By Brad Walseth

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

Wood Component Manufacturers Assn. Board President Chris Watson opened the WCMA Fall Conference and Plant Tour, held in Waterloo, IA, Sept. 28-30, with these words, which he says are appropriate to the situation woodworking manufacturers find themselves in today. With shaky financial markets, a severe housing slump and increased foreign competition shaping the current economy, company survival may depend as much on developing new strategies, techniques and markets as it does on belt-tightening, JIT delivery, cost analysis, lean manufacturing and other industry-proven business tips. The WCMA plant tour offered participants an inside look at what several successful plants are doing to compete in today’s marketplace.

WCMA members touring Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing Inc.'s shop were treated to a highly organized manufacturing process. Click here to see more photos from the shop.

Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing Inc. was started in a family barn in 1977, and now employs more than 1,000 employees across several facilities. Visitors to Bertch were treated to a highly organized process featuring more technology and equipment that can be listed, across rough, finish, plywood and panel mills, as well as the cabinetmaking plant, where 800 to 1200 units a day are produced. Through the use of flow lines instead of holding lines, throughput has been dramatically increased, and evidence of the company’s commitment to lean manufacturing was obvious in shop floor organization and cleanliness.

Members toured Woodharbor Doors & Cabinetry’s plants at Mason City and Northwood. Click here to see a gallery with more photos from this part of the tour.

Woodharbor Doors & Cabinetry’s plants at Mason City and Northwood also gave tour members a chance to observe two plant operations in detail. The Mason City plant focuses on cabinet production, while Northwood produces interior doors and cabinet components. The state-of-the-art automated door line system is designed to utilize JIT manufacturing with no machine changeover between components and was one highlight.

Participants got to see a shop with a wide variety of functions while touring Kendrick Forest Products. Click here to see more photos from the plant.

Kendrick Forest Products in Edgewood combines logging with a sawmill, dry kiln and cabinet manufacturing operation. The process is controlled from timber to finished product, and even the sawdust is used to power its co-generation system.

WCMA tour participants saw an optimization system in action at BTS Lumber. Click here to see more pictures from this leg of the tour.

BTS Lumber in Sand Springs produces lumber and dimension blanks, and has recently upgraded its quality control with a Weinig/Raimann Value-Rip system and ProfiRip Optimization system.

A trip through the John Deere Tractor Assembly Plant in Waterloo may not seem to have a direct application to wood manufacturers, but certainly touring this highly automated and organized plant was of benefit to tour members, providing an opportunity to view a non-wood, but nevertheless well-run manufacturing plant in operation.

Tour participants gained valuable knowledge as well as the chance to network with other industry leaders at this successful fall event.

"WCMA members use these plant tours to help them become better producers and to solve manufacturing-related problems,” says WCMA Executive Director Steve Lawser. “Participants are updated on the latest woodworking manufacturing techniques and everyone comes away with at least one good idea that can be implemented in their own plants."

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