What does IWF mean? Wood manufacturing now turns its face to the customer
August 26, 2016 | 5:24 pm UTC

ATLANTA - Many of the cabinet and furniture manufacturers that we talked to have learned customers care most about what you can do for them, not so much about how you do it.

Wood products manufacturers have determined what types of cabinetry and furniture and millwork their customers want, and how they want to order it. They came to IWF 2016 looking for - and generally finding - the means to produce it.

The woodworking industry seems to be making a 180-degree turn. Instead of facing inward, to shop floor operations, as we always have, we are now facing outward...toward the customer.  
Many of the displays at IWF featured touch screens, videos and more ways for attendees to engage.

It's no accident IKEA was voted top cabinetmaker in the U.S. several years in a row. They won not because of their quality or even design, but really despite them. IKEA was favored, customers said, because of the buying experience. As U.S. cabinet companies begin addressing that, IKEA moved downward in the customer preference ranking.  .

IWF is providing the tools for this changeover in comprehensive operations management systems from companies like Ardis, 20 20, Vero. Global Systems and newcomer Innergy, that connect the dots for automation within the plant and to order entry and fulfillment at the beginning and end of the process.


New product news announcements from IWF 2016

Read continuing coverage of materials and technologies announced at the show at Woodworking Network

At IWF 2016, technology providers rooted in Europe, like Biesse and SCM and Stiles (now part of Homag), began floating the terms Industry 4.0, a way for automating, integrating, and optimizing plant production, the relies on great machinery, great software, but also on great, satisfied and fully engaged employees.

To find the latter, the woodworking industry must make its plants great places to work. The physical environment must be safe, clean, and comfortable. And employees must feel empowered and in control of their work. 

Those companies who have a different business model or a more uniform product still will benefit from things like ERP and optimization.
Those who "have it nailed" and aren't seeking sea change are finding amazing islands of automation....materials handling systems that integrate to beam saws and CNC routers. Or those like the Challengers Award technology from Biesse, Bacci and Giben and Anderson or Doucet and other Challenger winners. 

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