Troops to timber
Industry consultant John Manz calls on more than three decades of experience-and a military background-in his message on how to stay competitive in the forest industry.
By Diane Mettler
The forest industry gets in your blood. Just ask John Manz, who recently "retired" after more than three decades with industry giant Weyerhaeuser. The well-respected industry veteran continues to offer forestry players solid advice on how to stay ahead of the curve and be competitive in the much-changing global forest products industry.
Manz, who now lives in Montana and works
as a consultant, started out in forestry, but took a detour along the way
that placed him above the forest as a fighter pilot in the US Marine
Corps. On a tour in Vietnam he flew the F8E Crusader and was well on his
way to making military aviation and the Marine Corps his career.
"I didn't want to spend my life
collecting disability," says Manz. As a
Weyerhaeuser offered Manz a woods foreman position in the Pacific Northwest. He jumped at the opportunity and spent the next 32 years with Weyerhaeuser, using his military skills in his work with the timber industry.
It didn't take long for Weyerhaeuser to
notice the leadership skills Manz had honed in the Marine Corps. The
company decided to put them to good use and in 1972 made him logging
superintendent and one year later the woodlands manager for the Oklahoma
Region-managing 967,000 acres of small growth timber while producing 400
to 500 truckloads a day.
"It was in an area people didn't want to be in, but small logs were the future and it was fun," says Manz. "With the help of my team, we figured out how to make small logs profitable-increasing speed and efficiency.
You had to learn how to become more
efficient because you weren't going to be running into any big trees to
make up the difference."
"My military background continued to
give me a huge competitive advantage," says Manz. "The aviation
technology they were using in the planes I flew is what they use in
harvesting equipment today-high performance hydraulics, high performance
computer systems and simulators for training."
"To continue to be competitive, I believe we will need to focus on lowering our costs without reducing our performance requirements," he says.
Manz points to Sweden as an example of how change will come about. "They did it by changing their processes. They reduced their cost base and are now competitive with the US South. I believe we need to pay significant attention to performance requirements rather than strict, prescriptive rules. Let the innovators innovate and lead us into the future.
"It's a changing, global
industry," Manz adds. "Those who ignore that simple fact will
have a hard time staying in business."
When Manz speaks one can almost hear the commander trying to gather his troops to battle. "We need to be doing everything to understand and build energy efficient systems. Focus on lower energy consumption in all areas. Energy won't continue to be there in abundance. Other countries have had to deal with high energy costs for years."
Again he uses Sweden as an example.
He sees the industry already beginning to
acknowledge the importance of education, noting the high profile seminars
and training sessions at recent industry conferences.
Not surprisingly, he uses the military as an example. "As a leader of troops I better check with the guy in the foxhole to make sure he has the same view as myself. We're all driving at the same ends with different methods and we can change. The challenge is how to work together. We are beginning to see activism that is long overdue in business."
Any industry is only as good as its leaders. And Manz believes great leaders are molded not born. His suggestions for creating the great leaders of tomorrow include continued study, reading, travel and learning about other cultures. As much can be learned from Kipling as from a textbook on forestry, he says.
"I can tell you that traveling to 41 countries has been a real leveller of my own ego-and you're talking to a fighter pilot," says Manz. "We need leaders who will walk with other cultures, not dominate them," Manz adds. "Domination eliminates conversation."
He also favours high touch instead of high technology. No one will argue that technology has taken the timber industry to the next level and cut down on the wear and tear of the average logger. But future leaders will need to be cautious and not let technology take the place of human contact or fall into the trap of losing touch with customers, employees and producers. "If we don't allow for the social side, we will miss real opportunities," says Manz.
He cautions about a gap between rural and
urban individuals. "People who work in this industry will have to
learn to leverage resources and get heard and understood," says Manz.
"Urban is very dominant-rural has to become politically active and
assertive. And I believe it will help us to create performance-based
Not bad advice from a fighter pilot.
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last modified on Thursday, October 07, 2004