The 12th Executive Briefing Conference was held at theInverness Conference Center near Denver and drew another strong crowd to see aninteresting program of issues important to wood product manufacturers.

The annual event is hosted by Stiles Machinery Inc., and wasalso sponsored by Blum, Schuler Consulting, Surrey and 3M. Attendees came fromcabinet manufacturers, millwork producers and other wood products companies.

Attendees saw presentations on employee development andgenerational issues, the outlook for the composite panel industry, 3D printingin manufacturing, the role of the designer, how to benchmark a manufacturingoperation and an economic report and forecast.

Employee-related issues are front and center withwoodworking companies.

Cam Marston of Generational Insights provided an informativeand entertaining presentation titled Employee Development for a SuccessfulFuture.  Marston defined thecharacteristics of generations in the U.S. and their strengths and weaknesses asemployees and leaders.

Marston said that youth have the knowledge of technology,but lack interpersonal skills. It’s important for Baby Boomers to know thatyounger workers don’t what older workers have, so they don’t want to work for thatsame thing.

Whom should you hire? People with military experience, someone raised on a farm, or animmigrant. Don’t be an employee’s first “real job,” Marston advised. It’sbetter to hire someone who has worked at one or two jobs.

On a related subject, Seth Starner of New North Centerdiscussed the need for “soft” interpersonal skills, determining which skills acompany should be seeking, and how companies should be looking at character andbehavior rather than specific skills. EBC participants also took part in alarge-scale whiteboard exercise to determine how society, technology, ecology,energy and policy affect their company.

The panel industry is healthy and getting better, said TomJulia of the Composite Panel Association. He spoke on the economic outlook forthe composite panel industry. Panel capacity is down, but shipments aretrending up. There will be no supply shortages in the near future. The woodsupply is available and affordable.

Julia also discussed the CARB regulations on panel productsthat are becoming national. But there are still outstanding issues, includinglaminated hardwood plywood and possible requirements that small shops will haveto test and certify every job.

What’s new

CabinetMaker+FDM columnist Art Raymond spoke on 3D printingand its effect on global manufacturing. Raymond provided examples and videos ofplastic and metal 3D printing. He also described rapid prototyping and examplesof additive manufacturing at Hooker Furniture, including an RTA chair soldthrough Wayfair and shipped in a container that could be handled by UPS.

Gary Wernlund of Stiles Machinery always provides a goodsummary of new technology. His presentation on How to Benchmark YourManufacturing defined benchmarking and the 5S process, and looked at strategiesand differentiators.

Specifically, Wernlund talked about new developments such asnew sanding technology, LVT flooring, five-axis machining, EVA and PUR hotmelts and edge quality, robotics and handling of large parts.

How can wood products companies work better with designers?Judy Wolgast of jwolgastDesigns discussed the role of the designer as the voiceof the consumer. Post digital is the future, she suggested, and designing forthe humanization of technology will be more important. “In this age of globaldesign, become of design eye yourself,” she said.

Case histories on site

Artie and Jeff Canter of EuroCraft Cabinets, Inc., describedthe growth of the company to the point where it is the largest cabinetmanufacturer in Florida. They participated in a tech tour of Europe and learnedabout new technology, including a Bargstedt IntelliStore panel handling systemand Weeke feed-through CNC machining center. The company has applied newtechnology in its own plant.

Selective Marketing to Selective Markets looked at transFORMHome, a New York company specializing in interior design and high-end customclosets. The company emphasizes marketing including a high-quality printedcatalog, showrooms, a dynamic website and showing designs in an art gallerysetting. Andreas Messis and Stuart Reisch explained how the company foundsuccess posting images and information on houzz.com.

New Stiles president Christian Vollmers greeted attendees,along with Homag board member Juergen Koeppel and former Stiles president PeterKleinschmidt, who developed the EBC and will continue in an advisory role withthe company.

The 13th EBC will return to the Chicago area nextyear. The event will be held at the Q Center in St. Charles, Ill., April 12-14,2015. Also see www.stilesmachinery.comfor more information.

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