"The timber industry has changed a lot. It's embraced new technology and efficiency, and a lot of the people in management are aging, so there are lots of opportunities for young people to get into the industry".
Shawn Hummer feels honored to be featured on a billboard sponsored by the Idaho Forest Products Commission because he's part
of a new generation of tech- and business-savvy managers for Stimson Lumber Company, and he believes in the future of the forest
"I think it's really cool," says Hummer, who is plant manager of Stimson's lumber mill in Plummer, Idaho. "Coming out of college, some
of my class-mates were like, `why are you going into the timber industry?' And actually, the industry has changed a lot. It's embraced
new technology and efficiency, and a lot of the people in management are aging, so there are lots of opportunities for young people
to get into the industry."
Hummer earned a master's in business administration from the University of Montana, and got into the management track with
Stimson in 2005. His father also worked in the forest products industry; first with Champion International and later with Stimson.
"The timber industry has been in my family for years," he says. "My father worked in the industry for 30-plus years, my brother
worked for Stimson, and now is a contractor, and ironically, my wife's father has worked in the industry for 30-plus years as well,
so I've always been surrounded by it."
While Shawn's background is rich with ties to the forest products industry, it's not uncommon to find many people in the industry
today with no previous industry experience. As a plant manager for Stimson, Hummer's primary responsibility is to look for ways
to boost efficiency and production. It's a challenge that he enjoys.
"It's definitely a big part of my job," he says. "I'm on the front line of making sure that our mill runs as efficient as possible.
We have to be competitive at what we do." In high school, Hummer remembers that he was interested in engineering and machinery.
"I love to tinker with things and see how we can get more value out of it." Stimson employees are encouraged to look for efficiencies
as well and "challenge the status quo."
"To stay competitive in the industry we have to be on our toes looking for improvements that will continue to give us an advantage,
" he says. "I like to see change, and I challenge our employees to bring ideas to the plate to foster that change."
The Stimson mill in Plummer focuses on making small-diameter lumber products, including cedar products -- boards for decking,
cedar posts and fence pickets, plus dimension lumber made out of different tree species. Hummer likes working in
manufacturing and producing a product that's made in America.
"You have a certain sense of pride to have an `American-made' product," he says. "To me, the timber industry takes
it a step further because it isn't just American-made but it is also a renewable resource and a product everyone uses.
What's great about this industry is every bit of the log is used. We don't generate waste.
What isn't made into lumber goes into either fuel to fire the boilers, which at the Plummer operation also runs
a co-generation plant, or it is processed into paper products. The timber industry surrounds every aspect of
our lives, and to be able to say American-made, makes it all the better." Recently, Hummer has been involved in
increasing the amount of cedar production at the Stimson mill. "At the end of 2011, we installed a cedar fencing line
which was a great project but it also added some complexity to scheduling and manning," he says. "There was a focus
on the line to be up and running by the end of the year to start building inventories to meet customer needs."
The Plummer mill is increasing production to two shifts a day in late spring, Hummer said. Stimson is hiring eight new
employees to handle the increased work flow. When he's not working at the mill, Hummer has been busy raising a family
with his wife, Jessica. They have a daughter, Ella, and are expecting their second child. "I can't say enough about the
support I get from my family," he says. "It's another reason why I get to enjoy my job."
Hummer's hobbies include biking, spending time on the lakes in N. Idaho and skiing.
Looking to the future, Hummer sees opportunities to boost production and find new innovations. "The need
for lumber and paper products isn't going away," he says. "As with any business, there are cycles in the
timber industry, and with every cycle comes new challenges and abilities to raise the bar.
With every change made, there is still another challenge or improvement to look at next. It is an ever-changing
industry, and I lean on the employees to help us get to the next level." Hummer sees strong prospects for
young people who may be contemplating a career in the forest products industry. "The amount of
technology in the timber industry has paved the way for the need for more technical skills for
electricians and millwrights," he says. "I think the timber industry has one of the most dynamic
job spectrums. As a manager, I get the exposure to all aspects of our business, from working
with resources all the way through to my marketing partners. Through the whole process,
it is about working well with people and building a team for success."
Want to know more?
º Learn about Stimson Lumber Company:
º Learn about the being a lumber mill operator:
º Learn how woody biomass could increase green jobs in Idaho:
º Learn about making lumber from small diameter trees:
º Learn about harvesting small trees in Idaho:
º Learn about technology in the mill:
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