In September 2017, the Institute of Baltic Studies did a project on mapping the technological devices of the forest and wood industry for the forest and wood industry competitiveness development cluster (EU 49332). The aim of the project was to map forest and wood companies’ need for product testing and to explore the testing possibilities offered by Estonian research institutions. Testing in this context means testing the products or materials used in the forest and wood industry, including standardization and certification activities.
During the mapping, following activities were conducted:
- interviews and personal contact with laboratories conducting tests for the wood and forest industry;
- interviews and personal contact with the Estonian Forest and Wood Industries Association and with the members of Centre of Competence for Wood Processing and Furniture Manufacturing (TSENTER);
- survey among wood and forest companies.
The study showed that the testing facilities in Estonia may be divided as follows.
- Accredited laboratories conducting tests (the company is certified).
- Laboratories that are conducting tests and meet accreditation requirements (testing is not accredited and/or no certificates are released).
- Laboratories of companies that can be either accredited or unaccredited (in general, testing as a service is not sold to other companies; testing is only done in great need).
Companies and laboratories alike agree that testing (incl. whether the test is certified) depends on the type of the test and the demand for testing. The demand, in turn, is dependent on the company, its products (incl. the requirements outlined in laws/directives), business plan and the client’s expectations of the product. It is not unusual for a client to prefer to have testing done in a certain laboratory. If the client does not require testing or certifying and tests are not necessary for detecting problems, they are usually not undertaken (decreases the profit).
According to the study, the competitiveness of the industry can be increased through raising the awareness of companies about testing – why are tests necessary, the competitive advantages they offer, the testing possibilities in Estonia and abroad, the developments with regards to voluntary and compulsory testing, etc. Companies need to keep in mind that due to Estonia being a small country, not all tests can be offered in Estonia and cooperation with foreign laboratories for certification is necessary. To foster cooperation between local laboratories and companies, the organizations that support setting up the necessary conditions for testing need to review testing conditions and mitigate the barriers to cooperation.
Forest and wood industry competitiveness development cluster activities are supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Estonian Development Fund’s cluster development programme.