Tuesday - Friday | August 25-28, 2020

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SBA Paycheck Protection Loans Went Fast, But More Is On the Way

21. April 2020 09:43

By: Laurie Wolff, Certified Global Business Professional

Wow, that went fast. Some of you were able to obtain loans through the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loans, but many were not. Even though the funding levels were larger than anything the SBA has done before, the needs are significantly greater than the funding provided. The SBA has stopped accepting applications unless or until the government authorizes additional funding.

My best guess is that more will be authorized this week. We have already had more people file for unemployment claims than we have created jobs since the end of the Great Recession. Independent contractors and self-employed workers have not yet been able to file for benefits even though those were authorized under the federal stimulus programs. States literally have not had the capacity to process these claims, and as far as I can tell the first of these will start hitting the system next week so expect continued historically high numbers for jobless claims for at least the rest of this month as states play catch up.

Politicians will respond to this with more stimulus, so if you have applications that were pending and not approved, keep working with your bankers because if (when) more funding is authorized, it too will be dispersed quickly. Most state and loan programs were also quickly exhausted but keep in contact with local small business assistance centers and economic development offices in case additional resources become available.

I’ll blog about what the Federal Reserve is doing to stabilize lending and the financial system soon. Some of what they are doing directly benefits large businesses, but if the Fed is able to take the loans guaranteed through the SBA program off the books of banks, that gives banks more ability to lend. Stay in close contact with your lenders. Your bank has a vested interest in your ability to survive this crisis.

I have friends that got the loans and some that didn’t. They applied equally quickly and as far as I can tell were equally worthy. It doesn’t feel fair. I’m glad for those that did get the loans and for their workers. All I can do is encourage those that didn’t to keep at it.

I plan to talk with you about exporting when we meet in Atlanta at IWF, but in the meanwhile I’m happy to answer questions and make referrals to resources, whatever will help you move forward with your business.

Reach Laurie Wolff c/o IWFNetworkNews@iwfatlanta.com   

IWF Education - Top Five Reasons Lean Programs Fail

17. April 2020 14:09

The road to adopting Lean Manufacturing in a woodworking plant is not always smooth, but well worth the effort. At IWF 2020, a day-long symposium, Quantum Lean, will cover the fundamentals, and get you started toward continuous improvement and increased efficiency in your operation. In this video, presenters Lynn Thomson and Brad Cairns show why they are among IWF's most popular presenters. Learn more about the Quantum Lean Symposium and how to register below. 

By Brad Cairns Lynn Thomson

Quantum Lean is a full day Lean Symposium for people who are ready for change, who want more from their existing resources and who want to start the move to manufacturing excellence. The goal of this Symposium is to walk away with a clear direction and action plan to kick off your Lean Journey. Save thousands of dollars! We are going to give you all the tools you would get from one on one consulting, and then some!

Learn more and register for Quantum Lean, August 24 at IWF 2020.

We are going to unroll the “Lean Road Map” so you can not only see where you are at, but where you are going. The day will be jam packed with live flow simulations to see Lean in action. Ever thought: "I'm ready for this journey, but my people aren’t?" If this sounds familiar, fear not, we are covering people development as well. Despite what you may think, most people love Lean once they begin to understand it.

No stone will be left unturned, from setting up team leaders & lean coordinators, Gemba walks, study materials, mentorships & Lean tours. This will be a full emersion that you cannot miss. If you’re a numbers person and increasing your throughput by 30-50% interests you, don’t miss this opportunity to take a Quantum leap forward over your competition.

As a bonus to taking this symposium, we are going to take you on a tour to Japan without leaving the room! Show you what manufacturing excellence looks like. We are going to show you and teach you what we had the privilege of learning from our Japanese mentors. Valuable words from Ritsuo Shingo (Son of Shigeo Shingo, creator of theToyota production system), see a culture and a way of thinking that is bound to be transformational. Smart people can’t believe it’s this simple.

