mill residuals by type, and estimating the existing demand for those mill residuals. For the mill residual material judged to be in excess supply, Beck estimated its delivered cost to the prospective plant.

 

Our mill database is based on the most recent and accurate information that is not available elsewhere. The client now understands the full supply landscape, can assure investors supply is adequate, and can develop a strategic raw material purchase plan.

Council of Western State Foresters—The Beck Group was retained by the Council of Western State Foresters to assess the feasibility of manufacturing Wood Wool Cement and Wood Fiber Insulation, both of which can be manufactured from biomass and small diameter trees. For each technology, Beck assessed the markets for the products produced; the types of equipment needed to manufacture the products and the capital costs for purchasing and installing the equipment; ongoing operational costs; and the supply and cost of raw materials. A copy of the report is available here: https://bof.fire.ca.gov/media/gkkfdgqc/cwsf-wood-wool-and-wood-fiber-insulation-study-final-4-26-23_ada.pdf.

 

To maintain this core competency, our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies. This feasibility study enabled the Council to share details of two such technologies that show strong potential to combine carbon sequestration with innovative building materials. Entrepreneurs can use the information to begin planning profitable business ventures and enable forest management that will make fire-prone communities safer. 

Acquisition Due Diligence—The Beck Group assisted an investor interested in acquiring a wood products manufacturing complex that included a sawmill and plywood operation. Beck’s tasks included visiting the site to observe and evaluate the operations at work, developing a valuation of the business as a going concern (including evaluating the company’s projected income and earnings multiples based on historical financial performance relative to comparable publicly traded companies), comparing the competitive strengths and weaknesses of the operations, developing high-level estimates of capital investment that would likely be required following the acquisition, and providing commentary and analysis for potential lenders and investing partners. 

 

Because of Beck’s expertise in forest products manufacturing operations, our client was able to develop an acquisition bid based on accurate data developed by a neutral third party.

Chelan County Forest Products Campus—The Beck Group analyzed opportunities for developing a biomass campus designed to utilize small diameter trees harvested during forest health and wildfire mitigation forest management treatments. Using supply information generated by Mason, Bruce, & Girard, Beck identified three small diameter utilization technologies that complement each other, have secure markets for the products they produce, and that are appropriately scaled for a biomass campus. For each technology, Beck provided preliminary estimates of capital costs, ongoing operating expenses, yields, productivity rates, and financial projections.

 

Our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies; biomass utilization is one of our core competencies, which enabled the client to identify a biomass campus concept based on the most current information about technologies and production, which will lead to a safer community.

Product Manufacturing Study—The Beck Group was retained by a confidential Western Canadian company to analyze the opportunity for recapitalizing an existing large-scale lumber manufacturing operation. The options that were analyzed included mill modernization focused on a smaller scale, specialty sawmill operation, and a veneer manufacturing plant for producing dry veneer for both U.S./Canadian domestic markets as well as for export to Asia. The study included estimating capital costs for both alternatives, as well as detailed market and feasibility analysis. A declining timber supply was also assessed to identify the practical level of expected timber volume availability. Beck staff members completed an in-depth assessment of the supply-demand balance in the U.S./Western Canadian softwood veneer business in assessing veneer market opportunities.

 

Beck staff members, working closely with the client’s management and staff, can extend the expertise and knowledge of even the largest forest product manufacturers in completing independent assessments of strategically important projects.

Acquisition Due Diligence—The Beck Group assisted a private equity firm considering acquisition of a company with a variety of wood products assets in Eastern Canada. Beck’s tasks included comparative analysis of sawmill profitability and other performance characteristics for Eastern Canadian sawmills versus those in other regions of North America, an outlook for timber supply trends in the region, describing lumber trade issues between Canada and the U.S., developing an overview of the Eastern Canadian pulp and paper market, and developing maps showing the location and ownership of sawmills and pulp mills in Ontario and Quebec. 

 

The Beck Group’s expertise in forest products manufacturing, timber supply and demand, and international trade allowed our client to successfully acquire a valuable group of manufacturing facilities.

San Carlos Apache Sawmill Planning—After decades of planning with the assistance of The Beck Group, the San Carlos Apache Tribe now has an operating sawmill in eastern Arizona. The Beck Group helped the Tribe plan and develop a sawmill that is scaled to match the amount of timber available from the Tribe’s forest resources on reservation timberlands; that can handle a large range in log sizes; and that can produce lumber to a broad range of thicknesses, widths, and lengths. The planning assistance included timber supply, market, and product line analyses; assessment of a range of sawmill equipment alternatives; feasibility assessment and business plan development; assistance with project financing; and work with an engineering and installation contractor on equipment procurement, installation, and start-up planning.

 

Beck consultants’ extensive hands-on experience in the sawmilling world enables us to see a facility not merely as an investor might, but also as an owner would. The client gained the means of utilizing its lands to help improve Tribal members’ economic outcomes in sustainable fashion.

