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A Holistic Approach to Finishing -Step 4

16. December 2019 21:14

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

One of my favorite movies is the old western John Wayne and the Cowboys. There are two scenes in the movie that would hold true to the journey of Holistic Finishing. When the Cowboys which in this instance are truly teenage boys are getting ready to go on the cattle drive, they must turn in all arms to the wagon/trail boss.

One particular young man steps up to turn in his pistol and can barely unholster it due to its size. Surprised by the large pistol from the small boy John Wayne asks him is he had every fired it before, to which he reluctantly replied no. If you know the movie then by the end the young boy learned to use it well and did so to recover the stolen herd of cattle from rustlers and drive them to the end of the trail drive.

The current and developing technology of applying and curing coatings in the wood finishing arena is a powerful tool or weapon if you will allow the analogy. The challenge in most applications is the context in which to use the technology to create strategy and value to win. The application and curing technology have improved commensurately with the chemical technology in the coating that we alluded to as in the formulation phase of step II in this Holistic Finishing Process. To get the most value out of the technology in the chemical development of the coatings many times cutting edge technology in the application and curing is required.

When looking at the application and curing technology that will enable and enhance the formulations from step II there are important questions to ask. All chemical formulations apply and cure differently. Too many times a very general approach is taken to the application and curing. When looking at the total internal cycle time when shops and factories it is common to have the most amount of time in the plant taken by finishing. Sometimes this is due to color changes, no forced curing, space for WIP in between finish lines, the sequencing of work going into and coming out of the finish lines, and coordination of preparation of the coatings based on demand of the product being finished, and the amount of time required for color approval before beginning or continuing finishing of production. The amount of internal cycle time dedicated to finishing can usually be reduced if the right application and curing technology can be identified and implemented. Here are the main questions to ask:

What is the most efficient way to apply the coatings from the formulation phase? 
Transfer efficiency is the missing link in many finishing operations. It is best to set target transfer efficiency and then track performance against the target. This is just as important as the yield of hardwood or plywood in the mill. It is not uncommon to see the application equipment be selected for the lowest up-front cost but the lowest transfer efficiency. If you aren’t currently tracking transfer efficiency, we encourage all wood finishers to start immediately. Many other finishing problems and defects are caused by ineffective transfer efficiency, this is why it is a good metric not only for saving money but as a general litmus test of the overall effectiveness of the finishing operation. It requires good processes and adherence to those processes to achieve and maintain high transfer efficiencies so when the transfer efficiency drops it is usually due to a process failure. Applying the target film builds no more and no less is one of the main performance factors of the successful finishing operations. I want to show how to transfer efficiency correlates to finishing from a holistic approach. If a finishing operation is permitted a certain amount ton in emissions and they improve the transfer efficiency by 15% then usually reduce their emissions proportionately creating the ability to produce more volume without additional permitting or permit amendments. The more that compressed air is used as the atomizing method the less transfer efficient the spray application becomes ( compressed air expands at about a 10:1 ratio as it leaves the gun creating overspray and pressuring spray booths. Also, the compressed air introduces a cold gas into the coating which can increase flash and cure time. Instead of compressed air, heated and ionized nitrogen improves these negative effects in all the spray application technologies listed in the chart below, it also increases the sealer sand ability of sealer and in between coats.

What is the most effective method for curing the coatings?
Curing of coatings is often misunderstood and when typical finish lines run out of budget money the election of low costing curing methods winds up increasing the internal cycle time in the finish department and the plant. Let me say that forced curing it one of the best ways to reduce costs and eliminate problems in the finishing area. Let me also say that when internal lead times increase the cost to cash cycle tying up cash. Curing coatings in the least amount of time reasonably possible holds value in several ways other than reducing cycle time. The forced curing of coatings in the shortest cycles possible using ovens will help in the following ways. It will reduce the amount of time the coating sits wet on the substrates reducing the possibility of contamination of dust and other foreign material. It will get the coating closest to the final appearance before it leaves the factory. Depending on the formulations, the forced curing parameters vary based on the solvent line up and the resins and binders and then the catalyst/hardeners and photoinitiators (if it is UV cured). All solvents including water are volatile (this means they evaporate) the way they evaporate, and how fast they evaporate and how they react with the remaining chemistry is the important first step. The temperature of the wood substrate to which the coating is being applied, the temperature of the coating as it is being applied and the temperature of the air whether it is ambient or forced heated is where the curing process begins.

One of the biggest opportunities to reduce and improve curing is the pre-heating of the substrate and the coating before using forced curing ovens or even ambient curing. It is helpful to heat the substrate up 100 degrees or so immediately before spraying and then curing as well as the coating to the level that is doesn’t begin to pre-cure in the delivery equipment. This will not only reduce the curing time be it will help the coating flow out quickly and flash the solvents out from the bottom up more efficiently.

As an example, water-based coatings typically need to be brought to a board surface temperature of about 118°F to begin to force out the water beyond ambient evaporation pre-heating the substrate reduces the load from the oven to raise the board surface temperature. These physical and chemical properties vary by solvent and coating. Flashing out the solvents in way that allows for flow and good surface tension without pre-cure and bubbles and grain raise is important. This is especially important for UV cured coatings. Then for coatings that are assisted by raising the board surface temperature to higher levels helps cross-link and snap cure (acid cure, and 2K and pre-catalyzed coatings) the curing methods should reach and hold the board surface temperature to enable the best cross-linking possible. This will ensure the highest level of hardness when the parts come out of the curing ovens and cool off as the coating finishes it’s curing process.

