There have been a number of changes to the team that now has responsibility for the sale of construction products at Norra Timber. Per-Ola Engerup, who previously sold sawn timber for export to, among other places, North Africa and the Middle East, is now responsible for Norra Timber’s sales of construction products in Norway. The new contact person for our Swedish customers is Hugo Malmqvist, who has a background in the household appliance industry. Erik Högbom, who previously held Hugo’s role, has now been appointed team leader.
“We have many more fantastic colleagues who work with production, orders, logistics and transportation, so in reality there are lots of us in the construction products ‘gang’. It is, however, the three of us who are responsible for sales”, says Per-Ola Engerup.
The picture shows from the left Per-Ola Engerup, Erik Högbom and Hugo Malmqvist.
Questions about sustainability
Wood is the most environmentally-sustainable building material there is. Trees bind carbon as they grow in the forest and timber material continues to store carbon when it is used in construction. Another environmental benefit occurs when wood replaces steel and concrete building materials. Within the construction industry, environmental product declarations (EDPs) have become an increasingly important issue, as you must now be able to declare the environmental impact of every construction product used in a building.
“We get a lot of questions from customers about sustainability and traceability. They want to make sure what type of forests our timber products come from and whether we have certified raw materials”, says Per-Ola.
Norra Timber is constantly developing its processes and working with sustainability. CT logs, X-rays and scanners are installed at its sawmills to ensure traceability and maximize the yield from each log. Sawdust for stables and agricultural use is created from the waste produced by planing wood. Forest owners who deliver timber are encouraged to certify their forests, and packaging material consists of recyclable plastic.
“We are looking at how we can develop our production processes to avoid plastic packaging between the dry sorting and the planer. If we can store the sawn wood without packaging and feed timber directly into the planer, we can increase efficiency while reducing plastic consumption”, says Erik Högbom.
Meetings are important
At first glance it might seem pretty straightforward to have a customer base in Sweden and Norway. But with around 500 customers spread out over an area equivalent in size from northern Germany all the way down to southern Italy, personal contact is important. Finding the time to visit everyone, however, is a major logistical challenge.
“We have ongoing contact with all our customers to varying extents. They are very spread out, and in Norway for example, there is a hardware store in almost every town - sometimes on remote islands. We aim to meet each customer at least once a year, but sometimes it can be difficult to make the logistics work. Erik and I travelled around Finnmark a couple of months ago. It was an interesting and useful trip, but it took a very long time to get around. You have to go up over mountains and down into small valleys before you can reach certain communities.
"It’s a constant process to keep in touch with customers, but it’s fun and we have great customers who really appreciate us and our products”, says Per-Ola.
Fortunately, there are other ways for the trio to meet their customers. In Norway it is common to attend construction product fairs organized by various building supplier chains, where you can meet several customers at one time. In Sweden there are a limited number of trade fairs, so you need to find other ways to meet, such as study visits to Norra Timber’s production facilities.
“We invite several customers at a time to visit our production facilities. During the pandemic it was difficult, but now we have started our trips up again and they are very much appreciated”, says Hugo Malmqvist.
Construction products are economically vital for Norra Timber. Of the 800,000 cubic meters of sawn timber produced per year, a quarter of it (200,000 cubic meters) is processed further. About half is sold to the Swedish market and half to the Norwegian market. This makes the planing mills that produce Norra Timber’s construction products the sawmills’ single largest customer.’
The price of timber products fell in the spring of 2022 and has since been adjusted in stages. During the autumn, several suppliers had increased stock levels, which led to more frequent adjustments of construction material prices than usual.
“The feeling is that we have had a better inventory situation than generally experienced in the industry. It has been and still is under control. We have been able to work according to agreed routines, which makes us reliable in the market”, says Hugo Malmqvist.
Loyalty runs both ways
Successful collaborations and loyalty are important watchwords for Norra Timber. The trials of the past few years with the pandemic and the ongoing war and turbulent economic
environment have really emphasized how important it is to have good customer relations.
“Several times I have received comments that we were fair during the pandemic when demand was greater than the supply and we decided to back our existing customers and make sure they received roughly the same volumes they had bought before. Doing so gives back to loyal customers who now continue to buy from us and who have a long-term connection with our business. We see our customers as ambassadors and it is noticeable that they consider we treated them fairly when the industry was going through a particularly turbulent phase”, notes Hugo Malmqvist.