Planning Assistance for New Sawmill Construction—The Beck Group assisted a confidential client – a vertically integrated sawmill and lumber pallet manufacturer – in planning the addition of a new sawmill operation as the company transitioned from predominantly hardwood pallets to mostly softwood pallet production. The assistance included an in-depth timber supply assessment of regional hardwood and softwood timber availability; assistance in site selection, sawmill equipment configuration and capital cost planning; and feasibility analysis of multiple alternatives, including the possible purchase, relocation, and upgrading of an existing sawmill operation. While designed primarily for Southern Yellow Pine pallet lumber, the final mill configuration was also capable of specialty hardwood lumber production.

 

For this project, Beck staff worked closely with mill management in developing and analyzing various alternatives before arriving at a mill configuration that achieved the overall specialty product line specifics the company was planning. The project team had worked together on prior projects and their working relationship, along with the input of partner vendors, helped achieve a cost-effective solution that met the company’s return on investment objectives. Company management approved the plans and the new mill has been constructed.

Planning Assistance for a New Sawmill, Remanufacturing Plant and Biomass Power Generation—Beck staff assisted a confidential client in developing plans for a new greenfield sawmill, remanufacturing plant, and associated biomass power plant to complement the company’s South American timber holdings. The focus of the project was manufacturing high-grade pine products to supply global markets with a combination of lumber and remanufactured products. Because of limited markets for sawmill residuals in the region, a biomass power plant was included in the plans to provide an internal market for the residuals as well as power for the operations. Some excess power was also examined for sale into the regional power grid.

 

Beck staff also evaluated the acquisition and expansion of an existing sawmilling company as an alternative to new greenfield construction. Beck staff members worked closely with the client in assessing timber supply; assessing alternative mill locations; analyzing market opportunities for both lumber and remanufactured products; developing capital plans and cost estimates for the entire operation (with the assistance of an engineering firm subcontracted by Beck); and in detailed process flow and financial modeling/feasibility analysis.

 

With nearly 50 years of history, The Beck Group has extensive experience in assisting clients with complex planning projects, whether in North America or offshore. Having actual sawmill performance information based on past benchmarking studies and prior planning projects, plus extensive experience working with a variety of types of sawmills (hardwood; softwood; commodity-focused and specialty-oriented mills; large-scale and medium- to smaller-scale operations), provides our clients with information and analysis at a high level. Additionally, our use of subcontractors with specific areas of expertise (such as biomass power generation, specialty millwork markets, and sawmill engineering) allows us to assemble project teams to address even the most complex forest products planning projects.

Biomass Campus for Small Diameter Tree Utilization—The Beck Group was retained by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to complete a biomass supply study and biomass utilization feasibility study focused on Tuolumne County, California. Beck’s work included developing a detailed estimate of the supply and demand for biomass and small diameter material in the Tuolumne County region. This included estimates of the annually available supply and its delivered cost. Given the results of the supply study, Beck then analyzed the feasibility of a biomass campus that included a biomass power plant, small-scale sawmill, post and pole manufacturing operation, and bundled firewood manufacturing operation. As a direct result of this work, Heartwood Biomass is currently developing a similar biomass campus concept in Tuolumne County.

 

Beck’s experience with fiber supply and demand, small diameter utilization technologies, feasibility analysis, and business planning

Business Plan Assessment—The Beck Group completed due diligence for an investor group considering construction of a greenfield multi-facility wood products manufacturing and biomass energy operation in the U.S. South. Beck’s tasks included critiquing business plan elements including review of the firm’s financial and operations model, financial projections, timber supply and demand analysis, equipment selection, productivity assumptions, manufacturing costs, recovery and product mix, raw material supply and product offtake agreements, and management team qualifications.

 

The Beck Group’s extensive knowledge of timber supply, forest products manufacturing, and biomass power allowed our client to better understand the wisdom and ramifications of investing in the planned businesses.

Acquisition Due Diligence of a Specialty West Coast Lumber Producer—This project was undertaken at the request of a confidential client to assist in the evaluation of a specialty lumber producer with multiple West Coast manufacturing locations. A first step in the acquisition due diligence was an in-depth supply and demand evaluation of the timber resources and competition in the region surrounding the mill operations. This was followed by an evaluation of the overall business including an assessment of the sawmill operations, management reporting systems, management team and workforce, and facility maintenance/capital expenditure plans and opportunities. The due diligence also included a critical review of the company’s financial projections and an assessment of the company’s competitive position for log procurement, including development of return to log values for the company’s specialty product line in comparison to mills competing for the same timber resource producing other lumber products. Additionally, Beck staff provided comparable transaction values from a database of prior sawmill transactions maintained by The Beck Group.

 

The acquisition was completed, and the company continues to grow and improve its new business. Beck staff members were able to utilize their extensive experience in the specialty lumber business including knowledge of markets, manufacturing economics of a variety of different product lines, and regional timber supply and demand. Additionally, The Beck Group maintains a database of historic sawmill transaction values that is useful in establishing the fair market value of a sawmill business.​​

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