CabinetMaker magazine conducted an informal survey of small shop owners/employees who stopped by our booth during the IWF show.

Rather than try to create an in-depth profile of show attendees, the survey is a snapshot of who attended the show, what they came to see and what they thought about the show. We also asked them to identify their company's biggest challenge. 

The 17 respondents hailed from eight states (California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin) as well as Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The number of employees for these shops, including owners, ranged from one to 12. The products they manufacture ran the gamut of residential and commercial cabinets, architectural millwork, cabinet doors, reproduction furniture and antiques, entertainment systems, solid surface, furniture, vanities, decorative home items, fireplace mantels, stair parts, houses, components and lumber.

Why they came
When asked what they came to see at the show, the small shop attendees said CNC machines and software topped their list, followed by - in no particular order - sanders, edgebanders, table/panel saws, shapers, planers, air compressors, spray booths, pre-finished board stock, custom mouldings and nothing specific/everything. Survey respondents believed these products/equipment would help their shops increase quality, speed, sales, productivity, consistency, safety and accuracy, and cut design and quote time.

What impressed respondents most varied from the organization of the show, the number and variety of vendors and machinery/products, the ease of getting from booth to booth, and the professionalism of the people. A couple of respondents said they attended and benefited from several seminars, including those pertaining to finishing, green manufacturing, software and automation. 

A couple people said "all of it" impressed them; others said "there's too much stuff" and "less small equipment than in the past." Specific products mentioned were five-axis CNCs, photo scan and jewel tools. One respondent said he was impressed by "how easy it is to spend $35,000."

Biggest challenges  
When asked about the challenges their companies face, the top answer was the economy, followed, in no particular order, by increasing efficiency, quality and growth; labor and fuel costs; competition; staying focused; organization; whether to purchase a CNC machine; and custom fabrication. 

Thanks to all the cabinetmakers/woodworkers who took the time to complete the survey.

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