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Having trouble finding skilled woodworkers?

9. April 2018 12:51

By: Glenn Koerner, Fox Valley Technical College

Currently, in your woodworking shop, is 50% of your workforce 10 or fewer years away from retirement? 15 years from retirement? Are your shop workers burned out from working ridiculous amounts of overtime because you cannot find enough help to keep up with customer orders? You are certainly not alone if you answered yes to any or all these questions.

Locating and attracting young, skilled woodworkers is a daunting task these days. Gone are the days of simply calling up your local tech school woodworking instructor and asking him or her to send over the “best guy”.

We have put together some strategies that will potentially make it easier for you to obtain these illusive new employees. Some of the suggestions may be easy, while others may be a bit painful. Nonetheless, you need to do something to ensure your labor force is strong enough to support your business currently and in the future.

Come learn more about these strategies at the “How to Develop a Relationship with Local Educational Facilities for Potential Employees” session happening on Wednesday, August 22tnd, from 11:00am -12:30pm.

Come learn more about this topic during the "How to Develop a Relationship with Local Educational Facilities for Potential Employees"session at the IWF Education Conference.

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Make your machine work for you

5. April 2018 15:44

By Leland Thomasset, Taghkanic Woodworking

 

If you have a nested-based CNC and you're simply using it to make cabinet parts, you’re leaving money on the table. You should be utilizing your machines in unique ways, so that it becomes a profit center.

Consider your CNC as another employee in your shop.  As an employee, the machine needs to contribute to your bottom line. If your employees simply did the job that was required, would you give them a raise or promote them?  Would you even keep them? We all want employees that go above and beyond what we ask them to do, but why would we accept status quo from our CNC?

Start by thinking outside the box – quite literally, the cabinet box, that is. To create more than just typical cabinet parts, you need simplified processes to get more out of your CNC router. By doing other types of projects, you keep your CNC busy throughout the day instead of just when you need the parts cut for the cabinets.  By fully employing your machine, you can secure additional projects that are difficult for others to do. With a little ingenuity and input from others, they will be easy for you to do on your CNC.

When you start working on projects that are not simply flat sheets, you will need to come up with a solution for workpiece holding. For nested-based machines, it’s typical to use a vacuum table to hold materials in place. For smaller parts or mirrored machining, some fixtures have the part screwed from behind. As a suggestion, though, create a pocket in a secondary sheet of material to hold the part precisely where it belongs. For example, if you have a sign that you need to machine and you think the vacuum will not hold it, then you could put a piece of material on the table and make a cut-out for the part to nest into. Then, you place the part into this cut-out. When you do this, you know your part is precisely where it is supposed to be in relation to the work that needs to be cut into it.

Inventive ideas like this will help your CNC do more, be more efficient, and make additional revenue. To learn more, attend “Boundary-pushing with your CNC” during IWF to learn tips and tricks from myself and two other veteran CNC owners.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Boundry - Pushing with Your Nested - Based Router" session at the IWF Education Conference.

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Growing into Automation

5. April 2018 15:33

By John Park - SCM Group USA

You know you should become more automated, but you’re not sure how to do it. The first step should be to build in manual processes that will be automated over time as the organization learns to deal with automation.

Automation and robotics are changing our industry. All companies, regardless of size, are constantly faced with the need to increase efficiencies while closely managing expenses. It’s no secret that if you continually improve processes, then you can create better products and ultimately move your business forward.

“My CNC is my best employee” 

Although at first this statement may seem to be in jest, yet in reality it’s the absolute truth. Machines are efficient and they show up every day to get the job done.

So can automation fill the skills gap? It’s certainly a reasonable option. Automation can also help to improve innovation, create better jobs for existing employees, and meet market demands in the woodworking industry – even for small shops.

Many of the production jobs in cabinet shops can be monotonous or temporary due to the seasonality of customer demand. Because of this, it is a struggle with employee turnover and finding workers who are willing to simply pick up and put down parts all day long. Instead, with automation, you can focus on recruiting workers for advanced skills, such as cognitive jobs that leverage technology on the shop floor and offer career advancement opportunities.

Whether you embrace the idea or stand adamantly against it, there's no denying the widespread integration of robots is already happening. Although for now, robots are stuck with the monotonous, mundane jobs skilled human workers would rather not do.

Embracing the movement and working in tandem with technology is necessary to uncover the true potential of next-gen robotics and to determine the exact role humans will play in automated manufacturing.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Robots in the Small to Medium-Sized Shop" session at the IWF Education Conference.

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Let’s Make Urban Wood a Household Name

4. April 2018 14:41

By Jennifer Alger, CEO

Far West Forest Products

The terms urban lumber, salvaged logs and reclaimed or recycled wood often get used interchangeably. While all of these terms are about repurposing wood and keeping it out of the waste stream, in mind there are some important distinctions to their meanings and thus how they should be used.

Urban Lumber is the lumber sawn from trees that have come down in storms or were removed for any reason from your city neighborhoods, yards, parks and streets. This is the wood that traditionally would have gone to your local landfill, cut into firewood or fed into the chipper. By purchasing urban lumber or products made from urban lumber, you help extend the lifecycle of your local community trees. Urban Lumber also fits into the salvaged category as well.

Salvaged logs are wood that has not been previously sawn into lumber and is typically still in log form when we acquire it. Many of our salvage logs are windfalls – literally trees that came down in a storm. Utilizing these logs for lumber allows us to extend the lifecycle of the tree. This is how we get much of our old-growth material. Salvaged logs can come from an urban setting and fit into the urban lumber category, or they can be from forests as well. Essentially these are any logs from trees that were not felled for their timber value.

