Do Standards and Standardization Matter in a Hardwood Timber Mat?
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Summary: We should care about standards because clear standards increase reliability, decrease cost, increase safety, and make our lives easier.
What's a Standard?: Standard is defined as “something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example.” Standardization means, “to bring to or make of an established standard size, weight, quality, strength, or the like.”
Should we really care?: Yes. Standards increase reliability, decrease price, increase safety, and make everything run better. Imagine if our homes had no electric standards. We wouldn’t know if the power coming in were at 120 volts, or 240 volts or 80 volts or 150 volts. Our refrigerators and cell phones would burn out or not run efficiently and we’d be complaining all the time.
That’s where we are in the timber mat business – almost no standards.
Current Standards: The obvious standard all mat users and manufacturers all agree upon is dimension. When you buy an 18’ x 8” x 4’ mat you know are buying something that is pretty close to those dimensions.
The other thing that users and manufacturers agree upon is that mats should be free of visible rot.
Dimension and visible rot are the lowest common denominator available to mixed species timber mats and that’s where timber mat standards usually stop. There are four good reasons for that:
1. Most hardwood mats are made from a wide variety of species, all of which have different working characteristics.
2. Most mats come from smaller diameter logs which have larger variability in working characteristics than older growth logs.
3. The timber mat industry doesn’t have a central organization for establishing guidelines and standards.
4. Many traditional means of standardization (for example, gathering and pooling similar species) are too costly for our industry.
So...Are we stuck with no standardization? Probably…until buyers decide that they want increased reliability and reduced costs. Standardization, and therefore increased reliability, lower costs, and safer environments, can occur through the free market approach or through regulation.
(Note: We’ll be opening up a conversation about safety in an upcoming blog – stay tuned!)
There are two approaches to regulation - bottom up and top down.
Either an industry trade organization can develop and implement standards that all mat manufacturers must follow, or a de facto standard is developed organically from the bottom up through the free market.
We are attempting to create a second de facto, free market approach and hope that making your life easier by providing a reduced risk, lower cost, uniform mat will result in encouraging our colleague-producers to meet or exceed our standards in order to compete for the customers' business. This approach takes the long view on the industry, but we believe it is one worth pursuing.
In addition to greater strength, our mats are more uniform because they are made with uniform raw material, a standardized production process in one facility, and uniform procurement and grading standards which allow no wane and no rot. Here’s a shameless free-market plug for increased reliability through use of our mats: Look at the working characteristics of Eucalyptus vs. Mixed Hardwood Species.
Source: The superb Mobile Crane Support Handbook (p. 115, second edition) by David Duerr.
The result is that every Eucalyptus mat will be pretty much the same, whereas each mixed hardwood mat will be different. That means lower reliability and higher costs for mixed hardwood mats and higher reliability and lower costs for our mats.
Summary: Standardization does matter because a standardized mat is more reliable and ultimately less costly. Buyers can choose standardized timber mats (such as Eucalyptus, Southern Red Oak) or live with the lowest common denominator used in mixed species mats.
We believe standardization is the next logical evolution in the mat industry and we are working to be at its vanguard.