Unasylva 183 * University-level programmes in forest products marketing

University-level programmes in forest products marketing

M. Pesonen

Miikka Pesonen is with the Department of Forest Economics at the University of Helsinki, Finland.

A brief description of leading forest products marketing programmes at universities in Europe and North America.

Forest products marketing as an academic discipline builds on marketing, behavioural sciences and economics. Using theories and methods from these disciplines it addresses a variety of problems in forestry and forest industries. The main emphasis is on national and international marketing of various forest industry products - sawnwood, plywood, paper and paperboard, but also increasingly on more value-added products such as carpentry and furniture. The marketing function is the link between the organization and its customers - it interacts with customers, is sensitive to the customers' needs and transforms these needs into specific guidelines for the company. People with a degree in forest products marketing typically find employment in forest industry, in consultancies, universities and research institutions.

University-level programmes in forest products marketing (FPM) are located mainly in Europe and the United States (see Box). The largest and the oldest of these is in the University of Helsinki with more than 50 years of experience in research and education. Within this programme there are ten to 15 faculty members and research associates who are active in the field of FPM. Professor Heikki Juslin and Acting Professor Mikko Tervo are heads of the programme, and Professor Juslin also currently chairs the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) Forest Products Marketing Group. The programme enrolls about 20 students to the FPM option every year.

The core of the degree programme comprises the courses in forest industries' products and markets as well as in-depth instruction about marketing planning and implementation in forest industries. This forest sector-related education is supplemented by a broad language programme as well as courses in research methodology and statistics. Industry training and eventual theses concentrate on the forest industry, its processes, products and marketing in developed countries but the area of specialization may also be drawn from the developing countries. Another university-level institution in Europe with a full degree programme in FPM is the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden. A second programme in Sweden is currently being established in Karlstad.

In the United States, the strongest and most established FPM programme is probably the one based at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The present head of the programme, Assistant Professor Robert Bush, completed his doctoral studies at Virginia Tech, as did many of the other North American FPM programme heads. In this programme marketing and business have a strong emphasis, covering about 25 percent of the curricula in the undergraduate programme. In general, however, the United States' and Canadian programmes are heavily focused on wood technology and forest products with only limited course availability in marketing. Another traditional FPM programme is offered by the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. This programme has previously been focused on the wood products sector but is currently steering towards a stronger emphasis on business. There are also several fairly young or newly established programmes all around North America, including well-established programmes at the University of British Columbia, Pennsylvania State University and Louisiana State University; and more recently introduced programmes at the University of Minnesota, Oregon State University and Texas A & M University.


The FPM group at the University of Helsinki is currently active in the following research areas: marketing planning in forest industries (strategies, success factors); links between marketing and information technologies in forest industries; environmental issues in the forest sector; end-use and users of sawnwood in various European markets; and customer orientation and profitability in the sawmilling industry.

In the area of research most of the North American programmes concentrate on the wood processing industries with heavy emphasis on sawmills and marketing of sawnwood. At Virginia Tech, research is channelled through an industry-sponsored research institute, the Center for Forest Products Marketing. In view of the prevailing forest resources, research is focused on hardwood products and some of the current topics include: export marketing decision-making by wood household furniture manufacturers (United States and Malaysia); the competitiveness of United States manufacturers of wooden household furniture; and material used in packaging, pallets, furniture and timber bridges. The University of Washington also has an industry-supported research institute in its forestry complex, the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR). This research centre supports a diverse array of research and symposia, including some FPM-related research topics: export competitiveness of the sawmilling industry in five countries; product bundling in forest industry; distribution channels and business relationships to Japan; and customer and competitor country profiles. At Pennsylvania State University, the FPM programme headed by Dr Paul Smith has concentrated to date on the international marketing of hardwood products (especially furniture) as well as "green" marketing and environmental issues. The University of British Columbia FPM programme, established in 1989 by Dr David Cohen, has been focusing its research activities on three areas: the Pacific rim markets for sawnwood and wood-based panels; identifying opportunities for value-added solid wood or composite products; and incorporating appropriate manufacturing technologies based on target markets served.

For more information on these programmes or to communicate additional information on existing or new programmes in forest products marketing, please contact the author by:

e-mail: Forecon@Helsinki.fi

fax: +358(0)191 7729

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