"It's not just nice to have, it's a requirement for customization of products." That was Russ Kahn's take on software integration to wood products manufacturing at Wood Tech Summit, a colloquy on high tech in Charlotte last week.

 Wood Tech Summit
2011 Presenters
 Michael Cassel  Holz-Her
 Erik Delaney
 Stiles Machinery
 Cesare Magnani
 Biesse America
 Andy Turner
 C.R. Onsrud
 John Liedl  Eurosoft
 Shawn Mabery
 John Murphy
 Russ Kahn
 20-20 Technologies
 Russ Wheelock
 Ted Trebour   Planit Solutions

Kahn, a product manager for software integrator 20-20 Technologies, said the shift in priorities results from a change in buying habits. "The consumer has become much more demanding for personalized fulfillment."

Wood Tech Summit was a new addition to the Closets Expo last week in Charlotte, driven by the location - with its concentration of U.S. furniture manufacturing and related CNC machining suppliers. The nexus of these firms and the enabling software companies provided the starting point for what turned into a thoughtful discussion on wood industry manufacturing trends. A Wood Tech Summit stage was the setting. Wood cutting machinery presenters included representatives of firms involved in the most recent NexGen event; they were joined by software suppliers - all of them exhibitors at Closets Expo.

John Murphy from KCD Software said the trend to automated manufacturing for companies large and small is irreversible. "I've talked to people who say, 'Not me - I'm a craftsman.' Those people are going out of business." Murphy said the business argument for adopting automated wood machining is powerful: savings in materials alone run 5% to 15% for a CNC investment as small as $50,000 to $80,000.

"Most of the customers I've talked to say they've paid for the equipment in two years - some in just 6 to 8 months," Murphy said.

As speakers gave their take on trends in CNC and integrated manufacturing, the outpouring of ideas was great. 20-20 Technologies' Kahn, for example, went on to note that to customize most jobs means capturing a lot of data at the sales and design points.

"Your CNC is only as good as the data going into it," Kahn said. "As the data required increases manual methods of operation reach their end point in scalability." That create a requirement for sophisticated, applications to drive the machinery, integrated end to end from wood products order intake - even at the retail level - all the way through to fulfillment. Significant information captured at the point of sale - such as where, when and how to deliver to customers (I'm home only evenings, my neighbor has the key, etc.) - originates far in advance of the manufacturing process, yet is just as critical to efficient management of logistics concerns, Kahn pointed out. Describing a wood product's stages of creation, Kahn said it moves through three steps: Dream Stage, Design Stage, and the to Production and Delivery Stage.

"The same information is required at every stage," Kahn noted, and described the concepts of "multiple views of the same data: and "moving ownership of the data" through the stages of production.

 C.R. Onsrud CNC machining demo.

The presentations provided fertile ground for some great discussions. In the next few days I will recount more of the speakers' remarks and mount their slides and videos so you can get a taste of what the audience heard at Wood Tech Summit.

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