As part of the vacation adventure, I toured a sawmill and saw the fascinating process of how trees become cabinets, lumber, furniture, and decorative signs. I left being impressed at how they have found a way to create as little waste as possible by repurposing and utilizing every byproduct from the trees. The sawdust is saved and used to fire the drying kilns. The bark and irregular pieces of wood are ground into piles of mulch — several semi-loads of it per day to create a Mulch Mountain. Lesser quality wood is used to construct pallets. It all gets used for something.

The sawmill also keeps an open mind regarding its product. When the power plant closed and the market for shavings ended, they started dying and bagging mulch. When Home Goods wanted 20,000 signs they added extra staff and printers to meet the demand. They sell their highest quality wood to China to be shaved off into veneer layers. The list of customers continually varies as the mill adapts production to serve the market.

Think about your organization in a holistic, systemic sense. Do you fully leverage all of your outputs (whether they be tangible or intangible learning)? Have you thought about how your components could be utilized as stand-alone assets instead of just serving as a piece of the whole? What customers could benefit from something you consider to be waste?

The only thing rigid at the sawmill is the wood. Their business plan is a model of adaptability that can serve as a lesson for all organizations.

Sawdust used to fire the drying kilns
Shoveling up sawdust to use in the kilns

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