Indian manufacturer responds to COVID-19 by developing eco-friendly sanitizer dispenser using Canadian wood products

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, businesses across all sectors are looking for innovative ways to adapt to new challenges and continue operations. In India, pandemic response measures presented particularly lengthy challenges for local companies as lockdowns and business closures extended across several months.

In June, businesses finally began to reopen while following new safety protocols focused on social distancing and increased personal hygiene. In response to the rising emphasis on hand sanitation, FII India worked with Chalet International to conceptualize and develop an innovative and sustainable alternative to traditional hand sanitizer dispensers.

Using Canadian spruce-pine-fir (SPF), Chalet International created a hands-free sanitizer dispenser that uses a foot pump to dispense the sanitizer. The eco-friendly design may be finished in a variety of stains and is ideal for hospitals, hotels, business entry ways and other public interaction points.

Canadian wood species have proved to be ideal for the product, as all Canadian wood is imported as fully graded, seasoned lumber, making it easy for manufacturers to efficiently produce the dispensers.

So far, the novel product has proved popular among Chalet International’s client base, with over 1,000 units sold across the Ludhiana, Punjab region. Another Canadian wood trader based in Kanpur, Sardar Timber, has also recently adopted the idea and successfully delivered more than 100 dispensers to local customers.

This innovative product has created yet another use for B.C. species within India’s manufacturing sector and works to showcase how Canadian forest products may be utilized within a variety of existing and new applications.


Thin decorative panels – Another new application for B.C. species 

Evo Wood, a well-known furniture manufacturer based in Gurgaon, has pioneered a new application for B.C. forest products – thin panels used for decorative furniture overlays.

Looking for a solid wood substitute and an alternative to veneers, Evo Wood began using yellow cedar and western hemlock to develop embellished 3.5mm thin sheets that can be laid over wood to create stylish, high-quality softwood furniture. 

The panels are produced through a patented manufacturing process and are available in sizes up to 10ft x 4ft, as well as a variety of designs and surface finishes. By using lower-quality wood as a substrate, manufacturers can create a beautiful, finished look while substantially lowering costs. Additional benefits of the panels include their lightweight and versatility, as they can be easily cut, routed, shaped, and applied to a wide range of surfaces.  

Response to the panels has been extremely positive, as architects, interior designers, manufacturers, and contractors have shown interest in using the sheets across widespread applications such as cabinetry, structural use, panelling, staircases, doors and frames, flooring, and ceilings. 

Recognizing this as an exciting new opportunity for B.C. forest products, FII India supported Evo Wood through the development process by sourcing B.C. wood species, providing technical assistance and introducing the company to local manufacturers and designers who showed interest in the panels. For example, FII India introduced Evo Wood to Dreamcatcherzz, a local design house known for its luxurious designs and quick turnaround times. As a result of the connection, Dreamcatcherzz chose western hemlock panels in their interior design plan for Kota Kachori, a busy takeout restaurant looking to create a rich, ‘palace-like’ feel within a small space. 

In a similar effort, hemlock panels were recommended and used for tabletop application at a popular coworking space in Bangalore. 

In addition to the interest shown by India’s woodworking community, the panels have also garnered positive response in Vietnam. In an example of cross-market promotion, the FII Vietnam team introduced the panels to local Vietnamese manufacturers, with several firms showing interest in sourcing the product.

Through working with local manufacturers on this innovative application, FII India helped open the door to another new market for B.C. forest products within the furniture manufacturing sectors in both India and Vietnam. 

Staying Connected: FII India Presents Its First Webinar on ‘Wood in Structural Use’

Educational seminars and training workshops are two key tools used by the Forestry Innovation Investment (FII) team in India to inform local manufacturers, stockists, architects and other key stakeholders on the merits and applications of B.C. wood species. Through this approach, FII India is able to expand knowledge and build demand for B.C. forest products across strategic markets in India. In 2019-20, 26 educational events were held, generating 1,114 business leads.

In recent months, due to COVID-19 and required limitations on social gatherings, FII India has not been able to conduct these in-person training sessions. To adapt to this new environment and to continue connecting with local stakeholders, the team in India has substituted traditional seminars with a series of webinars.

On May 27, 2020, FII India hosted its first webinar on ‘Wood in Structural use: Advantages and Benefits’, targeting and inviting 35 strategic partners consisting primarily of architects, real estate developers and hospitality sector professionals.

The theme of the webinar tapped into India’s growing interest in the use of wood in structural applications, with topics covering the different methods of building with wood, as well as the environmental, cost and timesaving, building efficiency and safety benefits associated with wood in construction. Several esteemed projects across the country that FII collaborated on were highlighted throughout the webinar to demonstrate examples of impressive wood buildings. Different types of Canadian wood products were also presented in respect to their unique properties and suitability for a variety of applications, with Spruce-pine-fir (S-P-F) highlighted as the ideal species for structural applications due to its great strength-to-weight ratio, dimensional stability and outstanding working properties.

