A silver salute to Wood & Wood Products' own, Jerry Metz.
By Rich Christianson
For 25 years renown woodworking expert Jerry Metz has served up tens of thousands of dollars of free advice in helping Wood & Wood Products' readers solve their production and management problems. In celebration of Jerry's 25th anniversary as a contributing editor to this publication, and in recognition of his enviable achievements as president of Metz Furniture Co., we proudly present a collection of features culled from vintage issues of W&WP focusing on Jerry's career as both a woodworker and an advice columnist.
Under Jerry's stewardship, Metz Furniture of Hammond, IN, racked up an extraordinarily remarkable safety record in experiencing only one lost-time accident between 1948 and 1965. Jerry's relentless commitment to providing his employees with the safest workplace possible led Metz Furniture to win safety awards 10 years in a row from the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers (the only company to do so), as well as numerous local safety awards.
Not surprisingly, when the NAFM established a safety committee, it tapped Jerry to chair it. Jerry's close involvement with the association led NAFM directors to vote him "perpetuating treasurer" of the group, which has since merged into the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn.
Jerry first hooked up with W&WP in the late 1960s as a member of the magazine's editorial advisory board. He sold off Metz Furniture and began a new career as a consultant, applying his four decades of woodworking experience to helping other manufacturers be more efficient. In January of 1971, Jerry began authoring "Consultant's Corner," a monthly feature in W&WP. The inaugural column, "Cost Reduction -- the Name of the Game," is reprinted here. It set the tone for Jerry's often-repeated philosophy that successful companies adapt to the dictates of their customers and markets, keep their employees trained and motivated, continually update their machinery, constantly strive for higher quality and lower waste, and above all, maintain a safe work environment.
Among his early assignments for W&WP, Jerry filed reports from the international woodworking shows in Hannover, Germany, and Louisville, KY. He was a strong proponent of using multi-functional equipment as a way to increase productivity and decrease labor costs. He also foresaw the importance that the panel processing equipment being developed in Europe would have on American wood products manufacturers.
Consultant's Corner converted to "Consult Jerry Metz" and the popular question-and-answer format in August 1976; the first Q&A column also is reprinted here.
Interestingly, Jerry's vision of the coming of the computer age in wood products manufacturing is reflected in his response to a reader's question published in December 1977, several years before the introduction of the personal computer.
"Where the machines are complicated, the runs are large and the material cost is at stake, the computer is a must today. Obviously, not all operations are in that category. Rough mill, yes. Double end, yes. Moulders, yes. Yard operations, absolutely. I feel that all multiple operations in machining will be computerized. Completely computerized volume finishing lines will answer many needs and solve many problems. In general, computers are here for lumber, plywood, furniture -- the entire industry."
While Jerry has expounded much on the potential benefits to be reaped by forward-thinking manufacturers who seize new technologies, he has tempered his support of capital investment with stern reminders to manufacturers that there are times when they might be better off buying components instead.
Putting the make vs. buy debate aside, perhaps Jerry's greatest gift has been helping W&WP readers solve problems related to the fundamental properties of wood, especially those related to fluctuating moisture content. For 25 years he has preached that manufacturers must not lose sight of the fact that wood is a raw material unlike any other. It is prone to twisting, warping and splitting when subjected to changes in temperature and humidity. Successful manufacturers know how to properly store and ship their materials, components and finished products and know how to compensate for these anticipated changes during production, assembly and finishing processes.
Judging from the phenomenal success of the woodworking industry's longest-running column, it is obvious that many learned at least some of their "know how" from Jerry Metz.
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