Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 30, 2012
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: SPF lumber buyers sensed a decidedly weaker market, but mills did not necessarily all react in the same manner. In the East, mills looked for orders and lowered prices. In the West, mills were more adamant about sticking to quotes used in previous weeks, despite the market’s sluggish pace. Southern Pine lumber buyers purchased sparingly, presuming a continued weakness in dimension lumber prices. Dimension lumber discounts of $10 were most evident in the West zone. Month and quarter-end sent buyers looking for deals. A lack of aggressiveness among buyers prompted Coastal species lumber producers to lower prices or negotiate deals. More market liquidity was generated at discounts. Producers made outgoing calls, and subsequent success often consisted of conservative volumes. Light mill inventories and order files helped maintain a little strength in the Inland species lumber market, as it closed its third week of slow sales activity. Buyers stayed away or only looked for specific tallies to fill inventory holes. Radiata Pine Shop was scarce, as producers went to other markets with better returns. A few sales of Mldg&Btr for early summer arrival were reported. Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr sales were moderate, and prices were firm but unchanged. Millwork producers reported steady repeat business. Sales activity for Ponderosa Pine boards remained quiet throughout the week. Light inventories at mills and limited potential for increased production in the near future kept producers quoting close to previous levels. Producers shipped Eastern White Pine boards in record volumes. Sales activity in all widths and grades was robust. Steady sales of ESLP boards continued, although prices for narrow #2&Btr came off slightly. Tight Western Red Cedar log supplies in Canada are forcing unscheduled downtime at mills. Some will continue to run alternative species. As of this week, log shortages had little influence on pricing.
Panels: For yet another week, order files were the strength that OSB producers used to hold prices. In eastern markets, producers discounted to help build order files but moved prices back up as soon as that was accomplished. Demand for Southern Pine plywood remained lackluster, eroding order files and ushering a few discounts into the market. A groundswell of inquiries came late in the week from customers, which boosted producers’ confidence. Thinning order files produced light discounts in sheathing early in the Western Fir plywood market. Discounts were confined to sheathing. Both Canadian plywood producers and distributors agreed: This week’s plywood market was sideways. A few cash sales were reported, but overall activity was quiet. Mill order files were out to the week of April 16. According to particleboard and MDF producers, customers should prepare themselves for more price increases in April or early May. Resin suppliers have informed producers that the price of urea is on the rise.
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Treat employees’ suggestions with respect
Most North American workers make suggestions to their boss on a regular basis, according to a survey released in February by the career and outplacement consultancy Right Management.
“Despite research that indicates workers are disengaged, on the whole they want to be helpful and have their say on issues or problems that arise in the workplace” said Monika Morrow, senior VP career management for Right Management, in a statement.
“We find again and again that employees want to contribute,” she continued. “By making suggestions [employees] demonstrate that they’re thinking about getting the job done, and done well.”
Morrow encouraged employers to take advantage of workers’ ideas, though she noted that “the boss has to judge which suggestions are worthwhile.”
Larger employers often have formal suggestions systems, with suggestions screened regularly by the human resources department.
But regardless of the employer’s size, managers play a key role in encouraging employee suggestions, especially where no formal suggestion system exists. And the best managers “know how to unleash the potential in people,” observed Morrow. “This is a crucial management skill when talent so often is what provides a company with its competitive advantage.”
Katherine Ponds, Right Management’s regional vice president for the mid-Atlantic, said managers should:
• Set the proper tone so employees know suggestions are welcome. “This is essential for employees to have the confidence that their input is valued,” she told SHRM Online in an e-mail.
• Communicate how they want direct reports to contribute suggestions and recommendations. Managers should “establish and articulate parameters and/or guidelines associated with the nature of submissions,” Ponds continued, such as noting particular business issues for which recommendations are especially welcome.
• Acknowledge receipt of suggestions and consider their viability very carefully before responding to employees. Although receipt of submissions should be acknowledged, “organizational culture will determine the degree to which anonymity is maintained regarding content [of suggestions] as well as the names of those submitting recommendations,” she noted.
“Requesting written recommendations is best, as it allows the opportunity for close tracking, monitoring and follow-up by managers,” Ponds explained.
“Most employees understand that every suggestion they submit will not be adopted,” Ponds said.
“However, they do want to know that their contributions are given appropriate consideration.”
Above all, employees expect managers to communicate the outcome of a suggestion.
Morrow said that employees’ willingness to participate in problem solving is a sign of a healthy workplace. At a time when many employees feel stifled in their job, it is even more important that employers show that they are listening, she said: “Make sure employees know they have a voice and a say in what happens at work. … It should be more than a gesture but a genuine effort to reach out.”
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Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.