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Technology change in the Australian wood panel industry

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posted on 2022-07-22, 00:58 authored by D W Sanderson

This Study: Assesses current Technology and related practices and policies in the Australian Wood Panel Industry; reviews its history, future projections and techno-related needs.

Methodology: By industry research and by examining the broad body of literature and other field work for appropriate theories and conclusions relevant to Australian wood panel industry.

History: There are 30 main plants operating, and their Australian history dates from 1911 -

Plywood, 1937 - Softboard, 1939 - Hardboard, 1957 - Particleboard, 1982 - Medium Density

Fibreboard (MDF) and 1990 - Higher Density Fibreboard.

Recent Changes: Include the swing from Rainforest and Native Hardwoods to Plantation Softwoods and Mill Residues, Changes in Environmental, Bureaucratic and Community values and requirements. Increasing International competition. Introduction of Computers and other electronic technology controlling processes and replacing the human factor.

Industry: Currently produces nearly 1 million cubic metres of panel products per annum, with a sales value exceeding $500,000,000, Exports of MDF and Particleboard exceed Plywood and other

imports giving a small positive Trade Balance. Uses 927 Plantation softwood, 47% of which canes

from sawmill residues and other waste.

Employs 2710 persons directly, in the mills, from management to the factory floor and support

services, 62 (or 4.3%) of whom are Professionals in Technical fields.

Plant: - Mean age of all plant in use is 19-3/4 years

- The "weighted" (by output) status of all plant is considered to be: -

"State of the Art" - 24%

Modern - 487.

Mature - 28%

Most plant originates from Germany, followed by USA, Scandanavia, Australia and Italy, in that order. A lot of older plant has new Technology "Blended" on.

Innovation: Most plants have organised programmes concentrating particularly on use of computers and PLC s in process control, mechanised downstream handling, development of own resins and additives. CSR and Laminex have developed technologies, being Patented and licensed overseas. Except for Plywood, most firms have their own R & D - spending less than .38% G.P.

Environmental: Noise, resin emissions and continuous effluent treatment are seen as the major issues. This is a general trend to firms having a "sealed -bag policy" and conducting "boundary audits".

Management & Labour: T(1 and special Workplace Safety programmes being universally embraced. Multi product plants VRP. Some trend to "Enterprise Bargaining" in the workplace.

Technology Transfer: Overwhelmingly by European travel, followed by use of international consultants and suppliers, then own R & D.

Future: Industry projected to double in next 20 years. Major challenges seen to be

- international competitiveness

- use of lower grade resource

- environmental

- strategic management to integrate market focus with costs, investment and maturing products and technology.


Number of Pages



Central Queensland University

Place of Publication

Rockhampton, Qld.

Open Access

  • Yes

Era Eligible

  • No

Thesis Type

  • Master's by Research Thesis

Thesis Format

  • With publication

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