Eurobois 2020 sets the timber decade rolling!
Unifying, innovating, accelerating—by bringing together 29,000 professionals (a record!) under the same roof at Eurexpo Lyon for four days, representing the whole timber and woodworking chain from log yard to finished product, Eurobois 2020 offered the sector a unique moment. By aligning this edition on industry 4.0, practical digital solutions, and employment & training, the trade show set the tone for the decade to come, a decade that must assert the importance of this material and its trades in France as well as abroad.
The Eurobois event is a precious, fulfilling moment, which every two years reveals the market temperature and gives stakeholders in all branches of the sector the chance to get together, exhibit their latest technology, and help their business flourish. All those factors came together at the trade show to provide an exceptional, generous episode for the 29,100 professionals (420 exhibitors and brands, 30% of them new at the event) who took part in this 2020 edition. In the aisles, on the stands, gathered around the activities, on the social networks—everywhere you looked, the talk and the messages were positive. And the event was able to illustrate the momentum of a sector engaged full-throttle in modernization.
Professionals all agree: “markets are progressing”
Very few people deny that the coming decade will be one of environmental awareness and a widespread resolve to reduce human impact on the planet. They want yesterday’s energy wastage to become today’s choice of renewables and resource management. Yet we still need to build, to fit out, to keep warm. For solutions to these issues, timber ticks all the boxes. Eurobois has shown that all stakeholders—be they industrial corporations or jobbing firms, federations or training centres—are committed and are developing their solutions and know how. The feedback was unanimous: “despite some pitfalls (political, regulatory, tariff issues), markets are showing big progressions. End-customer demand (local authorities, business, private individuals) is a reality and price is no longer the sole consideration in a project. Respect for the environment has become a keystone.”
France’s national timber construction watchdog has recorded a two-year progression of 19% in the number of timber buildings and a rise from 8.7% to 9.4% in timber’s market share in private houses between 2016 and 2018. Those are concrete signs, echoing the signals from the pros throughout the event. At the “Fabrik Eurobois” in-show feature, Mathieu Hugon, in charge of IEMAE (European institute of carpentry, fitting-out, and cabinet making) affairs for France’s Compagnons du Devoir apprenticeship institution, shared this optimism. “On the fitting-out front, timber is at the forefront of trends and its uses are expanding. Its properties lend themselves to new sectors: acoustics, mobility, optics, not forgetting of course furniture, an innovative sector that is focusing more and more on customization, eco-design, and above all, digital methods.”
Innovation all around as industry 4.0 becomes a reality
Another central theme of Eurobois 2020, innovation, really was everywhere to be seen at the trade show! The Eurobois Awards as well as “La Canopée”, a national innovation contest dedicated to the timber-forestry sector and organized by Forinvest and the ESB timber faculty, highlighted the proliferation of technological evolutions and insolent projects.
But the big innovation was of course industry 4.0, presented in all its glory on often impressive stands. After years of incubation as an abstract idea, it has materialized through a multitude of machines and solutions for digitalizing and robotizing the production tool—just the job for sawmills and manufacturers dragging their industrial tooling into the modern world.
“In the two years since the previous edition of the trade show, we can see enormous progress in this area,” reckons Symop chairman Olivier Dario. “It comes in many flavours. For first-stage timber conversion machinery builders, we are seeing things like tools with built-in sensors to improve productivity. In second-stage conversion, we find predictive maintenance, or for jobbing and small craft firms, NC machines and cutting-edge software that make light work of hitherto labour-intensive tasks. But the common factor among all these professionals is a will to meet customers’ exact requirements and thus grab digital with both hands.” Given the success of in-show events on these themes, exhibitors have been keen to respond to visitor interest, while stressing that “4.0 is not a threat to jobs but an opportunity to make them less strenuous and to create new trades.”
On the employment front, urging the sector’s businesses to tackle recruitment differently
Jobs and training were another major thrust axis at Eurobois. Market progression puts the whole of the chain under stress, prompting the national federation to announce that “in first and second stage timber conversion, excluding furniture and fitting out, 5,000 to 6,000 recruits will be needed in the very near future.” Our Eurobois Campus therefore provided a single centre where trades could be presented and promoted, training centres could meet candidates, and companies could post their job offers. This space was a big hit and much appreciated by participating institutions and visitors. “It’s clear to see the timber and woodworking sector is still attractive,” says Cécile Gueux, head of the forestry-timber project at Pôle Emploi, France’s national job centre, “but certain trades are neglected. Companies are now starting to adopt a different vision of recruitment, training, skill upgrading, and we assist them in that respect. There are issues of gender balance and of the new profiles being sought. We know full well that the trade show supports this approach.” For all young job-seekers or employees seeking to update their skills, the wealth of solutions on offer and the excellence on show at the French finals of the European Young Carpenter contest can’t help but be inspiring!
With 25% more professional visitors attending than in 2018, the 2020 edition of Eurobois reasserted its position as a unique gathering in the sector that is relentlessly advancing.
As regards first-stage timber conversion, the trade show is now certainly Europe’s second biggest after Ligna in Germany. Fitting out, too, has seen a sharp progression, with a wide selection of brands and offerings in products and accessories. Listening to the market, we can already see certain other areas gathering impetus by 2022: panels and boards for joinery and fitting out, treatments and finishes, biomass energy production for sawmills, and more besides.
International development: “France in the vanguard”
The relevance of solutions on show, the dynamics of the French market, and the quality of welcome know no frontiers, with more and more international delegations attending. Led by Switzerland and Morocco, the international visitors we encountered were right on key: “In [our country], timber is developing heavily across all sectors and there is a trend toward demanding architectural usage. Visiting Eurobois helps us understand how France, ahead of the game, brought these changes about. With all the sector leaders represented, it’s also an expansive event offering a global vision of new products and features with the latest technologies. Partnerships are sealed and it’s a bridge between our markets.” None of that is a surprise to Florence Perrucaud, boss of the “FrenchTimber” exportation network: “If you look back several years, in China, India, or the Middle-East, professionals couldn’t quite put their finger on France on the world timber map. Now all that has changed, whether it concerns the products or the know-how. More and more companies in our country are developing their export business, and for some it’s a real success story that began exactly with this type of trade show.”
On the strength of this edition’s success, and with 2022 already in the viewfinder, the whole Eurobois team fully intends to continue assisting and uniting the sector to help it conquer all its challenges!