What is the most repeatable and productive method for applying the coatings?
It is important to answer the first two questions first as they carry more weight than the last question. Right now, many want to scale their business for growth and alignment with the changing workforce and employment conditions. So, what does this look like in setting up finish lines? The repeatability of consistently putting a finish out that is a game-changer/difference-maker is important. The repeatability includes the ability to produce it in a regular scenario with the same group of people and information and in the same cost. Some repeatably produce a finish but the cost and time to do so vary a lot. The line and equipment to produce it should be repeatable in time, materials and cost on a normal day to day scenario with the same group of people. Finishing lines are sometimes the highest dollar item that is frequently abandoned the soonest out of all the equipment in factory or shop.

Click to opening Complete List and Descriptors of Finishing Systems.pdf (111.77 kb)

If I had a little money for every time I hear “that finish lines doesn’t work” I would have more money in the bank. The next step after achieving repeatability is productivity. What is the most productive scenario for the new finish? The ability to quickly change colors without creating waste is important especially as paints have outpaced stains. The basic lines are in the chart below. This chart deals with spraying, roll coating, and vacuum coating and then the oven and or curing. The sealer sanding in between coats is also an important component to increasing the productivity there are stand-alone and inline automatic sealer sanding technologies that can increase productivity and improve quality. How these integrate with the delivery and curing technology and equipment in the chart below is very configurable to application. That said there is no technological issue preventing the finishing operation from reaching high levels of productivity. Digital Printing is also an up and coming technology to which we will devote a special article separately.

Hopefully, this is empowering with some of the more important questions to ask the context and perspective with which to answer them. For step IV in this Holistic Approach to Finishing we encourage people to engage multiple coatings and equipment suppliers with the same questions and do a significant amount of testing with the chemical formulations from step II.

We also encourage the design of the lines to be done in AutoCAD with process equipment, delivery equipment, operators, carts, material handling etcetera. Then draft the flow of the process giving space to work in process and other process variables. The ovens, lines speeds, cure time, spray rates, sealer sanding and other process constraints should be taken in to account. Establish targeted theoretical costs in material labor and overhead for the finishing operation. This is the best opportunity to make the operation cost-effective during the design phase, this is all about game-changing/difference-making finishing. 

 

How to Install Boat Style Latches in an SUV Cabinetry Conversion

6. December 2019 10:41

By Brian Daigneault, Solid Wood Worx

I grew up in a cabinet shop and was a born to be woodworker. In the past few years when work slowed in the custom cabinet industry I converted a few friends Vans and SUV's so they had more storage for adventuring, work, or just the weekend beach getaway.

I design and build all kinds of custom woodwork and vehicles at my shop in Huntington Beach, California!In this how-to video I show you how to install these new boat style latches I've used in a few builds recently. I like them a lot more than the push-button knobs i used to use that were cheap and kept breaking, these seem much more heavy-duty.

Link to buy the slam latches: https://amzn.to/2LTNbqV
2" Hole Saw: https://amzn.to/2XbemPR
Gas Struts that hold the doors up: https://amzn.to/2O9k9Bc

A Holistic Approach to Finishing -Step 3

6. November 2019 12:54

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

One personal mission I have is to inform, inspire, equip and empower leaders in the wood products industry to achieve the highest value. Through the introduction and the first two steps I really wanted to provide value information and the questions asking process in regards to approaching finishing from an holistic perspective.

There is so much technology for coatings and application is hard to make sense of it and how it could all fit together for each and every scenario and opportunity. But the good news is there is so much opportunity to put it all together to create game-changing and difference-making coating systems. In step three, the environmental side for emissions and permitting there is the highest level of complication. So much so many times organizations abandon good coatings strategies due to the complication. The purpose of this article is to begin to simplify this step in the process.

First of all, let me say that many think this step isn’t applicable to their operation or organization. Let me say that all finishing operations in all the 50 states is regulated by the EPA and any combination of the state and or municipal environmental regulatory agencies. Even some small shops that qualify for the de minimis clause still should maintain usage records for the exemption. Any time small finishing operations grow and move into the next level of permitting and air emissions regulation these steps will be applicable. Sometimes it seems backward to develop a coating for performance and marketing purposes first but it is better to work backward in this situation. If the process starts with the question of “what can our current permitting process allow in coating formulation?” then seldom will a coating that is difference-making or game-changing be on the table for serious consideration.
This is where the complication starts since each state and municipality regulate air quality and emissions differently it is important to understand what these are. It is well worth understanding the permitting levels and the time and cost involved. Involving an environmental consulting firm that specialized in air permitting is crucial at this point.