Reclaimed or recycled wood is wood that has previously been sawn into lumber and used in the construction of buildings, bridges, water-tanks or other structures. Reclaimed wood has been removed during some type of a demolition project and instead of going to the landfills, its lifecycle has been extended by recycling it and preparing it to be used again.

Why Buy Urban, Salvaged or Reclaimed Wood Products?
In the late ’90s, it was estimated that 3.8 million tons of solid wood waste was going into California’s landfills each year. This dramatic number just show what was happening in our area; there was a similar situation around the U.S. when there was an incredible amount of exotic wood being imported. We are not advocating that you should stop using imported woods. In fact, we may even carry some of them. But we do believe that we can better utilize the woods that are right here in our local communities. In many cases they are every bit as beautiful as the treasured exotics from around the world with their burl, figure, spalting or other character features.

By turning logs into lumber instead of material left to rot in a landfill, you essentially stop the decomposition process and sequester the carbon. In addition, by purchasing and using local trees the carbon used to transport the exotics from overseas is lessened. Couple all that with the fact that most urban wood in the U.S. is milled on portable thin kerf band-saws such as a Wood-Mizer, that consume an extremely low amount of energy, and you really take a big whack at lowering the overall carbon footprint by utilizing urban wood.

We at Far West Forest Products encourage you to take a look at urban wood as your first option. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the local economy, and it’s Beautiful!

Not only that, where else can you get a one-of-a-kind piece of wood or lumber that no one else has with which to build your next family heirloom. The urban wood industry is utilizing woods that are typically not used as lumber because there aren’t enough of them to create a commercial market for the larger mills.

Why I’m a Proponent of a Market-Driven Solution
I believe that collectively our urban products will be more affordable and more sustainable if the industry grows through market-driven solutions as opposed to legislative action. Although I’m very passionate about using urban products whenever possible, I fear that legislating it could complicate the process to the extent that the average sawyer and lumber producer either couldn’t afford to do it or wouldn’t want to deal with the paperwork that comes when the government gets too involved in an industry. This in turn would drive up the price of urban wood products as well as potentially decrease the supply. The industry has to be viable economically for the tree service company, the sawyer, and the consumer in order for it to be sustainable.

I would prefer that local governments get behind and support (as Cal Fire’s Urban Forestry division in California has), but not necessarily legislate the urban wood industry with cumbersome red tape. I believe that if we can educate the consumer and keep it affordable, they will choose urban wood products based upon environmental, economic, emotional and aesthetic reasons.

Let’s work together to make urban lumber and urban wood household names and go-to products for every wood products consumer in America.

Come learn more about this topic at the "The Urban Wood Revolution is NOW! Come Join the Movement" session at the IWF Education Conference.

 

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Manufacturing Wood Dust

4. April 2018 12:36

Do you manufacture wood dust?  As soon as a saw blade, belt or cutting head touches the wood, the composition of the wood changes and wood dust is created in one form or another.  Everything from large chips to fine wood flour is created.  However, is the wood dust you manufacture combustible?  According to OSHA combustible dusts “are fine particles that present an explosion hazard when suspended in air in certain conditions.”  “Certain conditions” refer to two parameters that define a fire triangle from an explosion pentagon, they are dispersion and confinement.  A potentially combustible fine wood particle is additionally defined by particle size, shape, age, moisture connect, as well as other factors.  If there is any doubt of combustibility, the dust must be sent to a certified facility to be tested. 

NFPA 652 (2015) states “To determine if the dust can present an explosion hazard, the simplest test that can be performed is known as the “go/no/go” test “yes, it blows up, or no, it doesn’t” according to ASTM E 1226 Standard Test Method for Explosibility of Dust Clouds.  Additional tests include (MIE) Minimum Ignition Energy test ASTM E-2019, and Explosion Severity Test (KSt and PMAX) ASTM E-1226.  Testing prices ranges from approximately $350-$1300 up to $3850 for a full OSHA NEP Package.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Combustible Dust...an Explosive Issue" session at the IWF Education Conference.

Business Succession Planning Insights: Tales from the Trenches - (Part 1 of 6)

4. April 2018 12:17

By:  Terrance K. Resnick and Leon B. Resnick

Business Succession Planning - although the topic on the surface may appear to be rather mundane, improper succession planning can literally cause the loss of a company and place family members in situations where they never speak to one another again. It’s that serious.

Statistically, only 1/3 of all family businesses will survive from the first to second generation and less than 15% will survive from the second to third generation. I’m not referring only to companies that are struggling to stay afloat, this sobering statistic includes many, many, businesses that at one time were hugely successful. Think it can’t happen to you? None of the individuals involved with those businesses expected it to happen to them either. Ask any family members of those business owners if it could happen. Improper business succession planning is the leading cause of ultimate business failure.

My client base of proven business owners and entrepreneurs stretches across the United States and although they are involved in different industries, they share many similar attributes including understanding the importance of business succession planning.  More critical than understanding the importance is that they actually took action and implemented a business succession plan that protects the company owners, their families, the employees and business.

Clearly if a business owner has not established a succession plan and the company ends up not surviving it’s no big surprise. What’s actually worse is businesses that ultimately fail even though a succession plan was in place. Why would a business ultimately fail if there was a succession plan in place? There are many reasons. In fact, many very successful business owners and their businesses are unknowingly sitting on ticking time bombs.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Survive and Thrive - Assuring the Long-Term Success of your Company" session at the IWF Education Conference.

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