Neville Smith Forest Products (NSFP) has a long and varied history. The family-owned business started in 1924 when the eponymous Neville Smith opened a small store of general goods in Melbourne. After a while, the business expanded into the timber industry and success soon followed. Today, NSFP is a producer of high quality Tasmanian Oak hardwood products, supplying items both domestically and internationally. Even more impressively, NFSP is a leading player in rebuilding Tasmania’s forestry sector.
Though the industry has changed a lot since the early days of the company, NSFP has managed to stay on top of the game by constantly adapting and focusing on the right areas. After re-entering the forest sector in 2011, James Neville Smith, the grandson of the company’s founder, along with the management team, has kept the company focused. Before, the industry was high volume and low value. Now, it’s the opposite that holds true.
Success against all odds
Being a processor and manufacturer in Australia in this day and age is a challenge. However, the processing and manufacturing of forest products, especially in Tasmania, adds to that challenge. Thankfully for Neville Smith Forest Products, their business practices have allowed them to expand to key markets. The company’s success can largely be attributed to its core values; innovation, customer focus, integration, people, quality, wasting nothing, and putting family above all else.
A clear focus
Innovation as a daily activity
Whilst they are fortunate to have one of the most technological advanced green saw mill plants in Australia, they believe that innovation is more than just plant and equipment. It’s an activity driven by continuous small improvements across their production processes, and improvements in the way they work with customers and partners. Innovation is also driven by our understanding of market (end-user) needs and wants.
Survival of the fittest
Changes in rules and regulations have also forced companies like NSFP to adapt new strategies and change their focus to meet the demands of the market. The operating areas have shrunk, for instance, which is a huge part of the reason why NSFP has aimed at maximizing the value of every single piece of wood. Almost nothing is wasted, particularly now that advancements in technology have allowed for far wider uses of timber than ever before.
Integration in the forestry sector
Integration means operating as one team. There’s many moving parts connected to the processing and sales of timber products. Seamless communication, knowledge sharing, and collaborative ideation along the value chain are critical to success of their business. Historically they’ve been pretty good at integrating the various steps of their production processes, however they have recognized the need to improve their capability in “joining the dots” across all business functions and are now addressing it, with a particular focus on sales and marketing.
NFSP values integration and will work to foster it outside their business with the industry as a whole. They have great relationships with local and national logistic companies such as Toll Tasmania, De Bruyn’s Transport, and CRE Solutions. These relationships have been vital in helping them overcome the challenge of being located on an island state and allowing them to effectively service their customers.
“I do believe there is room to improve when it comes to integration between the Tasmanian processors (big and small). Whilst we are competitors, I believe we need to work more closely to rebuild our reputation as an industry, and re-build our industry for the best interests of Tasmania and its people”, says James.
Promoting the best business practices
Even in the face of adversity, NFSP has preserved time and time again to prove that forestry is a sustainable industry when handled by the right people. Through patience, dedication, and hard work, it has grown into one of best managed firms of the industry. Its practices are lauded throughout the region as it strives to ensure that forestry is looked at in a positive manner.
The value of people is synonymous with the success of NFSP. Creating jobs for young Tasmanians is a key driver for being in business. They are in business for their people, and their people are the reason they are in business. NSFP currently employees 65 people in Tasmania. Their vision is to grow their business each year, opening up new job opportunities for young Tasmanians.
NSFP has been a family-owned business for most of its existence and that fact has largely influenced the working environment. James is passionate about his work and he’s always ready to welcome new people into the field. After all, the company is highly esteemed in the forestry trade both for its products and its operations.
“We are a family business with a family culture. There’s a lot of trust and a good culture within the business. We’ve been around a long time, we operate in a financially responsible manner, and we are a highly reputable company for someone who wants to develop a career. Secondly, the resource is something that we are very passionate about and we are always looking to maximize the value of it”, suggests James.
What is important to note is that the company has been overcoming such challenges for years. Back in the 1980s, for example, NSFP processed fire-regenerated forest areas in Victoria, an experience that contributed significantly to the company over the years. In-depth research, on-hands management, clear focus and well-thought-out goals are the pillars on which NFSP has built its successful business. The road has always been rocky but it is through experience and good practices that the company was and will continue to be one of the most important parts of the forestry sector in Tasmania.
As for the future, James seems quite optimistic. He vehemently believes that forestry is a sustainable business with a bright future and the trends of the market validate him. Wood is an excellent resource and it is used in an incredible variety of applications. The company fully supports it for its durability and sustainability and it certainly looks like it will be a huge part of major industries like construction in the years to come. As such, NSFP will once again be at the forefront of the sustainable wood industry, promoting its beneficial uses and ensuring its place as a company with valued and tested practices.
After all, in order to maximize value, innovation is the only way forward. “Our ability to actually produce new value-add wood products is well and truly there. The future of innovation in the forestry industry is to talk about the development of new products”, suggests James. Even though the industry faces a lot of hardships, those with the ability to recognize where the market is heading will be able to keep their heads in the game and expand even further.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Neville Smith Forest Products
WHAT: A producer and supplier of high quality products from Tasmanian Oak Hardwood.
WHERE: Southwood and Mowbray, Tasmania