Basic Coating type  

Appearance/Performance
Characteristics

Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 

Toner 

Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear

NGR 

Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light

 

Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF) (note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well) Step III Holistic Finishing tables (1).pdf (278.27 kb)

Some large organizations do their environmental permitting in house which is fine but getting perspective from a reputable environmental permitting firm is usually well worth the time and money. Sometimes new finishing lines are ordered or coatings are formulated without doing this portion. This costs more and takes longer than the doing the environmental discovery on the front end. The value in using an environmental consulting firm is learning and using valuable information that wasn’t known before and then applying it to bring the new coatings formulations that were developed in step I and II. Here is a list of good questions and information to gather for that process. The goal it to get the new coatings system appropriately permitted.
1. Coatings developed from step 1-2 with the regulatory compliance data sheets (100% speciate if your state or local regulatory agency require them.
2. Ask your environmental consultant if your state and local regulatory agencies recognize the exempt solvents list from the EPA. If so ask for the regulatory compliance data sheets designate the exempt solvents.
3. For startup or relocating operations where location is flexible are there any constraints or disadvantages to where the finishing operation will occur geographically?
4. What permits would allow us the most flexibility?
5. If line changes may be required how long before permitting would allow construction for changes?
6. Are there nitrous oxide limits from gas burning for ovens (if gas ovens are used)
7. How often can permits be amended?
8. How can high(er) transfer efficiency maximize our permit and emissions in relation to volume? This one the best ways to maximize a permit and emissions but few people measure and monitor it in a meaningful way. A 15% improvement in transfer efficiency can proportionately increase your permitted emissions into produced volume.
9. In areas such as California with low levels of permitted emissions and tighter restrictions on coating and emissions are water-based coatings truly a requirement or does the level of emissions and the projected volume limit the coating? Polyurethane, UV solvent and water based and 2K water-based coatings may be options here. Discuss the regulatory compliance report with the environmental consultant.
10. Can reclaim from flat lines with a recovery system in liquid form be re-used without having to count it twice towards emissions?
11. Can waste paint and solvents recovered in liquid form be deducted from usages?
Through this discovery sometimes the discussion of a control device such as an oxidizer comes up during these meetings with the environmental consulting and the coatings suppliers while planning the new finishing system. I am constantly asked the question do we need or have to do this or is it worth it? First of all, we must always comply with the law. But whether it is worth it is another question of worth or value. If during the formulation phase and discussions with the environmental consultant the formulations that will make the most difference and be the biggest games changers will not be able to produced at the projected volumes within a permit not using an oxidizer then it becomes a math question of the financial benefit of the new finishing system and the up front costs and on going costs of acquiring and installing a control device. If the new finishing system financially returns more than the cost of the control device in a reasonable period of time then usually it is “worth it”. Sometimes the volume rises to the point that wood finishers are required to use a control device with the existing finishing system not a new one that game changing. In these instances, I also encourage wood finishers to use these situations to revise their finishing system and coatings to be “worth” it.

Sometimes the after the discovery with the environmental consulting firm the processes works backwards one step. However most likely there is a coating formulation that will still be difference making and game changing. Involve the various coatings suppliers that assisted in the coating development. If you state and local agency recognize the exempt solvents, sometimes the coating can be re-formulated with exempt solvents reducing the emissions and not sacrificing performance if needed.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

Important formulation components for performance. For build the solids content and inner coat adhesion is important, for flow out and flatness of the solvents must evaporate slow enough to allow the coating to pull out flat before curing. For stains the solvent line up will affect the look of the pigments and dyes and the pigment to binder ratio will affect the look especially on tight grain woods such as hard maple.
The most important part of the environmental permitting side is the provide enough time and volume of use to achieve the marketing and strategic goals of bringing a game changing finish to market. It is common or great coating systems to die during the permitting process.
Many people are using a mediocre coating formulation because they believe they are either constrained from a permit regulation side or another constraint that will cost too much or take too long. It is important to recognize this but ask the questions from a stand point that will allow for the discovery of the coating system that will mean the most.
Here is the chart from step II but with a column as a rough guide for content of VOC/HAP/PM volatile organic compound/Hazardous Air pollutant/ and particulate matter. These are the main air pollutants that are controlled by the EPA and state and local environmental control agencies. Just as a general rule the water-based versions of these coatings tend to be on the low side but some can be on the medium side if they have water soluble non-exempt solvents. There is a common misconception that all water-based coatings are “low” in VOC this isn’t always the case. See the column to the far right. There is one other coating formulation that is important to consider that has come the stage that especially for low emissions applications that is powder coating for wood applications.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step 2

8. October 2019 09:36

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

So, here is where it begins to get exciting. The formulation phase is where dreams begin to come true! Once the Performance/Aesthetics/Value are established it’s time to formulate.

The good news is that coatings manufacturers have been hard at work so much so that standard offerings of formulations have seen more development the last 15-20 years and especially in the last 5-10 than in the previous 100 years. From the first varnishes and Shellacs to today’s modern lacquers, varnishes, polyurethanes, UV, polyesters, and water-based coatings have higher performance applicability. Also, the technology to apply these coatings has been developed commensurately with the chemistry and formulations.

It is important to draw a linear distinction in this process; the formulations must fit the strategy and requirements of step I. Often people go buy a finishing line because it is good deal, but are then constrained with the coatings it applies well or they run coatings it wasn’t designed to run inefficiently.

Establishing the formulations that meet the discovery of the requirements in step one is critical. If the finishing journey doesn’t follow the sequential process there will be greater challenges down the road. So many will not find themselves at the starting point or with a clean slate in their finishing journey. That’s okay because following this process sequentially will help finishers get the most bang for their buck with their existing equipment and processes while planning for the future.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

I don’t profess to know all the coatings that are being developed at this very moment (seems like I’m learning of new ones all the time) so I would like to begin with a rough guide but also supply the context and questions with which it may be applied in the midst of constant coatings development. I have been blessed to work directly with some great chemists and application specialist and they have helped shape the context in which we can ask questions.

 Each chemistry of coatings has different chemical and physical properties that lead up to its final performance and appearance in the plant and the field. Many of these coatings now come in water-based and solvent-based versions even if they aren’t designated as such in the chart below. Also, for the record all water-based coatings aren’t the same nor are solvent-based coatings. Too many times in their coatings journey I hear people discount testing water or solvent-based coatings by over-generalizing them.

