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Sharing industry, technology for decades


Founded in 1914 as the Southern Pine Association, the Southern Forest Products Association (SFPA) is a nonprofit trade association of southern pine lumber manufacturers, pressure-treaters, distributors, exporters and associated businesses throughout North America.

With 18 member lumber companies operating 75 sawmills and 108 associate members in affiliated businesses, SFPA’s members account for more than half of the southern pine lumber produced in the United States. The association’s two primary roles include lumber product promotion and sponsoring the Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Exposition (EXPO).

Southern pine lumber manufacturers maintained their upward annual volume trend in 2018, reaching nearly 19 billion board feet. Coordinating with allied trade associations, including the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturer’s Association and APA — The Engineered Wood Association, SFPA continues to expand global markets. International shipments of southern pine lumber totaled $488 million in 2018, topping a record 851 million board feet.

As the prime resource for southern pine product information, overseas buyers leverage SFPA’s educational programs and product literature to amplify southern pine lumber sales. While mature markets in Europe and the Caribbean remain important, the association is centered on connecting to emerging markets in Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, Pakistan and India. Unprecedented growth of exports to these new markets indicate opportunities exist for long-term expansion.

In addition to discovering new connections and market opportunities, SFPA sponsors and produces a biennial trade event for the sawmill industry. Since the first EXPO in 1950, the industry has reunited to connect with colleagues by exploring new and exciting machines, processes and technological improvements.

In the late 1940s, America was booming in the postwar economy and nearly 1,500 southern pine sawmills were producing 9.4 billion board feet of lumber annually to sustain the growing housing need. Leaders from across the southern lumber manufacturing region grasped the housing boom’s significance, realizing the need to improve mechanical efficiencies. The concept of an industry-wide trade exposition germinated from a series of association meetings focused on mechanical efficiency. One of the first instances of EXPO’s importance originated with the widespread implementation of ring debarkers. After a devastating fire in 1939 destroyed the Southern Lumber sawmill in Warren, Arkansas, new general manager W. R. Warner began building a state-of-the-art sawmill that would stand as the new model of sawmilling for the southern pine lumber industry.

In reviewing the equipment displayed at the first EXPO and comparing sawmill operations from around the world, Southern Lumber decided to install a revolutionary debarking machine to improve the sawmill’s efficiency. Up until this point, large log debarking was a manufacturing development confined to the Pacific Coast. However, Southern Lumber realized the opportunities of preparing logs for more efficient sawing, reducing labor costs and preventing accidents.

On February 26, 1952, almost two years after viewing the debarking technology at EXPO, the first stationary pneumatic debarker was installed at Southern Lumber.

The Andersson Log Barker proved to be a valuable investment at $28,700 and could debark logs up to 30 inches in diameter. Two weeks after the installation, Southern Lumber hosted members of the association so other lumbermen could study the machinery. Other sawmills took quick note of Southern Lumber’s increased production due to an efficient mechanical debarking machine and followed their lead.

By 1962, sixteen Andersson debarkers had been installed in southern sawmill operations, ushering in a widespread investment in debarking technology.

Like the roots from trees in the forest, our connection to the industry sustains our families and our well-being. Sawmillers from across generations and around the world share the same passion for the industry. It’s a humbling reminder that we are granted the opportunity to be stewards of a great renewable natural resource, one that is a part of our daily life.

The next event, EXPO 2019 — SFPA’s 35th Forest Products Machinery & Equipment Exposition — will take place June 26–28 at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta. As part of EXPO’s commitment to providing a quality event experience, a new FREE smartphone app is now available — download FOREST EXPO in the App Store or Google Play. The app allows you to preview the floor plan, search for exhibitors and set up exhibitor appointments. The EXPO App is the perfect pre-show planner and post-show reference tool and an easy-to-use digital tool for extending the connections made at EXPO.

For almost 70 years, this association-sponsored trade event has successfully connected the lumber manufacturing community. The bonds forged at EXPO build meaningful business relationships and lasting friendships. EXPO provides a place where in-person meetings are valued over emails or phone calls; where a handshake and a smile between colleagues communicates genuine respect; and where sharing ideas is best accomplished face-to-face. Registration is now open to attend EXPO 2019; visit www.sfpaexpo.com for complete details.

(Eric Gee, CF, RF is Deputy Director of the Southern Forest Products Association.)

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