LEAN IS FOR EVERYONE. Whether you run a manufacturing company, a service operation or an office environment, the tools and techniques can be applied to every process. If you are an owner or manager of a company, and you’re looking for that competitive advantage that is not just a flash in the pan or a price war, Lean thinking is your ticket. It is not just for the automotive sector. Let us show you how these tools and techniques translate perfectly into any wood manufacturing operation. What is your strategic plan to stay ahead of the competition? Perhaps a little Lean thinking is just what your organization needs. Learn more and register 

Getting Business Finance and Help at Your Local Level

6. April 2020 10:38

By: Laurie Wolff, Certified Global Business Professional

So far in my blogs we’ve focused on small business resources available at the national level through the CARES stimulus package. Where else can you get help? Almost certainly your state has programs available to assist small business. Many states are offering zero interest or low interest loans to businesses that qualify. There are funding pools available in some metropolitan areas or parts of states.

For example, the state of Illinois has several programs for businesses, some limited to Chicago, some to outside the Chicago area. California has state wide programs, and specific areas such as Sacramento and San Francisco have their own programs.

I live in St. Louis and our local tech incubator, which does lots of small business development, is networking and sharing links for a variety of regional programs. Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or economic development office will have the best information about programs available just for firms in your area as well as state wide or national programs.

If you haven’t made a relationship with them before, now is a good time to get networked with other businesses in your community. I’m sure District Export Councils and Chambers of Commerce are also trying to identify and share resources with their members. Local business communities and business assistance centers are pulling together to help get us through this pandemic induced economic crisis.

Private lenders, both traditional and the “fin tech” nontraditional lenders, are also offering help. Our new era of “fin tech” where nontraditional lenders and payment mechanisms have grown rapidly is both good and bad—there are new sources for funds and new abilities to move them rapidly, but there is also more possibilities for fraud and for nontraditional intermediaries to have liquidity issues. Exercise caution.

Do due diligence before you agree to anything. And, don’t forget that the government resources may be grants, which directly contribute to your bottom line, even if they might take longer to access.

I plan to talk with you about exporting when we meet in Atlanta at IWF 2020, but in the meanwhile I’m happy to answer questions and make referrals to resources, whatever will help you move forward with your business.

Reach Laurie Wolff c/o IWFNetworkNews@iwfatlanta.com

Herman Miller Poster Child: Resident Graphic Artist

5. April 2020 23:15

By Bill Esler, Editor, IWF Network News 

His posters for the annual Herman Miller company picnic have been accepted into the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. An intriguing snapshot of the work of graphic designer Steve Frykholm, who says life at Herman Miller really has been a picnic. Frykholm reflects on his 45+ year tenure at the company and revisits his first—and now canonical—assignment on the job. 

The New CARES Act Lets You Seek a Payroll Tax Credit of $5,000 Per Employee

4. April 2020 13:52

By: Laurie Wolff, Certified Global Business Professional

Is all well or at least okay with your business? In my last post, I described a payroll grant program that has just become available for businesses under pressure by the current health crisis. 

The Paycheck Protection Program offers small businesses loans that can be forgiven if all employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks and the loan is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest and utilities. The forgiven amount has to have at least 75 percent related to payroll expenses, but other expenses can be part of the loan package. 

If you qualify as a small business, you can get a government loan that becomes a grant based on maintaining your payroll. Even if times are still good, this will increase your bottom line and allow you to invest in future opportunities. If times are tough, this is a potential life line to hold out until we get through the pandemic induced shut downs.

If taking advantage of a loan turned grant from the SBA isn’t right for you, then consider a couple of other options created in the recent government stimulus package.

For example:

  • You are eligible for a payroll tax credit if you have maintained employment and don’t seek or obtain an SBA loan. The credit is equal to 50 percent of wages and includes qualified health expenses. This is up to $10,000 gross paid out for wages and health benefits per worker, so the credit would be $5,000 per worker.
  • You can claim the credit against quarterly payroll taxes or take advance payment of the tax credit if you need cash now. Please talk to your accountant and claim this tax credit if you are eligible.
  • You also can defer your portion of payroll taxes, which is 6.2 percent of payroll. It won’t in the end save you money, but it will improve your cash flow now. The repayment schedule is stretched out to 2021 and 2022.

