Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power.”

That quote has even greater significance today. Now, more than ever, the North American woodworking industry must continue to educate itself and find ways to improve production processes for leaner, greener — and more profitable — manufacturing. By not increasing our knowledge, we risk becoming stagnant and losing even more strength in the global market.

In this month’s finale of a three-part series, Contributing Editor Tom Dossenbach addresses how companies can gain knowledge about their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, in order to define their current state and create a detailed vision of what the future should be.

Roads for Improvement

There are many paths companies can take toward improvement. Within each issue of Wood & Wood Products is a story of at least one company’s journey into lean and/or green manufacturing — and the strategies implemented to improve the bottom line. This month, for example, the management team of North Dakota-based Solid Comfort describes how lean manufacturing — and new technology — helped the hospitality furniture manufacturer to succeed.

“The biggest changes that have really propelled our growth are putting lean and automation in the processing side,” said Tony Lindgren, operations manager. “In the past, before we went to some of this new, highly automated equipment, it was so labor intensive and operator dependent.

“Our processes have changed dramatically with the implementation of lean,” he added. “Batch sizes have been reduced, scheduling is driven off of performance metrics and labor is in relation to customer demand.”

Learn New Technology

Many of the companies featured within the magazine have learned of new technology and processes through conferences and trade shows. These venues provide the perfect opportunity to network and learn from others, and can stimulate creative thinking to give companies the needed momentum to improve business.

Even if only for a day or two, the time spent at an industry event is well worth the effort, as it provides a perfect opportunity to view and compare products and services, all in a single venue. (See the sidebar for a list of some of the upcoming trade shows.)

Strategies for Green

Additional strategies for profitable manufacturing can be found in the April issue of both Wood & Wood Products and Custom Woodworking Business magazines. The new “Going Green Strategies Guide” will feature the success stories of companies that have gone green, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them. The manufacturers highlighted in this special section cover the gamut of operations: large and small, in a variety of industries and locales.

In addition to participating in third-party certification programs, the companies interviewed also offer suggestions for energy-saving tips and waste-saving processes which can contribute to a profitable — and sustainable — bottom line.

This section will be a must-read for all companies contemplating going green; even those that have already made the transition can gain knowledge from these stories. And with that knowledge will come power — to survive and thrive in our current economy.

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