Weyerhaeuser's Simons says innovation will win

Doyle Simons

Las Vegas -- Weyerhaeuser CEO Doyle Simons says he's encouraged by the recovery in the home-building  and LBM industries. But it's too early celebrate. 

In an interview with HCN in the Weyerhaeuser booth at the International Builders' Show here, Simons also talked about the importance of product innovation and market education.

After a year in which housing starts fell just shy of the million mark, the Weyerhaeuser internal forecast calls for about 1.1 million starts in 2014. 

"It is encouraging to have a supportive market in place," Simons said. "I still think we have a lot of runway in front of us. If you look at long-term average of 1.5 million, 1.6 million, 1.7 million -- 1.1 million feels a lot better than we were four or five years ago, but I still think we have a lot of runway ahead of us." 

Simons, who came to Weyerhaeuser from Temple-Inland, said the topic of LBM product scarcity in the face of a potential rising demand is a valid concern, but Weyerhaeuser is doing what it can to mitigate potential problems. "I can tell you we're making sure that we're spending the capital and we're focused on reliability in our mills, so that we're running our mills better," he said. "That will result in more product." 

The company also began the process of restarting operations at its Evergreen, Ala., mill, which was closed during the downturn. "By May, we think we'll be making product out of that mill." 

On the topic of new product innovation, Simons says its part of the company's core value.

"We spend a lot of time and effort and resources on research and development," he said. "And I think one of the key competitive advantages that Weyerhaeuser has is innovation and the ability to make new products."

Getting the market to accept innovation is made easier.

"It always takes a little longer than you think it would," he said. "But I'm convinced that if you make a product that either makes housing better or the builder's life easier, and if you educate customers, they're going to do what's ultimately in their best interest. But it does take time. It does take effort. It does take resources."

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