I will address this theme in other blogs but I want to hit home with you that the firms that expand, that buy capital and invest in developing new customers and new markets in the down times are best situated to grow and gain market share in the next up cycle. If you are healthy now, please deploy resources so that you can thrive when we get through this pandemic.

Economic expansions do not die of old age, and our underlying economy is strong. We just lived through the longest expansion ever. Our underlying capacity is amazing. We got hit with a shock that for once is not really economic, not about liquidity or the financial system, or anything else that we usually would label as causing a recession.

We have a health crisis which is making all of us make different choices than we usually would make. We will have the worst numbers ever in jobless claims, unemployment and decreased production. It will be a sharp downward move and bad in most measurable ways.

But we are also doing the largest stimulus ever and have the best underlying productivity ever. Jobless claims are so high because the technology is there to immediately make them, and the funds are there to pay them. It will help stabilize spending.

I like to think of the really bad numbers as a really good sign that we are on top of this. Be strong and prosper. (My scify fandom is showing but I want to encourage you that we will get through this.)

I plan to talk with you about exporting when we meet in Atlanta at IWF, but in the meanwhile I’m happy to answer questions and make referrals to resources, whatever will help you move forward with your business.

Reach Laurie Wolff c/o IWFNetworkNews@iwfatlanta.com   

The New CARES Act Is Aimed at Helping You With Worker Payroll. Here's How to Tap It

3. April 2020 16:01

By: Laurie Wolff, Certified Global Business Professional

My guess is you are struggling with the economic impact of COVID-19. Some of you have new opportunities, given the need to retrofit spaces to protect employees and possibly even to produce high need items to fight the pandemic. Some of you can still operate normally. Others are facing state-wide stay-in-place orders that are challenging operations. Still more are seeing large decreases in your booked business and are having to lay off workers and manage your cash flow.

Help is on the way. But you will have to actively engage if you want to take advantage of any of the programs. I will have blogs on several opportunities but for this one I’m focusing on one program offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Part of the CARES Act (the recently passed more than $2 trillion stimulus package) is directly aimed at keeping people working in small businesses across the country. Even if all is great for you right now, pay attention and consider applying. If you qualify as a small business, you can get a government loan that becomes a grant based on maintaining your payroll. Even if times are still good, this will increase your bottom line and allow you to invest in future opportunities. If times are tough, this is a potential life line to hold out until we get through the pandemic induced shut downs.

The Paycheck Protection Program offers small businesses loans that can be forgiven if all employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks and the loan is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest and utilities. The forgiven amount has to have at least 75 percent related to payroll expenses, but other expenses can be part of the loan package. 

Consider including expenses related to business expansion. The can include attendance at trade shows such as IWF 2020, which allows you to meet new customers or find new suppliers. I advised another small business I work with to include in his loan package funds to relocate part of his business to business sales effort - which now can’t happen in person - to an online platform. Are you getting the idea? 


Is the Tide Favoring U.S.
Wood Industry Exports?

IWF 2020 offers two learning opportunities
on export for the U.S. wood industry
by economist Laurie Wolff. Read more

The loan has a maturity of two years, no payments for six months, and an interest rate of 1%. For now the window for payroll is between February 15th and June 30th so firms that have laid off workers can rehire them based on the loan and still qualify. Possibly the government may lengthen the window or increase the total funding level given future need, but for now the authorization is $350 billion. Loans can’t be for more than $10 million and most will be small.

You need to have a relationship with a banker to get this loan. Many banks that previously did not do SBA loans are seeking approval to make them for their customers. The existing SBA lenders, including the large national banks, are saying they will not be able to expand beyond their existing customers. If your bank isn’t trying to become a lender under this program, my best advice is to talk with the other banks in your town or region to find someone willing to work with you. While the loan is guaranteed by the government, the banks still have to do diligence and so the best situation is to work with a bank that already knows you and your operations.

I hope that the business owners that attended my IWF 2018 workshops on expanding their business through international trade stepped out, followed my advice, and got SBA loans because that now is advantageous. If you already have a SBA loans, it makes it easier to get this one, and the SBA has two programs open to extend payments or add extra lending to their existing clients’ loans.

