Wood manufacturing firms are adopting smart machinery that communicates to operations managers, and with each other, notes Christian Vollmers, president of Stiles Machinery, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Mass customization is a trend to customize products across many markets, including kitchen cabinets, living room furniture, and storage furnishings. "Consumers want to customize them so that they reflect themselves, and this puts pressure on the
manufacturers to be able to handle this small job sizes and mass customization, Vollmer says.
"We also want smart machines which are not standing still. Suddenly we want machines which communicate the demands, and their status, their situation. They request maintenance; or they monitor the sharpness of tools, for example, and give us a
heads-up warning and when only 20 percent of the lifetime of the tool remains."
With all the automation, "The greatest challenge for the customers I'm talking to is to find the necessary skilled labor," Vollmers says. "It's not only in the woodworking industry. Manufacturing in general faces this challenge to find skilled and willing labor. U.S.-wide manufacturing has 2 million unfilled positions."
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