The chart below is meant to serve as a guide to ask questions in each category the rating and comments are meant to serve as a discussion point. I’m sure there are outliers in each category but please be encouraged to ask questions from a context. Some of the best formulations in wood coatings are the brainchildren of asking the best questions.

Basic Coating type  

Appearance/Performance
Characteristics

Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 

Toner 

Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear

NGR 

Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light


Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF)
(note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well)

So now we can take the discovery of step I and begin to apply it to the coatings that match up with the strategy we established for the Performance/Aesthetics/Value. It is important to select coatings and test them and develop hard samples that all functions in the organization can agree to and even sign off on in certain circumstances. I would encourage again that this selection and testing of coatings be done with several different coatings suppliers. At this point an organization creates the real-life versions of the finishing system that will be game-changing and difference-making!

The next step in the holistic process will environmental permitting. This will also have an impact on the formulations but it critical that the finishing system determine what will make a difference and not just be an improvement. If the formulation journey starts with the environmental permitting many times some of the best formulations aren’t considered or developed when they should ask what do we need to do from an environmental standpoint to use the best formulations.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

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By Turning SUVs Into Campers, I Launched Solid Wood Worx Business

6. October 2019 22:42

By: Brian Daigneault, Solid Wood Worx, Huntington Beach, CA 

I grew up in a cabinet shop and was a born to be woodworker. In the past few years when work slowed in the custom cabinet industry, I converted a few friends' Vans and SUV's so they had more storage for adventuring, work, or just the weekend beach getaway. 

Before I knew it I had my own business making people's ideas come to life. I design and build all kinds of custom woodwork and vehicles here at my shop. 

This was a really fun build that the customer brought to me. His idea for the build was different than most I've done, incorporating a floating shelf, but ended up working really well! The slide out table gives a massive amount of extra table space for cooking, camping, fixing something, etc. The flip up pieces behind the two front seats was a great idea that i had to think about a bit to execute to make it simple for anybody to use.

ALSO FOLLOW ALONG HERE
http://www.Instagram.com/SolidWoodWorx
http://www.Facebook.com/SolidWoodWorx

Contact me at solidwoodworx@gmail.com for more information.

The Plan We Use for Running Our Woodworking Business

25. September 2019 10:58

By: John Lindsay, New Breed Furniture LLC
As readers who have been following me so far know, I find this home-grown, five-part business organizational tool essential in managing my growing wood manufacturing business. The system is called "A.M.O.R.I." - A is for administration, M is for marketing and sales, O is for operations, R is for research and development, and I is for Investments and Intellectual Property.

Let's run through an update on of how New Breed Furniture’s current business development projects fit under this system, one letter at a time. Hopefully, you will find some insights into the AMORI system through these concrete examples showing how the system plays out in a real-world woodworking business. And maybe some of these specific ideas could even work for your company. 

So let's start with A for Administration, and look at the development of New Breed Furniture's Discount Policy for Volume Purchases.

A - Discount Policy

When New Breed first broke into the furniture world, we were a very small fish in a large and red ocean. More on red and blue oceans later (see Blue Ocean Strategy by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, published by Harvard Business Review), but let’s just say there was and still is a lot of competition, which we were and are ready for.

What we weren’t ready for and aware of was the vast network of middlemen/women we would have to cater to. What we had to master was our wholesale and retail pricing.

If we wanted to place our brand new New Breed Furniture into high-quality chic furniture stores, we would have to be good little wholesalers and offer our work at 40%-50% off (sometimes as much as 55% off for floor models) the final sale price (M.S.R.P.). So we did it for the first few years, always at a loss because the orders were always small.

We believed, rightly so, that this was key to getting our products out in front of the right people, helping us to gain traction as a brand, opening other doors in hospitality and commercial commissions. In short, I wouldn’t do anything different, and that includes eventually doing everything differently when I decided to pull focus away from our original wholesale offerings and launch our own online store.

This second phase allows us to keep our prices down for the end user while increasing our RPT (revenues per transaction). So, now the name of the game is crafting the right discount policy, one that incentivizes the right kind of customers while protecting our RPT. The truth is that we just don’t have that much of a discount to offer, maxing out at a third off MSRP, rather than 50%, 

for the rare client that can deliver massive annual sales. Our new strategy is to go after direct sales, leaving the middlemen/women behind.

So here’s New Breed Furniture’s new discounting policy: a long list of the New Breed family, including repeat customers, designers, a  few supportive retailers, industry professionals, and makers will be issued their own representative code, that when used will offer a two-fold discount/credit, starting at 8%-16%, in which the user of the code gets an immediate 8% discount, while the representative get the same amount in future credit.

This percentage increases with the amount of purchases made under any given representative. Now, for example, if a client like our beloved repeat customer Cortney Bishop Design places the order themselves, using her own representative code, then she gets to enjoy both the discount and the credit for future purchases, making for a more conventional wholesale experience, but not quite totally the same. 

Level annual sales discount

  1.  $0-$24 →8%-16%
  2.  $24G →9%-18%
  3.  $48G →10%-20%
  4. $96G →11%-22%
  5. $192G →12%-24%
  6. $384G →13%-26% 
  7. $768G →14%-28% 
  8. $1,536G →15%-30% 
  9. $3,072G →16%-32%

We're on the letter M of the AMORI system. Hopefully, through these concrete examples showing how the system plays out in a real-world woodworking business, you may find specific ideas could even work for your company.

