Due to the decrease in population, there are fewer and fewer houses to be built in Japan in the future, including wood manufacturing and woodworking machinery. Many companies in the Japanese wood industry have begun to expand overseas in recent years, seeking export opportunities. “At present, most of Japan’s export market is still in its infancy. Some house and building material manufacturers and lumberjacks are exporting to Asian countries, mainly South Korea, Taiwan and China.” Senior member of Japan Woodworking Machinery Association and IIDA Kogyo Co., Ltd President Masanori Imoto said.
Japanese furniture manufacturers are also expanding overseas, with the main target being European and American countries.
Plywood industry in Japan
In Japan, the plywood industry is currently the most powerful industry in the wood industry, because it is widely used in housing construction, flooring and wood packaging. It also promotes the sales of plywood manufacturing machinery. As the government promotes the use of domestic wood, plywood made from local wood has grown by leaps and bounds.
“Japan’s plywood factories are huge, and some plywood machinery manufacturers have even successfully exported some machines,” Imoto said.
Some of the more famous plywood machinery manufacturing companies in Japan are:
- Meinan: Manufacturing rotary lathes in plywood machinery. 50% of their products are exported to Southeast Asian countries such as Russia, China, Canada, the United States, South Korea and Malaysia, Indonesia.
- Hashimoto: Manufacturer of gumming machines
- Taihei: Press manufacturer
- Uroko: manufacturer of rotating lathes, a competitor with Meinan · KIKUKAWA
- KIKUKAWA: Sanding machine manufacturer
- Kitagawa Seiki: Hot Press Machine manufacturer
Increased Supply of Japanese Plywood
“In the past, about 81% of our raw materials were imported from Malaysia, Indonesia and China, but they stopped exporting logs. Because there is now a large amount of domestic wood, we are more using Japanese wood-Sugi (Chinese fir), Hinoki (Cypress) and Karamatsu (larch). “Imoto said. The Japanese market favour coniferous plywood.
According to the “2017 Japan Forest Status Report” released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in terms of plywood production, the proportion of domestic wood used by local manufacturers is rising, reaching 80% of production in 2016.
Since 2000, Japan’s plywood supply/demand has generally been on a downward trend, reflecting Japan’s total wood consumption. However, since 2000, the consumption of domestically produced plywood has risen sharply. The domestic production of plywood increased from 138,000 cubic meters in 2000 to 2.49 million cubic meters in 2010 and increased to 3.87 million square meters in 2016.
Unsurprisingly, in view of the large influx of domestic plywood, the number of imported plywood has dropped significantly in the past 20 years. Imported plywood reached 13.7 million cubic meters in 2000, 7.06 million cubic meters in 2010, and 6.37 million cubic meters in 2016.
The self-sufficiency rate of plywood also soared from 1% in 2000 to 26.1% in 2010 and 37.8% in 2016.
Since reaching a peak of 229.4 billion yen (about 2.06 billion US dollars) in 2014, the total value of imported plywood has been gradually declining. The total import of plywood in 2018 was 194.82 billion yen, which was about 1.81 billion US dollars. As shown in Table 1, since 2013, in addition to Vietnam, the exports of plywood in the seven countries with the most plywood exports to Japan have generally declined.
As mentioned in this report, Japan’s forests have matured in recent years and can be harvested. The Japanese government has been trying to promote more logging activities by playing a more active role in forest management and structural reforms.
Imoto pointed out that one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the oversupply of logs in Japan, which results in the price of wood being lower than the market price, which is too cheap for lumberjacks to make any profit. To help ease the oversupply, the government has supported the industry through various policies over the past 10 years.
“Twenty or thirty years ago, we only used 15% to 20% of Japanese logs, and now it has reached 36%. This proportion will continue to rise.” Some logs are also used as biomass energy because they require large logs Come burn. We have huge biomass power stations, and the main energy source comes from wood. “
“The Japanese are becoming less dependent on plywood imported from China. The most important thing is that a new policy introduced two years ago requires at least one plywood manufacturer in each county to promote the sales of plywood machinery.” Personally, Imoto believes this has resulted in “too many” plywood manufacturers on the market.
Japanese Prefabricated Component Industry
As Japan’s population declines, the number of housing constructions is expected to continue to decline. According to MLIT data, the number of new housing starts in Japan was 942,370 units in 2018, down 2.3% from 2017, the second consecutive year of decline.
Imoto said: “My own prediction is that after three years, the number of new homes will be further reduced to 650,000 units.”
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Japan, the total population of Japan in 2019 is 127.4 million. According to the 2017 White Paper on Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism in Japan, the total population of Japan has been declining since it peaked at 128.1 million in 2008, and is expected to drop to 88.08 million by 2065.
As demand for new homes declines, home renovation may become the next trend. MLIT is already promoting house renovations to achieve long-lived living and cohabitation in multi-family families (such as three-generation families).
The government also introduced a policy to promote the use of wood in public buildings in 2010. This policy requires that all three-story or lower public buildings must use wooden structures.
“Pre-fabrication (or pre-cutting) machinery companies that used to provide machinery to Japanese residential builders in the past have therefore shifted their business from residential to commercial construction. For those who are looking for opportunities to export ‘Made in Japan’ houses to China, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia The same is true for builders. If everything goes well, the pre-cutting machine can also be exported, “Imoto said.
In particular, Japanese construction companies are considering exporting prefabricated components such as beams, pillars, molds, doors and windows, and wooden houses.
Most importantly, as large-scale engineering timber such as cross-laminated timber gains more acceptance and popularity, Imoto believes that classifiers and moisture content classifiers produced by Japanese companies are also expected to make more profits from the export market.
Industrial grade hygrometers that use microwaves to measure moisture content usually do not exceed $ 22,000. The cost of an industrial classifier is about $ 10,000 or less, depending on the speed of the production line. The faster the production speed, the shorter the time required by the classification system and the higher the cost. The moisture content and beam strength of all sawmills and buildings must meet Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) to obtain building approval. The Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) requires that all engineered woods have a moisture content of less than 12%; for laminated beams, a classification system is used to check the strength of the beam. There are also special seismic regulations for high-rise wooden buildings.
According to Imoto, wooden buildings can now be built up to four floors. The new regulations were introduced in 2020, when the regulations will allow wooden buildings to be built higher.
Wood Factory Automation
For a long time, the Japanese timber industry has relied on technology to alleviate manpower difficulties. For example, CAD / CAM software is used in the prefabrication industry. Due to the limited size of Japanese woodworking factories and the limited amount of manpower that can be employed, the factories have long relied on automation. Japan uses a different system because a factory usually has only three to four workers. The scale of production in Japanese woodworking factories is also moderate.
Looking into the future, the association is exploring new opportunities and markets for its members. Last year, nine companies participated in the Russian trade show held at the Japan Pavilion. This is their second visit to Russia. “This is our new strategy. We also invited Russian traders to participate in our exhibition.”