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Mills and woods

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:58 IST
Rahat Bano
Rahat Bano
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

They are the brains who can save our forests to an extent and satiate mankind’s appetite for wood and wood products at the same time. Wood technologists can minimise timber consumption by chipping in with viable alternatives.

Technologists dealing with wood are required to ensure best utilisation of every bit of the green resource, and develop new products and processes.

“A wood technologist manages the processing aspects of wood industries in an optimal way by using his knowledge of good technology and its various aspects,” explains Dr Vimal Kothiyal, head, Forest Products Division, Forest Research Institute, (FRI) Dehradun. In addition to wood-based industries, wood technologists have a number of employment avenues, which can include:
. Buying houses
. Saw mill operation, including mechanical wood processing
. Marketing (timber and timber products, machinery, equipment etc)
. Research institutes
. State forest departments
. Entrepreneurship
. Product designing
. Interior designing
. Polytechnic colleges
. National design institutes
. Consultant in various organisations
. Quality control

Shiv S. Panse, consultant (technical), Bamboo and Cane Development Institute, Agartala, adds, “Some sectors like certifying agencies and export houses pay handsomely after experience in the respective fields.”

Many foreign companies from Singapore, Europe and China have set up offices in India. “Timber suppliers from New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Myanmar, and USA are seeing India as a big market,” says Dr Kothiyal.

However, according to professionals, not many wood-based and related industries in India employ technologists, though things seem to be changing. Students are fewer, the potential and possibilities in the field are greater, they say. FRI’s intake is 38 (and it boasts 100 per cent placements). One more university has started a wood technology programme with 15 seats every year.

“Wood science and technology has not yet been explored efficently in India,” says Panse. Dr Kothiyal says, “Industries manage shortages by multitasking available persons, risking product output and even at points, bypassing the necessary technical inputs, resulting in short-life or defective products or outputs.”

Yet, experts are optimistic. “WST alumni who have been working in these industries for long make them realise that technical knowledge of wood is very important for efficient utilisation and minimising losses during processing. As a result of this, wood industries look forward to appointing wood technologists.”

Panse sounds both sceptical and upbeat. “The Indian wood market is growing rapidly but still very far behind European countries and the USA. Wooden markets in India... have been growing incredibly for years, which is increasing career opportunities for these professionals.”

Lalit Narayan, technical manager (international R&D for furniture), Habufa Meubelen, insists domestic furniture-makers are realising the value of technical expertise. “They have to (employ technologists).”

What’s it about?
Wood science and technology (WST) is aimed at efficient utilisation of timber. Basically, wood technologists use their know-how to manage and improve wood and wood products. They are trained in wood physics, chemistry and anatomy, timber mechanics and engineering, wood seasoning (drying), wood preservation, wood working (machining operations) and finishing, saw milling, product design, composite wood, timber entomology and wood microbiology

Clock Work
9 am: Discussion with heads of carpenter groups and other departmental heads for the production planning of the day
10 am: Start/inspect wood processing on machines in factory
1 pm: Lunch
2 pm: Follow up of production activities in assembly and reply to mails, if any, related to buyer queries
4 pm: Solve problems, if any, and follow up production process in finishing and dispatch
6 pm: Production output analysis of the day. Plan production for next day
7 pm: Leave for the day

The Payoff
A fresh postgraduate (MSc in WST) earns a starting salary of anything between Rs2.25 lakh and Rs4.25 lakh a year. After three to four years, he is able to fetch anywhere between Rs40,000 to Rs80,000 per month

Skills
. Knowledge of physics, chemistry, material science, structural and chemical engineering, mechanics etc
. Observation, analytical and creative skills
. Good communication skills; ability to manage labourers
. A very positive attitude to work in an unorganised sector
. Be rough and tough

Institutes & urls
. FRI University, Dehradun
MSc in WST
http://fri.icfre.gov.in/
. Kannur University, Kerala,
MSc in WST kannuruniversity.ac.in

Diploma/short-term courses:
. Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute (IPIRITI), Bangalore, ipirti.gov.in
. Government Polytechnic, Srinagar
. Institute of Wood Science and Technology (IWST), Bangalore, iwst.icfre.gov.in
. FRI, IWST, IPRITI (in-service candidates)

How do i get there?
Opt for science at the plus-two level. To enrol for FRI University’s MSc in WST, you require a BSc in physics, chemistry and Maths or BSc in forestry.

Selection is through an all-India entrance test conducted at various centres. Details on the university website. Afterwards, you may consider a doctorate.

FRI University takes in candidates for PhDs in wood science through a written test followed by an interview. The eligibility requirement is a postgraduate degree in wood science and technology, physics, and chemistry. Candidates with degrees in chemical engineering, civil engineering and material science are also eligible “although such candidates are yet to show such interest,” says Dr Vimal Kothiyal, head, Forest Products Division, FRI, Dehradun

Pros & Cons


.

Many challenges and opportunities to prove yourself and grow with the organisation


.

Serious view on relevant fields by governments of India, China etc


.

Relatively low pay initially


.

Work in factory/field in an unorganised sector

Technologists can minimise deforestation

A practitioner talks about possibilities and challenges

What made you get into this profession? What’s your work all about?
I am a forestry graduate and forests were always my passion. Being a specialised branch of forestry involving technology, this field interests me a lot.
My basic job profile at this moment is to provide technical support to the wood factories of India and south east Asia (China, Vietnam, and Indonesia) for efficient furniture-making.

With deforestation an issue, what’s the future like for wood technologists? What are the challenges before wood technologists in India?
With the deforestation issue getting serious, the role and responsibility of a wood technologist is growing as he is the one who can optimise the use of wood in furniture products, mixing it with non-wood fillers or panel products made of local fast-grown cheap wood species. He can thus add value to minimise deforestation.

If I talk about the challenges before wood technologists, these are:
. To optimise the use of wood by using non-wood or panel products with technology to make engineered products.
. The furniture-making sector being quite unorganised in India is a big challenge for a wood technologist to make continuous efforts and bring it to an organised
form.
. To introduce and improvise furniture-making technology from handicraft to modern furniture-making, which will increase factory capacities and in turn mean
good business for India.

Who should opt for wood technology? What’s the scope for wood technologists today in India and other countries?
Forestry graduates who have some passion for furniture and creativity must opt for wood technology. Wood technologists can join wood/ furniture industries, plywood /MDF (medium density fibreboard) industries, buying houses for exports, or as research scholars and scientists in some institutes.

In India, it is very easy for a wood technologist to find jobs in the furniture and plywood-making industry. A person joining as trainee can become a factory manager in a span of five to six years, depending on his skills and hard work.

As far as opportunities outside India are concerned, a wood technologist can explore the job of a technician in the furniture industries of south east Asia, but afterwards. Also, he can explore research activities by PhDs and become a professor or scientist in universities of Europe, New Zealand, USA, Malaysia etc. Also, he can find work in the pulp and paper industry.

Lalit Narayan Interviewed by Rahat Bano

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