M - Coupon Design and Distribution

New Breed Furniture just finished paying off a Printa Systems Screen Printer (www.printa.com) and more in an early effort to make possible in house promotional materials and merchandise. The first projects will be shirts, postcards, flyers, and smaller posters. We have been working on a great stylebook for all these printing projects and more, including patches, buttons, stickers, and pins, but it was when I was working on new business card designs that this whole discount policy I previously discussed found a cool new expression and marketing idea. (Click for larger view of image.)Our first business cards were a bi-fold design (2” x 7”) with the front featuring a close up of our Petalply joint illustrated with black lines, four shades of white, and a cut out of wood grain where the dowel ends are. The inside of the card features what we called the “Galleria” in which our custom font spelling New Breed Furniture Network diminishes in perspective with line illustrations of a selection of furniture in the foreground.

With this new design, the line illustrated products will be on the front side, with the inside of the cards dedicated to a personalized cards for the list of the New Breed family described above on the right side, and the left card with tear away center being a New Breed coupon complete with the dedicated discount code also described before.

So imagine getting a box of these business cards that contain coded coupon cards that you can share with anyone you may know that may be interested in New Breed Furniture, and as the sales are placed, your New Breed Bucks accrue, allowing you to obtain more and more furniture for less and less. I consider this type of marketing a pre-emptive sales representative recruitment strategy.

Without even asking strategic enthusiasts will be giving an opportunity to fill the role left by the former retailers. This approach is in line with a continuum of business plans we are developing that blur the lines between consumers and producers, customers and salespeople, employees and owner-operators, but more on this in later episodes.

O - Dynamic Shop Design (D.S.D.)

Currently, New Breed operates out of a 4,000 square foot building with a full 4,000 square foot basement, and an added 2,000 square feet of combined garage and driveway. If we were to set up our machines and production with a traditional approach, dedicating space to permanent setups, we would quickly have a space shortage problem when larger orders or multiple orders are in progress.

Thanks to a conscious effort to offer solid wood furniture that relied on lower-tech manufacturing, we have been able to produce our work with-out cumbersome CNC machines and space-hogging equipment. This allows us to have all the machines and workbenches on wheels, in fact an effort has been made to develop storage solutions for our hand equipment and supplies to also be made mobile, thus we are able to increase our production space by an order of magnitude.

We have dedicated a small percentage of our floor space to be an area to consolidate inactive machines/benches/storage, freeing up the main production space to be organized daily for the tasks at hand. Also, by organizing the work into monthly batches, we are able to get the most out of each setup. The difference is amazing. Just from a material handling perspective, the efficiencies are stunning. Instead of the lumber going from one dedicated machine to the next, often ping-ponging back and for, zigzagging all over the shop, the lumber gets centrally placed, and the machines come to it, saving both our backs and our sanity.

The best part is how with each breakdown, the area gets a more thorough emptying out the area, cleaning out of the inevitable junk that collects in any workspace. The production space takes on the feeling of a Dojo, and the work enjoys a more serious concentration thanks to the lack of distracting clutter.


R - Abacus Desks

Often our new product development is born out of opportunity and necessity. When we were offered a chance to collaborate with AH Interiors out of Bozeman MT, on an exciting commercial project, Jelt HQ, we jumped at the chance to throw our hat in the ring and design a new line of desks and tables to go with a custom credenza that spanned close to 20 feet.

Liking what AH Interiors had first presented us, we used some of their details to inspire a new take on the Petalply system, and so we are now in production on a new line of desks we call the Abacus Desks, inspired by the classic trestle table. These desks have horizontal 2” dowels that serve as both the trestle like structure, holding the legs solidly square, while also facilitating sliding file cabinets that can run along the dowels like an abacus. The lower dowel will also make for a unique kind of footrest, and for the first time we will be offering motorized adjustable height desks that incorporate the Abacus file cabinets.

I - Retail Work Space and First Friday Furniture Festivals

Currently, we are converting a 2,000 square foot garage and enclosed driveway to what will be a finished show room space, along with another 1,200 square feet currently inside the shop. Once this remodeling is complete, and we have the floor pieces ready we will be advertising a regular monthly event, the First Friday Furniture Festival showcasing our work, other merchandise we create with our screen printing facility, fresh sushi and fruit, wood themed locally crafted beer and coffee, and eclectic live music.

Thanks to our Dynamic Shop Design mentioned previously, we are able to convert our work space into a disco palace, facilitating both furniture shows and dance parties. These events will be targeting an exclusive class of designers, industry professionals, and enthusiasts. The goal is to host a regular gathering that will be sinked with our monthly productions, allowing us to share our work fresh out of the oven, while gathering a concentration of design rock stars and influencers. I will definitely be sharing more on this in upcoming episodes.

John Lindsay is President of New Breed Furniture LLC. Reach him at john@newbreedfurniture.com 847-946-7867. www.newbreedfurniture.com

Adopting A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step Number 1

18. September 2019 17:14

By Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

Before we get started with Step One in the finishing cycle, I want to emphasize why this is the starting point. Two reasons:

  1. Finishing usually creates the most perceived value in finished wood products, and
  2. A strategy at the outset should align with creating a finish that can be branded and marketed, and that gets your customers excited so it is imperative that it must occur at this point. If it occurs later on, there most likely will be issues with permitting or application.

