Product Development Case Study – Silva Panel Canada Ltd.

14189 256th Street
Maple Ridge B.C.
Contact: Henrik Laursen

Silva Panel Canada Ltd.

Silva Panel

Silva panel™ is an innovative new panel product that was co-developed by Cedarland Forest Products, a traditional siding manufacturer in Maple Ridge BC and Adanack Ltd., one of Ireland’s largest cedar building material distributors. Harold Mischke from Cedarland and Neville Pope from Adanack met in 2002. The two began doing business and later discussing ideas for new product development using the surplus shortlength Western Red Cedar lumber. Eventually they hit upon the idea of creating finger-jointed and edge-glued panels.

The Development Process

A separate company called Silva Panel Canada Ltd. was formed to develop this product and bring it to market. A team of five, headed up by Harold and Neville and with three others whose backgrounds were in marketing and building, was assembled for the task. Since it was this team’s first attempt to develop a completely new product it was, as one would expect, a somewhat bumpy process. The geographical distance between the two key developers added to the level of difficulty. However, after a year of trials and tribulations, mostly with respect to production issues, Silva Panel™ was ready for market.

In 2007 Silva Panel™ was officially launched. The panel comes in single and 3 ply versions. The single ply version is 15 mm thick. The 3-ply version is edge glued, cross-laminated and face glued and comes in thicknesses starting at 20mm. These panels are available in several standard sizes ranging from 600mm x 600mm to 1200mm x 3000m. It can be ordered in five different grades and with or without a water-based coating from Böhme Switzerland. This coating currently comes with a five year guarantee which Silva Panel™ hopes to extend after completing a coating efficacy test with FPInnovations.

Silva Panel™ is engineered for interior and exterior applications since the adhesives used in this product are water-proof. The main application for this product is as an exterior cladding, however it can also be used for such things as; ceiling tiles, wall panels, furniture, garage doors, cabinet doors, soffiting and fascia. Some of the key features this product offers customers are;

  • a high-quality, high-design look and feel,
  • environmental sensitivity as it uses mainly industry off cuts and has no added formaldehyde in the adhesives or coating,
  • quicker easier installation than traditional T&G boards,
  • stability (since it is cross-laminated),
  • low maintenance and
  • good sound and temperature insulating qualities (the air barrier between the panels and the wall allows the building’s interior to maintain a constant temperature, air pressure and humidity as well as dampens sound).

Silva Panel Canada Ltd.

The panels can be attached in three different ways. The simplest way is to screw it to baton boards with stainless steel screws from the front. Alternatively, European slot hardware can be affixed the back of the panel for a cleaner look. Finally, custom extruded aluminum channel can be used as a higher-end option. While the panel cost is 20-30 percent higher than traditional siding, it is easier to install so some of this cost is mitigated by lower labour costs.

During development, the Irish component of the Silva Panel team, with its close proximity to the market was able to get crucial feedback from customers. By the time this product was launched the team was quite confident they had a viable product. While sales of Silva Panel™ were predictably slow in the first year, sales in 2008 have reached almost one million. Since Adanack is the first point of contact with the market, ninety five percent of these sales are overseas in places like Ireland, Turkey, Belgium, France, Latvia and Korea. In order to grow the North American market Silva Panel Canada is participating in The Business Innovation Partnership’s (BC Wood and FPInnovations) ‘Lunch and Learn’ program which facilitates meetings for manufacturers to introduce their building products to architects and designers.

The production of the panels presented the team with its greatest issues. While BC was certainly the most logical location for the production of this cedar product, there was no one facility in BC that could manufacture such a product. Initially three facilities in British Columbia were brought together in a collaborative effort, each one adding its expertise to come up with the final product. Eventually Silva Panel™ bought its own cold press (the rare piece of equipment necessary to make the panel) and put it in a furniture factory where the panels could be produced in one place. Unfortunately this was a short-lived solution since this factory went out of business nine months later. Presently the product is being manufactured in Oregon and a second facility in Europe is being considered.

Silva Panel Canada Ltd.

Silva Panel™ won the 2007 Canadian Wood Council Award for Technical Innovation In A New Product category. Silva Panel’s success can be attributed to several things. Firstly, it turns an accessible low value material (cedar shorts) into a relatively high-value finished product. It capitalizes on the inherent advantage in materials we have in this part of the world, and at the same time it avoids the commodity type markets where smaller Canadian companies are becoming less and less able to compete. The Silva Panel is also in line with a couple major trends in architectural design. There is a trend toward contemporary design and the Silva Panel™ has the ability to create a simple clean-lined look compared to traditional siding. There is also a strong trend toward the use of natural green materials like wood which also gives Silva Panel™ an advantage in the marketplace.

Development of a product like Silva Panel™ that is both new to the market as well as new to the company is risky but by bringing together a variety of expertise’s through partnering they have been able to mitigate some of the risks. Adanack’s proximity to the market gave them access to the customer to ensure they were on the right track throughout. Cedarland’s knowledge and access to raw materials also gave the project an advantage. The brave folks at Silva Panel™ recognize in order to keep their new reputation in the market for being innovators, they will have to keep moving so the next iteration of the product is already on the backburner.