To qualify as a small business, you generally have to have less than 500 employees, but you can go to SBA.gov to see if your business qualifies. Information about this and other programs is available there, but really, truly for this program you need to talk to your bank to see if they are ready to accept applications and if not, call around town to find a bank that will.

More on other opportunities in future blogs, but all the best as we try together to get through these challenging times!

Stretch Wrappers, Packers, Palletizers - Choosing a Secondary Packaging System

22. March 2020 00:07

By Derek Jones, Marketing Manager, Robopac USA

Let’s face it. Secondary packaging equipment is a broad category with multiple product lines and a variety of features with varying performance levels. From stretch wrappers, packers and palletizers to case equipment and laser-guided vehicles, and with so many companies touting the benefits of their product, how do I decipher which is the right product for me?

Robopac USA is exhibiting in Booth B8285 at IWF 2020

The best way to determine the right equipment in each of the product lines is to understand the best fit for your application. Think of it this way. When you decide to purchase a new vehicle, there are key “application” factors that come into play. If I have a family of four then I probably need a vehicle that has four doors, more room, third-row seating and maybe a built-in DVD player to keep the kids occupied on long trips. If I live in a harsher environment or like to off-road, then I may choose a more rugged vehicle with four-wheel or all-wheel drive. There are several application factors always in play when purchasing a vehicle.

The same holds true for deciding on which secondary packaging equipment is right for my operation. Let’s go through each of the product lines that make up secondary packaging equipment and uncover the key application decision factors:

Stretch Wrappers
Stretch wrappers are made up of two main categories: Semi-automatics and Automatics. Both categories are made up of sub-categories: Turntable, Vertical Rotary Arm, and Horizontal. Robots are a sub-category primary to semi-automatics. In most cases, if the loads you wrap are heavy (over 4,400 lbs.), very light, or unstable then they will need to remain stationary on a solid surface instead of a spinning turntable. If that is the case, you will need a vertical rotary arm stretch wrapper. 

Turntable stretch wrappers are ideal for wrapping stable loads that weigh under 4,400 pounds. Since floor space is at a premium in most facilities, choosing a reliable turntable wrapper with a small footprint is key. Depending upon the number of loads you wrap per hour, you can determine which turntable in the product line is right for you. 

If you wrap long products such as lumber, doors, windows, carpets, textiles, copper piping, or corrugated tubing then a horizontal wrapper may be the right solution for you. 

Flexibility is extremely important. Robot semi-automatic stretch wrappers are portable providing a 25% increase in productivity. Loads do not have to be taken to a set area to be wrapped. The machine comes to you. Plus, they can wrap loads of any weight, length and width.

Semi-automatics may require some human intervention like pushing a button to start the machine, attaching the film to the load before starting the wrap cycle, or cutting the film at the end of the load. Statistics show that the less the operator engages with the load directly, the safer and more productive they will be.

For example, if your semi-automatic stretch wrapper includes an automatic film cutting and sealing device, then the equipment will cut and seal the film to the bottom of the load at the end of the wrap cycle automatically.

Why is this important? It allows the operator to stay on the fork truck to stage other loads or perform other functions while the machine is wrapping the load increasing productivity. Keeping them on the fork truck keeps them safe preventing injuries by bending over time and again to attach the film to the load or cut it at the end of the wrap cycle.

Remote controls to start and stop the wrap cycle are also available to increase productivity. Keep in mind, some manufacturers include extended wrap height, a remote control, and other key features as standard which is very important in determining total value in your purchase decision. 

If you have more demanding, higher speed applications then an automatic stretch wrapper may be the right solution. Automatics can include conveyor systems to stage and run multiple loads, corner board placers to protect sides of loads and dual wrap arms for increased productivity.

Cutting edge manufacturers are now providing remote connectivity to your stretch wrapper operation which allows managers to monitor and improve performance. Remote assistance minimizes machine downtime and permits better maintenance management, also including an immediate troubleshooting procedure and full remote machine management software updates.

At the end of the day, the reason we stretch wrap loads is to protect the products that are being shipped. Choose a manufacturer who will deliver the right amount of film, at exactly the right position, with exactly the right amount of containment force to protect your products during shipment.