Step One is about creating the performance, aesthetics and value in a finish that gets people excited. The big starting point here is what comes first.

I would encourage this part of the discovery and development process not be connected, or disconnected as much as possible, from the current state of any competitor or other wood finisher. It should be based solely on creating a coating system that is game-changing and difference-making.

The main questions to develop this strategy are below. I would encourage this discovery to be planned and executed as a project involving Sale/marketing, Engineering, Finishing, Production and Executive Leadership.

As the questions are answered I would also suggest developing a one-page document of the coatings strategy that references hard samples supporting the answers to the questions below.  I am very grateful for KCMA for their leadership in developing finishing performance standards. These standards are a great starting place and for many is great place to establish coating performance that meets their strategic needs however some coatings strategies demand higher performance than KCMA standards.

 Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

 This is great place to start and will help give context to answering the questions.

Performance: 

  • What scratch/abrasion resistance would create more, better or new value to current or future markets? Typically, a nickel mar test is the starting point for this standard but there may be a higher demand for high performing coating needs.
  • What film build would provide that “feeling” your customers would love when they touch it? This can be objectively measured by dry film build gauges in mils. Along with the film build how soft to the touch does in need to be?

Moisture/Chemical Resistance-

  • Does the KCMA spec suffice or is there added value to higher resistance to moisture and chemical exposure? This the typical edge soak test or in come cases being able to clean it with strong solvent such as acetone.

Elasticity/Adhesion/Creep-

  • As wood expands and contracts the coating needs to have some elasticity and creep without breaking the coating especially around sharp corners and profiles. What level is needed for the targeted coating? Also, sharp corners and profiles present an issue here for any coating. Defining the level the edge can be slightly broken in the whitewood goes hand in hand here with coating development. Usually a .020” rounding on sharp corners and edges is a minimum to prevent the coating from breaking in the field. Maintaining inner coat adhesion and adhesion to the whitewood is the goal here.

Color fastness/period of time-

How long do the stains, paints, clears need to maintain color after exposure to light especially UV and other elements light before they yellow, fade, flip, or turn amber?

Aesthetics: Stains, Paints, Clear Coats

  • Stains- Does the stain need to be more transparent/translucent or opaque, does the stain need to have depth in itself? People perceive stains differently depending on the market. Is the stain to cover up white wood color, change/tone whitewood color, bring out the grain, cover the grain, can any sanding marks be visible.
  • Paints- Do the paints need to have clear depth on top of them or can the depth of clarity exist with a colored final coat? Does the feel of the painted parts in the hand need to be super soft to the touch especially with high gloss? Specifically, how long would the parts be warrantied not to yellow or flip colors?
  • Clears- How much film build is needed to create the target depth of clarity on top of stain or paint this should be objectified in DFT mils (dry film build)? The dry film build will always have an impact on the moisture/chemical resistance and elasticity. Too little will allow moisture to enter in areas beginning in corners, joints etc. too much (beyond the coatings rating in WFT/DFT and the coating may crack or craze after final curing and temperature/humidity change (this is also applicable to paint). How clear does the film build need to be?

Gloss/SheenWhere will you set the target for gloss and sheen? Usually a 60 scale is used for this but establishing a sheen or gloss level is important. Sometimes people perceive the finish solely on the gloss level. But this is changing. The gloss level needs to be defined on a scale such as the 60-scale set within a range. Just as a reference high gloss is 90 plus, medium gloss is 20-30, and dull or low gloss is 0-10.

Depth of clarity- What is the target depth of clarity for the coating being developed? This how far the clear part of the coating sits on top of the stain or paint in dry film mil thickness. It may be determined by visual acuity but set in mils of DFT dry film build. This can also be measured with a dry film gauge in between coats. 

Once all the questions have been answered, make a strategic summary in a one-page document. The main question here is what is or would be important enough to the customer (end user, builder, architect, distributor etc.) that would drive the value of the coating to be game changing/difference making? Sometimes they don’t know what that is until you put something great in their hands. I know sometimes there is a perception that a market will not bear the cost of high performing coatings but taking a great coating system to market is how that changes. In the following articles of this series we will cover how high performing coatings systems can be applied in a cost-effective manner. 

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

A Systematic Approach to Running a Small Furniture Operation: How I Use A.M.O.R.I.

13. September 2019 11:35

By: John Lindsay, New Breed Furniture LLC

 Here's a quick review of the management system acronym that I have been featuring in this blog: A.M.O.R.I. 
As readers who have been following me so far know, I find this home-grown, five-part business organizational tool essential in managing my growing wood manufacturing business. The system is called "A.M.O.R.I." - A is for administration, M is for marketing and sales, O is for operations, R is for research and development, and I is for Investments and Intellectual Property.

In the next series of five blogs, we'll run through an update on of how New Breed Furniture’s current business development projects fit under this system, one letter at a time. Hopefully, you will find some insights into the AMORI system through these concrete examples showing how the system plays out in a real-world woodworking business. And maybe some of these specific ideas could even work for your company. 

So let's start with A for Administration, and look at the development of New Breed Furniture's Discount Policy for Volume Purchases.

A - Discount Policy

When New Breed first broke into the furniture world, we were a very small fish in a large and red ocean. More on red and blue oceans later (see Blue Ocean Strategy by W Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, published by Harvard Business Review), but let’s just say there was and still is a lot of competition, which we were and are ready for.

What we weren’t ready for and aware of was the vast network of middlemen/women we would have to cater to. What we had to master was our wholesale and retail pricing.

