I said in my column in issue 1, 2009, that I felt like apologising for the number of gloomy stories in the news pages. In this issue, we have a record total of seven news pages – and therefore even more gloomy stories, I’m afraid. Sorry again!

The first of our annual panel surveys – OSB – also paints a very grim picture of the state of the US industry, which will come as no surprise to anyone I am sure, with the disastrous state of the US housing market having taken centre-stage for a long time now.

Several producers of OSB in the rest of the world are trying to put a brave face on things and some European mills even claimed in March they were still producing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But clearly, demand is not there and with only the small Isorex mill in France confirming closure plans (for June), supply is going to continue to exceed demand for some time; I am tempted to use the well-worn phrase “for the foreseeable future”, but nobody can foresee the future at the present time. That’s because nobody has been in quite this situation before.

I am writing this column before the outcome of the G20 summit is known and maybe those world leaders will come up with a strategy that will work to increase demand. Whatever measures they do or do not appear to agree on, there is unlikely to be much effect in the short term for our industry.

So what can panel makers do to ensure their own survival in these difficult times? Obviously they have to cut costs wherever they can, while still being ready for the upturn when it comes, and generally operate more efficiently, maximising the use of resources.

Suppliers of machinery and services to the panel industry know they are not going to sell many big-ticket items at the Ligna exhibition this year; most, though not all, new mill plans are on hold. The exhibition’s organisers, Deutsche Messe, have also realised that efficiency is key for the survival of the whole wood processing industry and have accordingly themed this year’s Ligna with the motto: “Making more out of wood – technologies for efficient resource management”.

Were I a gambling man, I would be prepared to bet that this year’s exhibitors will have an unprecedented range of ways on offer for you to save money in your factory. That alone could justify the cost of attending.

Perhaps an upgrade of your existing production facilities would make you more competitive and there is no better time to do that than during a quiet market period. The question is: Is doing nothing an option for you?