The first-ever Wood Pro Expo was held October 8 and 9 at the Maryland StateFairgrounds just north of Baltimore. The trade exhibition featured a variety ofequipment, materials and supplies companies, and drew attendees fromwoodworking companies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Delawareand other states.

The show was intended to answer a need for smaller, regional professionalwoodworking exhibitions, which have been absent from the marketplace forseveral years. The exhibition hall and conference building are at 2200 YorkRoad in Timonium, Maryland, at the fairgrounds.


Real life lean

The WPE event featured a full day of education sessions, including a paneldiscussion on Real Life Lean led by CabinetMaker+FDM columnist Jim Lewis.Participants Dustin Hunter, Scott Pfaff and Brad Cairns told of their leanjourneys, including the ups and downs and very real benefits.

Hunter, Pfaff and Cairns all offered real-life experiences on their own leanjourneys, and answered questions from the audience on their successes andchallenges. Hunter and Cairns had each read Jim Lewis’s column inCabinetMaker+FDM and contacted him.

For Hunter, sales have more than doubled. “Lean will help you make moremoney,” he said. “This really works.”

Pfaff’s cabinet company is early in the process, and is trying to get themessage to each employee while recording incremental improvements inefficiency.

“Lean encompasses your people, they’re the ones who make the change,” saidCairns.


Lumber price going higher?

Gene Wengert, the Wood Dr., spoke both days of Wood Pro Expo on upcominglumber prices, and focused on gluing wood and analyzing incoming lumber.

Will the price of lumber be higher in the near future? Yes, and much of thedemand will be from from the need for railroad ties to handle all of the trainscarrying fracking oil. “Lumber prices will rise dramatically before next June,”he said. Most railroad ties are made of red oak and white oak, but this demandwill affect all species. Also, he also said that sapele and ipe will see moreapplications, as well as reclaimed wood.

Wengert, known as the Wood Dr. to CabinetMaker+FDM readers (he began thecolumn in FDM magazine in 1978) also focused on gluing wood and how moisturecontent affects this operation. In addition, he offered tips on analyzingincoming lumber, including grade, footage, end coating, size and bacterialinfections. The latter is becoming more of a problem as wetter sites are beinglogged due to land development.


Pricing for the custom shop

CabinetMaker+FDM editor Will Sampson discussed pricing for the custom shopon both days of the event, including basic pricing strategies and the fourpricing essentials of labor, materials, overhead and profit.

“You can’t escape the fundamentals of pricing,” he said.More cabinet companies are using component pricing in which each part of thejob is priced.

“What is your product worth in the eyes of potentialcustomers?” he said. “The only value is the value your customers are willing topay for.”

When shops were asked how much profit they made on each job,the answer was 17 percent. But how much profit do they make in a year? Only 12percent. The shop owner should want these two numbers to be as close aspossible. (An industry average is 15 percent.)

Sampson advised shops not to sell a commodity product. The best way to dealwith lowball bidders is knowing what your bottom line is and refusing to gobelow it.

Jamison Scott of Air Handling Systems and current Wood MachineryManufacturers Association president updated the group on combustible dustdangers and the current state of regulations. He provided a detailed timelineof events and regulations, and what might be expected to happen from OSHA, NFPAand Congress.

Scott also offered tips on housekeeping to reduce the likelihood for acombustible dust explosion, and spoke of Canada’s National Centre forOccupational Health and Safety as a good example of an organization thatoffered good guidelines in a timely manner.


Pricing, advertising and CNC tips

There were several sessions from the Cabinet Makers Association, includingproject coordination by Dave Grulke, the art of pricing profitably by SeanBenetin, and CNC tips and tricks by Leland Thomasset of Taghkanic Woodworking. Grulkealso spoke on advertising and marketing, and Tohomasset discussed designsoftware.

Leland Thomasset spoke on both days about CNC machine toolsand tips. He reviewed solid carbide router bits and how they were used on theOmnitech router, including the applications and use of the ball end mill. Healso reviewed workpiece holding, and special millwork and furniture jobs andhow they are made on the CNC router. He also described how the company makesbasket weave and bed board sheets.

On the second day of the event, Thomasset also spoke ondesign software, including the importance of presentation drawings in theselling process, and how design software can convey information that may be missingduring the sales process. Overall, it helps the customer get what they want.Other ideas: appliance DXFs can be pulled from manufacturers websites. Google3D Warehouse also has many images. And special custom-made renderings can bemade with amazing clarity.

Marketing and advertising are often neglected by shopowners, and Dave Grulke, executive director of the CMA, defined sales,marketing and advertising and pointed out how to define prime prospects and howto reach them. Have an advertising budget and spend it, Grulke advised, and geta list of referrals from existing customers to use on business calls. Trydifferent media and keep track of what works by recording both inquiries andreal leads.

Grulke also discussed project management, and providedactual “voices of experience” from CMA member companies. In dealing with bothcustomers and employees, communications is key. Manage expectations for thecustomer, and even draw up an expectations sheet.

Pricing was also the subject of a presentation by SeanBenetin of CMA. He offered a detailed spreadsheet to determine itemized costsand how to calculate an hourly rate.

“I would rather price too high and lose the job than pricetoo low and lose money,” he said.

The key is understanding all of your costs. “Controllinginformation and knowledge will control your costs.”

The exhibition itself featured more than 40 vendors offeringwoodworking equipment, accessories, hardware, lumber and components, finishing,software and other products. As mentioned, most attendees came from Marylandand neighboring states to attend the seminars and attend the two-day tradeexhibition.

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