If we wanted to place our brand new New Breed Furniture into high-quality chic furniture stores, we would have to be good little wholesalers and offer our work at 40%-50% off (sometimes as much as 55% off for floor models) the final sale price (M.S.R.P.). So we did it for the first few years, always at a loss because the orders were always small.

We believed, rightly so, that this was key to getting our products out in front of the right people, helping us to gain traction as a brand, opening other doors in hospitality and commercial commissions. In short, I wouldn’t do anything different, and that includes eventually doing everything differently when I decided to pull focus away from our original wholesale offerings and launch our own online store.

This second phase allows us to keep our prices down for the end user while increasing our RPT (revenues per transaction). So, now the name of the game is crafting the right discount policy, one that incentivizes the right kind of customers while protecting our RPT. The truth is that we just don’t have that much of a discount to offer, maxing out at a third off MSRP, rather than 50%, 

for the rare client that can deliver massive annual sales. Our new strategy is to go after direct sales, leaving the middlemen/women behind.

So here’s New Breed Furniture’s new discounting policy: a long list of the New Breed family, including repeat customers, designers, a  few supportive retailers, industry professionals, and makers will be issued their own representative code, that when used will offer a two-fold discount/credit, starting at 8%-16%, in which the user of the code gets an immediate 8% discount, while the representative get the same amount in future credit.

This percentage increases with the amount of purchases made under any given representative. Now, for example, if a client like our beloved repeat customer Cortney Bishop Design places the order themselves, using her own representative code, then she gets to enjoy both the discount and the credit for future purchases, making for a more conventional wholesale experience, but not quite totally the same. 

Level annual sales discount

  1.  $0-$24 →8%-16%
  2.  $24G →9%-18%
  3.  $48G →10%-20%
  4. $96G →11%-22%
  5. $192G →12%-24%
  6. $384G →13%-26% 
  7. $768G →14%-28% 
  8. $1,536G →15%-30% 
  9. $3,072G →16%-32%

Next time we'll look at the M in AMORI, Marketing and Sales - and talk about New Breed Furniture's approach to coupon design and distribution. 

A Holistic Approach to Finishing

27. August 2019 10:38

By Joe Baggett

I am reminded of a scene from the old movie Unforgiven where Clint Eastwood looking to exact revenge walks into a saloon and asks who owns it. The bar tender raises his hand and claims to be the owner, and Eastwood shoots him dead.

Gene Hackman who plays a corrupt sheriff exclaims that Eastwood just shot an unarmed man, to which Eastwood replies, “He should have armed himself.” To remain cutting edge in finishing we need to always “be armed” with the best information and questions.

In the first couple of articles we focused on the “How" questions we ask and the ways they shape our worlds. We also noted how some parts of the woodworking industry have become so specialized that they are their own world.

Don’t get stuck unarmed in an obsolete world. Let’s remember the best answers come from the best questions, and the best questions provide the deepest understanding.

We will start with finishing as it always seems to be the most popular area of concern. The future isn’t what it used to be. Industrial wood finishing in regards to chemicals and equipment has changed more in the last 25 years than it had in the previous 100. You can expect it to continue to outpace the rate of change for other parts of the wood industry due to increasing environmental regulations, demand for higher performance, usability, and the effort to lower costs.

In the last five to 10 years there have been major coatings and technological developments in curing and application, so the future will most likely never be what it used to be. That's why you should adopt a holistic approach to stay abreast of technological developments that can create the highest value for your wood finishing processes.

Some may question if there is a high-level holistic process that really applies to all wood finishers. I would say yes, unequivocally.  Let me say that every year I hear or experience first-hand wood finishers who order equipment or make plans to move to a new coating and don’t do the environmental due diligence and or don’t develop a coating that performs at a high enough level to meet the customer's expectations.

Sometimes the equipment waits for long periods of time before it can be used due to environmental permitting. If the finishing journey doesn’t start at the starting point, eventually the environmental regulatory agency or the customer will bring it back to that starting point.

That said, to be a leader in finishing and create the highest value, every question in regard to a successful finishing journey is best asked from the standpoint of what would be game-changing and revolutionary in regard to creating the highest value for the organization and the customer. 

A finishing journey that starts by asking how others are succeeding in finishing and then seeks to emulate them,  assumes too much.  The value of another’s experience is to give us hope not, to tell us how or whether to proceed.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

No great finishing system was ever created by copying another finishing system. That said, many small- to medium-sized wood finishing operations who want to scale up don’t start at the starting point. Sometimes they don’t even realize the environmental permitting they follow. I have seen shops make major coatings plans and investments before considering it. This occurs with larger wood finishing operations as well though less often.

The good news is there have been more innovations in coating formulations, coating application and curing technology and environmental controls in the past few years. Harnessing these innovations using a holistic approach is the key. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that following a holistic process like this with good questions and understanding will take too long and cost too much. If that is a concern, I want to share a few good reasons for why it is better to use holistic approach:

a. Most wood finishers don’t know their target and true transfer efficiency or track it on a regular basis. Just like rough mills live and die by hardwood yield the best finishing operations live and die by transfer efficiency.

b. An estimated 80% of the perceived value in finished wood products comes from the performance and aesthetics of the finish. The average amount of time, effort, understanding and organization in wood finishing operations isn’t proportionate to the perceived value.

c. The majority of accounts/customers that are lost due to quality are issues are classified as finishing defects.

d. Finishing equipment has the highest rate of obsolescence in cost and time compared to other woodworking machinery.

e. More wood products are being sold unfinished than ever before or are being purchased as pre-finished components then sold with other components and larger assemblies.

f. Ignoring environmental regulations and permitting thinking that it costs too much will always result in higher costs and potential other business/operational problems down the road.

g. The highest value finishes are the ones that help create a brand and have the value and performance that get and keep customers excited. This isn’t a cheap fast process.

