- Woodwork business process improvement - including lean operations, better bidding, methodical project management practices, and structuring contracts - are on the docket at the Architectural Woodwork Institute professional development conference taking place in St. Louis.

Thursday's sessions lead off with an introduction to the AWI Quality Certification Program, a credentialing scheme that verifies businesses can meet consistent performance standards in project execution. (The AWI QCP program is outlined in a webcast hosted at Woodworking Network.)

On Friday, Allegheny Millwork's Mike Bell opened the day with a breakfast presentation on using the new Architectural Woodwork Standards.  Bell noted that the reference guide, issued last year, is more than a standard. It is also a reference guide.

"There is some great resource for the woodworker that is not part of the standard," said Bell. He encouraged woodworking and millwork firms to begin by reading the user guide at the beginning, to get a feel for the scope of the standard.

AWI Woodwork firms eye quality business processes 
 Above: Allegheny Millwork's Mike Bell (r) talks AWI standards with Hunter Mitchell, Memphis Plywood. Below, John Wiley of Elipticon Wood Products delivers a seminar on lean manufacturing.
 AWI Woodwork firms eye quality business processes

Bell noted that the section on "Humidity vs. Wood," is extremely helpful. "A lot of the heartache for woodworkers is around humidity," Bell said, and advised be sure the wood is ready for installation, and to make liberal use of hydrometers for testing moisture levels.

Wall Surfacing, Doors, and Case Work ("a world a lot of us live in," said Bell) were also reviewed.

Bells said the important thing is to read the standards book. "If the book stays on the shelf, you will learn everything in it," he warned, but it could be it the course of contract performance disputes with clients.

A number of sessions run full- or even two days, including "Lead for Woodworkers," presented by John Wiley, president of Elipticon Wood Products. The Little Chute, WI firm is a perennially acknowledged in the WOOD 100 program.

Lean goes by various names - Kaizen, Five Why's, 5S, Value Stream Mapping - but all involve a change in company culture and attitude.

"When you do lean, you reverse the management triangle. The boss gets on the bottom," Wiley said. He advised getting started by writing a mission statement that embraces corporate values.

"And employees need to buy into management management values," Wiley said, at least while they are at work. "It is not important that the employees have your values; it is important that employees find ways to support your values. The point is to get everyone moving in the same direction."

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