Most industrial manufacturing plants deal with large-scale production every day. Unreliable or incapable machinery may break down frequently. When this happens, production must cease, and costly downtimes are the result. The right wrap-around case packer and shrink wrappers must be able to reliably handle heavy-duty production. To keep the packing process moving forward, wrap
goods tightly for intact delivery. Flexibility in product application, changeover time, machine capabilities (film, pad + film, film + tray, tray only), speed, reliability/uptime and the need for a packer, wrapper, or combination will drive your decision making.

Automatic palletizing eliminates unnecessary labor, improves productivity, and increases safety in your shipping operation. Floor space an issue? Then consider a palletizer manufacturer with small footprint machines that offer concurrent stretch wrapping within the palletizer. This reduces floor space requirement by palletizing and stretch wrapping in once process. Positive product handling
that confirms proper load construction prior to layer deposit is vital in the purchase process. Safety is imperative in any operation. Identify manufacturers which build their palletizers to a minimum Category 3 safety standard.

Case Equipment
Case erectors and sealers may be the most difficult product line to determine which manufacturer’s machine is the right for my application. Case erectors and sealers eliminate costly labor and ensure cases are square for the unitization process during palletization and stretch wrapping. My advice…Don’t get caught up in the suction cup and folding arm rhetoric.

There are a few questions you need answered when choosing a case erector or sealer:

  • Can they at least handle all types of flutes, double wall and single wall, and most common case sizes?
  • At the end of the day, does their machine have a proven track record of erecting square cases squarely so they don’t jam in the machine?
  • And finally, can they reliably transition the box through the taper efficiently so that the box is squared
    and sealed correctly?

Laser Guided Vehicles (LGV)
Laser Guided Vehicles, or LGV, may be the coolest product in secondary packaging. It almost seems futuristic to see an army of unmanned forklifts in an operation working tirelessly 24/7 to meet shipping demands. The labor and safety savings for these machines are unmatched. When considering an LGV purchase, there are several key questions to consider.

  • Will it be operating in narrow spaces and tight passages?
  • Does the LGV need to handle multiple pallets?
  • Do I have very heavy product loads?
  • Do I need to move my products from one specific conveyor line to another?

Over time as your operation continues to grow, your end of line packaging strategy will become more diverse. Consider sourcing through one single provider to build consistency, trust, and efficiencies.

ROBOPAC USA is the leader in the design, production, and service of secondary packaging machines and equipment. We offer a full line of configurable machinery to stretch wrap, pack, palletize, erect, and seal any product in the logistics industry. If you would like more information on this topic or to schedule an interview, please contact Derek Jones at 678-908-7909. 


Join Me at IWF 2020 for a Holistic Approach to Finishing Symposium

15. March 2020 20:12

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

We are really excited about the IWF 2020 Holistic Approach to Finishing Symposium. There is renewed interest and passion in wood finishing! We have a vision of the symposium being a time to share information, experiences, technology and offer a process of “A Holistic Approach to Finishing” that will empower the professional wood finisher to keep up with coatings, equipment and processes in a rapidly changing world.

We have prepared a thoughtful program “for the people by the people!” We know that past feedback has indicated that attendees want a “take away.” So, this year if you plan to attend, we would like to hear your questions, thoughts, and concerns ahead of time. Please email us your questions iwpsolutions19@gmail.com by June 30.

So, we are trying something new within the format of the program will attempt to address the questions as much as possible. If a question is non-program related, we will be available to give personalized attention during the show after the symposium as much as times allows.

During our consulting engagements over the past year and half we have noticed several things that we believe wood finishing organizations experience:

  • What new looks, colors, effects, touchable/visual aesthetics, performance in color fastness and scratch/moisture/chemical, can we create that will drive value?
  • What are the best coatings, application and curing methods to repeatably produce these finishes?
  • <https://www.iwfatlanta.com/Education/FIN" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Can these new looks be created through automatic methods?
  • What does the leadership and workforce look like for the next generation of wood finishers?
  • What are the permit implications to accomplish the first two questions?
  • Can I create more value in my finish without adding lots of cost?

