Reaching for the crystal ball

25 September 2018

I know it’s probably an age thing (my default attribution of blame mechanism) but time seems to be slipping past at a rate of knots. Working on a monthly magazine means that often, in my head at least, I’m a month ahead of the actual date.

It’s not helped by external signals, such as retailers shouting at parents to prepare their children for going back to school on the first day of the summer vacation. And on the first day of the new term I fully expect to see Christmas decorations in the shops.

According to my internal calendar I’ve already had my yet-to-come summer holiday and am looking forward to turkey and Brussels sprouts. The sprouts, not so much.

So it’s probably a good thing I’m not responsible for any forward ordering of materials because I would find that completely discombobulating.

Forward ordering is a bit of a dark art – basically it’s all about predicting the future. How strong will the next fencing season be? Will the weather be kind (and that doesn’t necessarily translate as ‘good’ – a few storms here and there is always a bonus for fencing suppliers)?

Will the construction sector pick up further? Will Brexit issues put the mockers on consumer confidence and demand, or will it provide new growth opportunities? Nobody knows.

Of course, it’s always been an integral part of trading in timber but it does seem to have become even more critical of late.

In our focus on the British-grown timber sector, for example, there are plenty of references to lead times pushing out and for the need for customers to plan well ahead. Sawmills say they are working “handto- mouth” and shipping out product as soon as they manufacture it, so any customers who haven’t been on the front foot will find themselves on the back one.

It’s an issue that is also raised in our plywood and OSB market report. Here an importer said there were concerns over lead times for plywood of up to seven weeks in some cases. “No one can guess what they need that far ahead,” he said.

The collective crystal ball is also in demand with the advent of the awards season (something else that marks the passage of time).

In this issue we highlight just a few of the projects shortlisted in the Wood Awards, which once again showcase timber in both construction and furniture applications.

And we have our own TTJ Awards this month. Now in their 22nd year the TTJ Awards continue to celebrate excellence in our industry. This issue contains the TTJ Awards supplement, detailing SCM’s production of this year’s trophies in American maple and cherry, as well as introducing our host and guest speaker, Jo Caulfield.

It’s always an excellent day out and more than 400 guests have already booked their seats. There are still a few tickets available so, as the saying goes, book now to avoid disappointment!