Let’s look at how to get started with the holistic process in the graphic above. Let me first say that this process is most successfully done with a combination of leadership and technical knowledge and that is why there is an abstract picture of leadership in the middle of the graphic.

1. Start every question in the context of what is game-changing and difference-making; first ascertain the value, performance, aesthetics, and cost that would make a great finish for the wood products that are being brought to market. What finish would help make a difference in the brand? If the new or revised finish doesn’t do these things it probably won’t make that big of a difference.

2. Have discussions with several coatings suppliers, equipment suppliers, and other design and technical specialists. Engage the marketing, brand, product development, and manufacturing leaders in the organization to develop key insights. Use third-party labs to perform tests. Sometimes for high performing finishes, these test results can be used as marketing materials. What we want to do is develop a winning strategy for finishing.

3. Make up a one-page document that states how the winning finish will perform, aesthetically appear/feel and what value it will have in cost to manufacture and what the customer would be willing pay for in the context of experiencing a great finish. It helps to make this as objective as possible.

When this process isn’t used many people just ask how can we do what we have been doing better? Very seldom does an improvement of an existing finishing system in simple formulation or application make a big enough difference to be a difference-maker or game-changer.  I encourage everyone who has a stake in creating game-changing/difference-making finishing systems to create something new! The next four articles will dive into specifics for each step in the holistic process from the graphic above.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

The Cure For Jack of All Trades Mania Broken Down

7. August 2019 21:47

By: John Lindsay, New Breed Furniture LLC
In my last entry I shared an acronym I came up with that helps simplify what any kind of business owner needs to focus on, and here it is: 

Administration

M  Marketing and Sales

O  Operations

R  Research and Development

Investment and Intellectual Property

But before I give an in-depth explanation, my editor suggests I explain a little about
my own woodworking history. 

As the owner and principal designer of New Breed Furniture LLC, I have been developing for the last ten years a complete line of furniture including chairs, stools, benches, side tables, coffee tables, dining tables, conference tables, desks, dressers, credenzas, consoles, shelving systems and more all based on one beautiful innovation, the Petalply knuckle joint.

This discovery came after close to a year of research and development working with hundreds of 1/10th scale models and full-scale prototypes, searching for a wood-centric manufacturing system that also made for a great design language. Happily, something truly original and beautiful was realized. Structural components such as legs, arms, and stretchers combine and rotate around a structural dowel/tenon, maximizing glue surface while stabilizing each component, eliminating cupping or bowing of the wood. 

The tabletops defy the norm by not merely sitting over a base, but rather by spanning between component parts, resulting in a fully integrated monolithic structure. Add to that the creative use of penetrations in each piece that both allow for seasonal wood movement while freeing light and space to travel through and around each piece, creating a highly sculptural experience.

The effect is an amazingly strong structure that proves to be eye-catching, truly an example of beautiful forms defined by function. The shapes of the different components resemble the petal of a flower, and the layered glued components with alternating grain act like a muscular alpha plywood, thus its name “Petalply”. 

Of course my work includes other joinery techniques, each chosen because they are the best solution to the varied challenges of building furniture for so many situations, such as tongue and groove as the principle joint for all the case work, for both boxes and drawers. And then there is also my fascination with thick alternating solid wood veneers that are pressed and engineered to be both stable and durable, combining three, five, and seven veneers for different applications like doors and table slabs.

But it has been the Petalply joint that has been my main interest for this many years, so much so that it is almost embarrassing. I’m kidding when I say that, but there is a strange relationship in which I feel I am more its apprentice than I its inventor. Please forgive me if I belabor and gush about this work, but its been truly pleasurable pleasing customers employing it for so long.

The truth is, I’m yet to get sick of the process, I’m talking after tens of thousands of hours later, and it keeps proving a reliable technique for so many situations. Anyway, when you find a process that you love that offers great results, hang on to it, and double down on it, that’s what I’ve done with this. So, if you get a chance to search through my website, www.newbreedfurniture.com, and follow my social media you can judge for yourself if you think I’ve invested in something worth while, and if so then maybe what I will be continuing to write here might be worth reading, or not? 

To circle back around, in my last entry I proposed five questions: 

A Whether furniture, cabinetry, and millwork companies ever go back and analyze what parts of their initial estimates and systems for bidding were accurate?

M How to spend marketing dollars and time?

O How to use the shop floor in concert with the available storage to get best performances and build the best products?

 R How should a smaller to medium scale artisanal manufacturer continue developing their product line’s design languages while filling orders, collecting money, packaging and shipping, etc?

 I  Can you imagine being a venture capital fund that made strategic investments in parts of your business, expecting to see real return on investment?

Sadly I will have to tackle these questions in the coming editions, for now I must get a material order placed for my next exciting new commission, a new series of desks, a large wall console, custom conference and lounge tables for a company located in Bozeman, MT, Jelt HQ. In fact plan on reading about this too in the next installment. 

John Lindsay is President of New Breed Furniture LLC. Reach him at john@newbreedfurniture.com 847-946-7867. www.newbreedfurniture.com