British Columbia-based BPWood was founded in 2000 by Paul Bouchard. Coming from a career with one of the largest lumber trading companies in North America, Bouchard’s 25-year experience gave him the skillset to mine the nooks and crannies of the industry.
“BPWood finds its home in a region where a heck of a lotta good lumbermen hail from,” Bouchard laughs. “While growing up in the ’70s, lumber and wood products were perhaps the greatest career you could aspire to. In the world of wood products, B.C. has a history as the king.”
While most players produce or sell standard building materials, BPWood is different. “We pursue the periphery of the commodity market: the niche specification, difficult to find, difficult to make, weird wood,” explains Bouchard.
Nurturing demand from around the world, the company focuses on servicing specific subsets within markets. “We resolve tough market challenges,” continues Bouchard. “We’ve become masters of these things.”
Although BPWood’s exact approach may be difficult to visualize, an analogy comes easily to Bouchard. “Imagine that roll of the wooden slats, which lay in the frame of a bed you buy from IKEA,” he begins. “That’s a very specific application using Spruce and Pine. A precise size, grade and length that you need to produce and deliver literally millions of pieces of. That’s one example of our kind of business.”
BPWood works predominantly with softwood species. Currently, 30 percent of its business is developed in the Americas and in Europe to go to Indo-Asian markets, while approximately half of its business is created between North American producers and consumers. The balance goes to Europe as specialty wood of the Coastal King species, such as Douglas fir, Western Red Cedar and Sitka Spruce. Bouchard mentions some hardwood products as being at the outer edge of business.
Oftentimes the sole source innovator of a challenging supply chain, BPWood regularly works with sawmills to adapt production to meet client needs. “We bring our liquidity, ideas and innovations to help producers be more profitable and at the same time make an affordable specialty product,” Bouchard explains. “Sometimes that means we’ll even provide a specific machine-centre into an otherwise commodity sawmill to serve a unique consumer need.”
BPWood works to create value at both ends of the market spectrum. “I’ll walk into both a producer or a consumer to talk about their business, and I’m likely going find something sell to them or something to buy from them,” Bouchard laughs. “We are traders; we are experts at aligning the needs of producers and consumers to serve vital markets outside the pure commodity core.”
Profitable since inception, BPWood’s strong financial record helps open doors with sawmills. Sales have tripled for since 2007, and its market reach across the world has doubled. Growing in a controlled manner has proven to be a challenge, especially with rapidly changing markets.
Factors like the availability of species and the economic strength within various producing areas affect which suppliers BPWood deals with at any given time. “We’re dealing with global wood markets, each in fluid states of production and consumption demand,” he details. “When costs get unavoidably high you have to adjust supply solutions to achieve the goal. But the market on the edges is huge.”
Bouchard goes on to note that the answer is always in the wood. “So, we touch the wood at both the consumer and the producing side,” he elaborates. “Then, we can align the needs, at both ends, and bring that supply chain together.”
Like any young company, BPWood has the same growing pain that most companies experience: finding quality people. “Finding capable traders in our sector is hard,” says Bouchard. “Most truly talented commodity traders are not looking at changing what they do and mediocre ones make very poor specialists, which leaves us to cultivate our own traders from within through training and experience and focusing on skillsets and fit when seeking out experienced ones.”
Needing robust administration to manage its array of business, BPWood must serve its clientele with meticulously thought-out computer systems and admin processes. With an enterprise platform no longer keeping pace with growth and with advanced IT/web tools coming available, Bouchard is midstream into a project of re-scoping it and rebuilding the system, as if from scratch.
“We have to be capable of a very diverse range of business,” he explains. “But the common thread in all of this is that it’s at least a bit weird. We look for underserved markets, dig in deep and hard and become experts at them. We specialize in finding the arcane. You never know what challenges your clients will bring you to deliver on.”
Shipping around the globe by truck, rail and container ship, BPWood’s knowledge of freight and logistics is critically important. “You need to design supply-chains around effective traffic routes between the tree and the end-user,” details Bouchard.
Continuing to grow is a given in BPWood’s future. With a critical-thinking, creative leader at its head, BPWood will continue to distribute across the globe. Through its keen dedication and creative navigation of the industry, BPWood is bringing weird wood to volume users worldwide.
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