RESEARCH BRIEF: The Future of Raw Material for the Wood Pallet Industry

By Leslie Scarlett Sanchez
Department of Wood Science and Forest Products
Virginia Tech


The use of wood pallets is expected to grow, therefore; the sourcing of wood materials for pallet manufacturing requires attention. It is believed that wood pallet manufacturers will face increasing competition for raw materials from producers of wood-based composites, paper and paperboard, and biomass-based energy. Part of our research at VT is focused on identifying suppliers of wood pallet materials, meaning if they are domestic and/or imported. And going a little far, we would like to identify new possible sources of raw material, due to the increasing competition in the acquisition of wood pallet materials. An overview of roundwood production from 1997 to 2008  and main producer countries is presented in this research brief.  

Roundwood production  

Roundwood production is divided in two types: Hardwood and Softwoods. Figure 1 shows the respective quantities for each one and their respective trends through 1997 and 2008 in the United States. It can be seen that there is a decrease over the years for hardwood production. However, softwood production is increasing since 2002 until 2005, and decreases through 2008.  

Figure 1. Roundwood Production in the United States (FAO, 2010)

It is also important to identify the amount of roundwood in the World as shown in Figure 2. Similar to Figure 1, it shows an increase in roundwood production.  

Figure 2. Global Roundwood Production (FAO, 2010)

 Figure 3 shows the production of roundwood of the 10 ten most important country producers by volume and their share respect to total production.   

Figure 3. Roundwood Production of Main Countries (FAO, 2010)

Comparison between Global and U.S Timber. 

 For our research it is also important to identify information regarding domestic pallet production, global imports of pallets, and also, in order to know the state of timber stocks and production in all countries, data about the global and U.S. timber production was collected. This information is shown and compared in Figure 4.  

Figure 4. Timber and Pallet and Container Production in the U.S. and the World (FAO, 2010; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010)

Table 1 contains the data depicted in Figure 4. It can be seen that global timber production is slightly increasing over the decade of analysis, from 3.2 billion m3 in 1998 to 3.6 billion m3 in 2007. On the other hand, the timber production in the U.S. had decreased during the same time span. U.S. timber production represents approximately 13.5% of the global timber output. Domestic pallet production in the U.S. shows a significant increase from 2003 and 2008 years, of about 35%. Pallet imports to the U.S. have also increased, although to a much lower rate than domestic production, approximately 25 %. Imports represent 8.7% of the domestic pallet production in the U.S. 

Table 1. Pallets and Timber Production in the US and World (FAO, 2010; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010) 



  • FAO. (2010). FAO Statistics-US Hardwood and Softwood Roundwood Production.   Retrieved January 2010, from
  • FAO. (2010). FAO Statistics-Global Roundwood Production.   Retrieved January 2010, from
  • U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Annual Survey of Manufacturers – Wood Pallet and Container Value of Shipment, Years 2000 to 2008. Retrieved January 2010, from Department of Commerce – Census Bureau:
  • U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, January 2010). Foreign Trade – Imports, Years 2000 to 2008.   Retrieved January 2010, from

Virginia Tech Department of Wood Science and Forest Products delivered a workshop on Energy Savings using Lean Thinking

by Henry Quesada, Assistant Professor
Virginia Tech


Representatives from private, goverment, non goverment, and academic sectors attended the workshop Energy Savings using Lean Thinking held at the Riverstone Energy Center in South Boston, VA.  This workshop delivered academic and practical applications on how industries in the wood products sector could decrease energy consumption by integrating lean thinking principles with energy management methods. Standard energy audits are oriented to the identification of energy management opportunities (EMOs) by looking at the power systems, building infraestructure, and control systems but most of the times they do not consider the impact of management practices in energy consumption. This workshop gave participants academic and practical guidelines in how to integrate lean thinking with energy reduction efforts. Figure 1 shows the model being developed at Virginia Tech.

Figure 1. Model to integrate Lean Thinking with Energy Management Opportunities

In the firs presentation, Mr. Mark Webber from Dominion reviewed the current status and future of energy in Virginia. The second presentation was given by Dr. Earl Kline from Virginia Tech on Lean Thinking Principles. After this, attendess were introduced to a Lean Energy Audit Toolkit (integraton of Lean Thinking concepts and EMOs) at macro level to identify what areas in their processes require inmediate attention, followed by examples of wood products industries that have achieved significant energy savings by eliminating waste in their processes. This presentation was given by Dr. Henry Quesada also from Virginia Tech.

Figure 2. Dr. Earl Kline from Virginia Tech discusses Lean Thinking Principles during the workshop

The last two presentations were practical approaches. Mr. Tyler Gill from Enernoc presented on Enernoc’s energy management platforms. Mr. Gill used a real-time example to demostrate how important is to constantly monitored energy consumption in order to identify potential EMOs. Finally, Mr. Shannon Walls from Masco Cabinetry Group presented results of how his Continous Improvement (CI) Group has identified, quantified, and implemented EMOs using CI methods. Overall, 64% out of the 23 attendees rated the workshop as excellent and 36% as good.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Henry Quesada at if you have any questions about EMOs and integration with Lean Thinking concepts.