Fewer North American woodworking companies consider handling growth to be their primary worry, but more are looking at the housing slump as their company's greatest challenge.

Meanwhile, imports and employees remained the two most commonly mentioned greatest challenges among this group of manufacturers of cabinets, residential furniture, office furniture, millwork and store fixtures.

A year ago, imports were also the greatest challenge, followed by hiring and keeping good employees, issues related to managing growth, health care costs and cost of materials. This year, the percentages were similar, with managing growth and cost of materials mentioned by a smaller number.

The complete list of FDM 300 companies appeared in our February 2007 issue. The list will also be available online at www.fdmonline.com.

Imports

The percentage of respondents saying that imported furniture and other wood products was their greatest challenge increased again, to 25 percent. A year ago, 23 percent listed this as their greatest challenge.

Here are this year's responses:

  • Coping with the influx of Chinese product
  • China and knock-offs
  • Low-end Asian imports
  • Lower-priced import products
  • Lower-priced imported casegoods
  • Those guys over in Asia imports
  • Import competition
  • Global competition
  • Offshore competition
  • Imports
  • Imports; not a lot of us have chosen to stay in business
  • Global competition
  • Chinese companies
  • Find a real niche to compete with imports
  • Chinese imports; exchange rate
  • Competing with imports
  • Foreign competition
  • Competitively valued in an ever-changing world market
  • Customers importing their own products
  • Remaining competitive with growing off-shore manufacturers
  • Off-shore competition

Handling growth

This is a smaller concern than it was a year ago, primarily due to the fact that there is less sales growth to worry about. (Or maybe companies have just learned to handle it better!) This was the main concern for 8 percent of respondents:

  • Managing growth, resource allocation, applying our manufacturing resources at the right sell price
  • Growth
  • Growing the business in a downsizing housing economy
  • Maintaining growth and profitability during present slowdown
  • Dealing with growth and incorporating additional manufacturing facility
  • Maintaining growth in a soft economy; being proactive in meeting market demands
  • Consolidating and expanding operation in a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility

Materials cost

The number of respondents mentioning this category fell for the second year in a row, to 5 percent. Here are some of the responses:

  • Material costs increasing; competitive pricing pressures
  • Material costs
  • Raw material prices, particularly particleboard
  • Escalating raw material costs

Other concerns

There are plenty of other issues to keep woodworking executives awake at night. Here is a collection of other responses:

  • Environmental laws pertaining to wood furniture manufacturing
  • Staying competitive
  • To continue to satisfy the increasing consumer demand for fashion diversity while maintaining operation excellence
  • Insurance risk transfer
  • Keeping up with technology
  • Getting the message out to the public, marketing the product
  • Government requirements
  • Having everything shipped out of our warehouse within two weeks
  • Trying to keep up with the trends; by the time the architects do designs and we make products, colors have changed already
  • Collecting money on a more timely basis
  • Getting shipments to customers economically
  • Cross over to new technology
  • Space to store inventory
  • Dealing with energy costs and the overall effect of inflationary pressures
  • Desperate companies that underbid projects way below cost just to get work
  • Non-union manufacturing

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