Following the webinar, a survey was sent out to all attendees, with results demonstrating the success and impact of the event. Over 83 percent of respondents said they were very likely to recommend Canadian wood in their future projects. Outside of structural applications, respondents also noted interest in using Canadian wood for outdoor applications (pergolas, gazebos, decking, cladding), door frames, and doors and windows.

Given the success of this online event, FII India’s webinar series is set to continue with topics covering furniture, door and window manufacturing, as well as a highly focused follow-up webinar on Wood in Structural Use, further detailing techniques for building with wood.

By shifting their strategy to accommodate the need for remote engagement with stakeholders, the FII India team has been able to continue to build their brand within key markets and educate local stakeholders on the benefits of building with B.C.’s versatile and sustainable forest products.

To view a recording of the webinar, click here.

Western hemlock finds artistic expression in furniture manufacturing in India 

Over recent years, India’s furniture sector has become much more customer-focused. Now more than ever, customers are experimenting with new styles and viewing furniture as a lifestyle statement and extension of the homeowner’s personality. Besides, families living in urban areas are being drawn towards furniture styles that are light, modern and easy to move – a shift from past preferences for dark, heavy tones. 

In response to this shifting customer preference, furniture manufacturers across India are tailoring their products to meet the growing demand for light, modern and expressive styles.

To tap into this new trend and to showcase how B.C. species may be used in modern, stylish furniture applications, FII India has partnered with Bramola – a high-end furniture manufacturer in Delhi – to develop an exclusive range of furniture using western hemlock. 

Bramola is known for turning pieces of furniture into works of art by employing local artisans to embellish individual pieces of furniture with carvings and colourful paintings. Bramola’s artful ranges of hand-crafted and hand-painted wooden furniture are highly sought after by high-net-worth Individuals (HNIs) in India. 

To encourage Bramola to consider using western hemlock for future furniture applications, FII provided Bramola with the technical assistance and materials needed to develop a line of western hemlock furniture in hopes that Bramola would recognize its favourable properties over traditional species.

Bramola responded by developing an artistic range of indoor furniture made with western hemlock that included a sofa, chairs, a console, chests of drawers, side tables and more. The highlight of the range was an oval centre table with a Mandala (tribal art) hand-painted pattern. 

The eye-catching range of furniture was then displayed at the IndiaWood 2020 Trade Show in March. While the furniture drew favourable response for its beautiful patterns and design, it also showcased Canadian wood species as an option to supplement Bramola’s use of Teak and other traditional hardwoods. The fact that Canadian wood species are certified and come from sustainably managed forests also appeals to India’s increasingly environmentally conscious consumer demand for products made with eco-friendly raw materials. 

By demonstrating how western hemlock may be used in Bramola’s stylish furniture applications, FII not only opened the door to future orders from Bramola, but also showcased how B.C. species may be used to create modern, expressive furniture styles currently sought-after by Indian consumers.

Wood in Manufacturing—Capacity Building

Three key markets have a strategic focus on wood in manufacturing (WIM): India, China and Vietnam. The WIM strategy targets high potential end-use segments, such as indoor and outdoor furniture manufacturing, interior finishing products and the door and doorjamb industry.  While the strategy is most advanced in India, efforts are expanding in China, with exploratory work underway in Vietnam.

To support in-market capacity building for working with B.C. species, Forestry Innovation Investment (FII) Vancouver collaborated with the Canada Wood Group and teams in India, China and Vietnam to develop two tools for use within these markets; an illustrative guidebook on B.C. Interior wood species and lumber grades, and an informative video on B.C. wood in manufacturing. Both tools work to expand the knowledge and use of B.C. softwood products within the WIM sector.


The Interior Wood Species and Grades Book

The Interior Wood Species and Grades Book serves as a guide to understanding B.C.’s Interior softwood species, their most successful applications and the lumber grades typically available for export within each species group. The book includes at-a-glance descriptions, illustrations and full-page photos of Interior Douglas-fir and Spruce-Pine-Fir (S-P-F) lumber and their primary grade characteristics.

This publication was developed in response to a need identified during a collaborative strategy session by in-market team leaders and is intended as a guide for buyers, users and specifiers to help identify the grade of B.C. interior wood species that best meets their requirements. The development and promotion of this document seeks to showcase the versatile and aesthetic properties of B.C. wood species for use within India, China and Vietnam.

Phase 2 will incorporate the development of a Coastal species grades book which will include western hemlock, western red cedar, yellow cedar and Coastal Douglas-fir.

Download the Interior Wood Species and Grades Book here.


The Story of B.C. Wood in Manufacturing Video

Another initiative to support cross-market collaboration was the development of the video, The Story of B.C. Wood in Manufacturing. The video tells the story of B.C. wood, from planting a seedling to manufacturing and shipping lumber, while highlighting the B.C. forest sector as a sophisticated and interconnected industry of sustainable forest management and wood processing.

Developed for use in Vietnam, China and India, the video serves as a promotional and informative tool to expand the awareness and use of B.C. softwood forest products within WIM sectors. The video has been translated and is available in English, Mandarin and Vietnamese languages.

Watch The Story of B.C. Wood in Manufacturing video here.