A sign of the times, it became breaking news when, a little more than a year ago, Stanley Furniture ceased Asian production of its Young America youth line to move it back to the United States. At a time when manufacturing was fleeing to lower cost offshore production — even Stanley’s other furniture lines — it was refreshing to see jobs coming back.

And what a great marketing tool it’s been for the company. Touting the benefits of American-made products, including a fast turnaround and ability for improved quality control, Young America’s website says: “We know firsthand that you can buy less expensive furniture for your children, but no other group of people like our own associates in Virginia and North Carolina care as much for the environment, the quality of our products and our customers.”

This is just one example of the strategies used by wood products manufacturers to grow their business. Others include: marketing initiatives, go to market strategies, business strategies, productivity enhancements, technology integration, product innovations, sustainability initiatives and customer service achievements. Here are a few examples:

• In a “perfect” example of a successful marketing initiative, Florida-based A Perfect Closet & Cabinets Inc. plans to continue offering a wider range of products and promoting quality differences to customers. For added sales, says CEO Leonard Morreale, the company also markets its expanded millwork capabilities to other area woodworkers. The measure of success? The custom closet and cabinet company had a 30.9% sales growth in 2010 compared to 2009 figures.

• Appealing to the computer-savvy consumer, Connecticut-based Ethan Allen rolled out interactive touchscreens at participating Design Centers nationwide. Photos, videos and details of the company’s home furnishings and accessory products can be immediately accessed for viewing. As a side benefit, the use of the touchscreens can also reduce operating costs and lower inventory investments for the retail stores.

• Reaching 57.6% growth in 2010, Texas-based PIN’s business strategy included reducing costs through training and development of its workforce, value engineering and incorporating new technology. Says Jeff Pray, president/CEO, “Set in motion is a plan to reset the entire factory in 2011 to increase efficiency.”

• In achieving a whopping 120.1% growth, Indiana-based Advanced Cabinet Systems revamped its casework line to dowelled construction, hired a new general manager and adopted a lean manufacturing policy. “The employees use lean thinking methods to solve problems themselves to move the company in a more positive direction,” says Marc Dunker, creative director.

• Good, skilled employees are integral to any operation. Just ask Will Fuller, president of Texas-based Acacia Originals, which topped the charts in this year’s WOOD 100 with 166.3% sales growth for 2010. Investments in new technology, including a vertical panel saw and edgebander aided the company’s productivity, and plans call for additional purchases of a CNC router and boring machine in 2011.

Finally, it was interesting to see that what worked for some (i.e., decrease inventory), others found success doing just the opposite (i.e., increase inventory to improve turnaround).

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