Also on the program is a special guest speaker, Robert Chickey, a finishing specialist of national renown. He will be giving a presentation on designing finishes with new coatings. 

We can’t wait to be with you all! Along with the wood finishers we want to invite the designers, marketers, sales, and executive leaders. We will have some great interactive activities and door prizes! See you all in Atlanta at IWF 2020 in August.

5 Tips for Laser Cutting and Engraving Wood

14. March 2020 19:58

Technical Advice from Trotec Laser

Laser engraving wood offers the freedom of creating precise and personalized custom-made materials, which adds value to any business. Make your products unique by engraving images, names, or even logos into your materials. Laser cutting provides precision to custom-fit parts within a tenth of a millimeter, even with small or fine shapes. Compared to other technology, laser systems save time and can accommodate even the thinnest materials with its non-contact processing. 

Does laser cutting wood cause burning?
Yes. However, laser cutting wood is a sublimation process and is often considered highly desirable. Laser cutters offer accurate focusing, customized selections of the appropriate parameters, as well as use of suitable optics and compressed air supply for cutting and engraving of the highest quality. 

Can all woods be laser processed?
Since wood is a natural and organic material, laser users must evaluate a number of parameters including density and resin content prior to processing. For example, softwoods such as balsa will require less laser power, and cutting can be completed more quickly. On the other hand, hardwood, which is typically a dense material, will require more laser power. We recommend using compressed air for processing MDF since it consists of wood fibers that are glued.


Trotec Laser will be in Booth BC 1233 at IWF.  


Will the laser engraving always become dark?
Laser processing wood can result in a brownish-coloration on the material depending on a variety of factors. However, when processing varnished wood utilizing the appropriate settings can avoid this issue and a white engraving can be achieved. We recommend using a very low power at a high speed for this application

Can dark engraving be achieved?
Yes. Defocusing the laser beam to about 0.5-2 mm will result in the laser spot becoming larger, and the power density is then reduced. Some details may be lost in processing, but this method will produce a particularly dark engraving and we highly recommend trying it for these types of applications.

Should there be smoke in the processing area?
Laser processing wood is a sublimation process, and since the material is solid it is converted directly into a gaseous state from combustion. 



Getting Grain Effects in Wood Composite 3D Printing

24. February 2020 10:35

 Wishing you could print wood in a 3D printer? Hatchbox is among a number of firms that offer filaments for 3D printing. The Wood PLA Hybrid is universally designed to be compatible with printers using 1.75mm diameter filament, with a dimensional accuracy of +/- 0.03mm.

Wood PLA Hybrid - Polylactic Acid with fine wood particles mixed in (below)  is a commonly used thermoplastic material that does not require the use of a heated print bed. Blending a mixture of plant-based materials, polymers, and wood particles creates a material that is more earth-friendly than plain plastic.

Hatchbox notes you'll be able to sand and stain the finished product to give it a wood finish, and that is exactly what Justine Haupt did in replacing the moulded wood top plate on her concertina using its wood composite filament. A concertina is a free-reed musical instrument, like a small accordion.  It has an expanding and contracting bellows, with buttons (or keys) usually on both ends.  

The Suttner concertina shown here by way of explanation can be ordered with flat ends made from German silver, rosewood, ebony or cocobolo, or raised ends made from German silver or hardwood in black. Haupt was replacing an end piece that was raised, and so decided to replicate it with a  printed piece using Hatchbox Wood-Filled PLA. After printing it was sanded, stained, and varnished. 

"Fresh out of the printer doesn't look like wood at all," Haupt notes. "I used 60-grit sandpaper to completely remove the printed surface finish. 60-grit might seem excessively course but I feel the results are better this way, in part because one must be sure to completely remove the natural finish. Also, the deep gouges left by the coarse grit seem to more closely match natural wood grain."

Since the sandpaper is what leaves a wood-like grain, "It's important to sand in one direction only. In this case, it was much easier to sand the perimeter wall, as I was able to take advantage of the printed layer lines. In hindsight, it might be better to print something like this on-edge to take advantage of this effect where it most matters. In the end, even with all the sanding, the perimeter walls were most convincingly wooden. "