I still give a damn. Sawmills in the time of a pandemic.

POST DATE Jun 08, 2020


Okay—so this is a bit of an understatement—but boy have things changed since I wrote about sawmill closures last year and how devastating these conditions were for small towns. I remember how I kept thinking to myself, “can things really get worse?”

…I’ll let you laugh.

Yup, we all know better than to ask THAT kind of question. It’s hard not to laugh at myself. I thought what we were seeing last year was tough to watch, and then BANG, hello 2020. Pandemic. Economic downturn. Mass layoffs. I can’t even begin to imagine how this is affecting sawmill workers, their families, and the towns they live in. Conditions were already bad, and now this. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you, and with everyone who is suffering right now.

Times are uncertain, and I know many of you are worried about your job security, and if you’ve been laid off, the stress of wondering if or when you’ll go back to work is constantly eating at you. It doesn’t help that going back isn’t something easily done. The economy is fragile, and when things do turnaround, we’re all going to need to push hard so our sawmills and businesses can survive.

We’re all in our heads, worried about what is happening right now, but we need to shift our thinking and start focusing on change. What I mean by this is, what can we do differently when things start to recover that can effect positive change, make our sawmills profitable, and retain not only our own jobs but the jobs of many so we can keep our communities strong?

My answer is productivity. What steps can we take in our jobs to make things more productive? In many cases, this requires money (I’ll get to this), but what I am really getting at is making proactive change. This could be anything from streamlining how you work, internal processes, or getting together (virtually or distanced) to brainstorm how you as a team can increase productivity. If your solutions require money, I strongly believe that many, if not most, employers will support initiatives and actions that will make the sawmill or business more productive and profitable.

If you’re thinking, “Udo, I already do this!” I’m sure you do, but I want you to double-down and create a new normal. Pressure and trying times produce some of the most creative solutions, and we’re going to need them. There is no going back, and this pandemic is causing massive change in every industry—changes that cannot easily be undone. Here are a few examples:

1. Working From Home. For those who can, this is going to become very common, if not the new norm. The demand for office space will go down, and it has me wondering how and if this will affect construction projects in the future.

2. Online Learning. Now that the infrastructure is in place, online learning for children is going to become a much bigger thing. This pandemic has forced parents to take a more hands-on approach in their children’s learning and really see the state of their education. Some parents may be in a hurry to get their kids back in classrooms, but this new platform is going to enable a lot of parents to become more involved in their child’s learning.

3. Online Meetings. Travel for business is going to become a thing of the past, or reserved for specific deals. We’ve all discovered that virtual meetings are easier to hold and way more cost and time effective. This pandemic has forced us all to embrace telecommunication and see that yes, we can have virtual meetings that are just as effective as face-to-face ones.

These are just a few things that are changing people’s lives and how we work. But what about the sawmill industry? What can we do that will revolutionize what we do like Zoom has done for business?

There is always going to be a push to be more productive, and individually, whether we’re owners or employees, we need to find ways to make this happen. To break habits that prevent productivity and work together to find creative solutions. Our livelihood, families, and communities depend on it.

I certainly don’t want to read about another sawmill closing. Do you? 

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