• Better co-operation across supply chains can improve efficiency and reduce environmental impact.
• One in five windows in the UK contains wood from SCA Timber.
• SCA estimates that using com-ponents has saved window manufacturers an average 20% in timber waste.
• SCA’s £7.8m dedicated window component production unit at Munksund came on stream in November.

Resource efficiency is the latest environmental focus, and was the subject of a joint OECD and UNEP conference in Paris in April. Experts are exhorting business towards better co-operation across supply chains, in order to reduce environmental impacts of resource extraction and transport and thus making a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.

Waste management is often regarded as an end-of-line activity, but the mantra of resource efficiency applies all through the timber value chain. At the pre-production stage, manufacturers are now working more in tandem with timber suppliers to tailor specifications to production needs. Neil Morris, materials and technical manager with Premdor, has been working with the resource efficiency agenda for some time: “We aim to optimise timber resources by purchasing specific grades, thus reducing repairs and rejects. We tie suppliers down to a tight specification, working increasingly with fully-engineered components designed to provide a sound substrate for paint finishes.”

One in five timber windows in the UK now contains wood from SCA Timber, which has been targeting resource efficiency amongst the British timber windows industry in recent years. Simon Thurman, developed timber products manager with SCA Timber Supply, has become closely involved in optimising raw material use for manufacturing, helping to define component specifications for window producers. “We estimate using components has saved window manufacturers an average of 20% in annual timber wastage on window sections in the past three years,” he said.

With a background in the automotive industry, it’s natural to Paul Lee, operations director of Arden Windows in Coventry, to co-operate across supply chains. He sees the timber sector as “a million miles behind” in this respect: “In principle, all businesses in a supply chain form one extended enterprise with an end product in common. Suppliers should be involved before the end product is designed. Their input should drive costs out of the supply chain, rather than simply pushing costs down,” he said.

“Waste is a cost to all of us. We view the supplier as the materials scientist: they know best how to optimise the material to fit with, or reduce, our manufacturing processes. It now takes considerably fewer steps to manufacture the same window using laminated timber sections. We achieve a 95% yield from the laminated material compared with 70% from sawn timber, and this also saves us having to deal with hundreds of tonnes of woodchip waste per year. SCA understands that material optimisation is essential to our holistic approach to manufacturing, and that it delivers other business benefits, from energy efficiency to enabling effective use of joinery skills and production time.”

Widening its role as part of customers’ production lines, SCA foresees growing its share of the European timber component market to around 25%, and is investing accordingly. Its latest facility, a £7.8m dedicated window component production unit at SCA Munksund sawmill, came on stream in early November. The plant’s capacity of 30,000m³ of five different timber sections has already been taken up by window manufacturers in Europe seeking similar resource efficiencies to their British counterparts. SCA is now investigating further expansion capacity through supply chain partnering in Sweden, to help achieve its target market shares.

The UK construction sector has recently launched a commitment to halve its total waste to landfill by 2012, in which optimisation of timber use in manufacturing plays its role. There is further onus on manufacturing companies to reduce waste under Defra’s Sustainable Consumption and Production programme, designed to help mitigate climate change and assist competitiveness by emphasising resource efficiency in both personal and corporate worlds.

SCA’s reuse of ‘waste’ sawdust from its sawmills provides enough wood pellets to heat 30,000 Swedish homes. The company’s total forest-based biofuel production amounts to 3TWh, avoiding the emission of 900,000 tonnes of CO2. In the UK, Jeld-Wen is of a similar mindset to SCA, using woodwaste from its Lowestoft plant to produce woodfuel pellets: “Making the most of raw materials is part of our sustainability strategy,” said marketing director Joanne Mitchell.