Universities as a Business Resource, Part 2 | Wood Floor Business

Universities as a Business Resource, Part 2

We're back with David Jones of Mississippi State University and Chris Knowles of Oregon State University, who are going to give us a bit more insight into the University Extension Program. (See Part 1 of their post here.)

Chris: As I mentioned, I work in wood products extension, part of the Forestry & Natural Resources group at OSU. There are about 25 of us who work in that group and we make up the largest group of forestry extension faculty in the country. The vast majority of our group focuses on forestry and forest management related topics.

There are four of us at the Oregon Wood Innovation Center who work with the wood products industry. We work with the forest products industry in a wide variety of ways, including providing continuing education (we offer a number of annual courses on topics ranging from sales to quality control to dry kiln operation), answering technical questions, conducting small-scale testing and research for companies, and assisting with development of new products.

I think the best way for you to understand how we work with companies is to provide some examples of projects we have completed in the past.

One of my favorite examples would be helping an Oregon company in their export program using some good solid wood science. In that specific case, the Oregon company was selling hemlock to a manufacturer in China. The Chinese customer was looking into switching to a supplier in Canada. The Chinese customer required some minimum strength properties for the wood, and the Canadian supplier claimed that hemlock from Western Canada met the minimum requirements but hemlock from Oregon did not. The company wanted to know if there was any previous research that would show if any strength differences exist between hemlock from Western Canada and hemlock from Oregon.

I dug into the literature on this topic and found a recent research project that happened to have been completed by one of my OSU colleagues that showed there was no difference in the strength properties between the two regions. The Oregon supplier provided their Chinese customer with the information and was able to continue doing business with this customer.

David: Like Chris, there are a group of forestry and natural resource Extension professionals in Mississippi. We cover everything from planting trees, the wildlife that occurs in the forest, to the products that are made from wood. Unlike Chris, I am the only Extension faculty member at the university that works with the forest products industry. This means I have to rely on other professors in the department that I work in. All faculty members at Mississippi State University are required to provide service: some do it through service to professional societies, others serve on committees, and in my department we as a group tend to provide service to industry.

An example of industry outreach I did recently was to a company that produces a type of furniture that is primarily used by funeral homes. They were having issues with wood drying, gluing, and damage during transportation. I visited the company several times and collected information about how they manufactured and shipped their materials. I was able to identify issues that they were having and the root causes of the problems. I then developed a training program for the company to educate the employees about wood, so that they could solve the problems they were having along with future issues they might encounter.

Above are just a couple of examples of how we have worked with companies in the past. There are countless other examples. So, if you have a question or a problem you need assistance with solving, we suggest you reach out to your local Extension agent and see if they can be of assistance. If you don't know who your local Extension agent is, contact us and we can help you find them. Also, do check our websites, as we have a lot of information already posted and links to other resources.

Finally, while we'll be happy to answer something simple on wood properties or drying techniques, we encourage you to be creative, too-we enjoy a challenge!

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