How well do you understand diversity?

18. April 2018 13:33

By: Whitney Pyle, COO/Co-Owner: JG Bowers, Inc. and Advanced Cabinet Systems

Understanding all the various dimensions of diversity and how they impact the members of your organization will help you understand your workforce and build a more cohesive team and a more successful business. When thinking about diversity in the workplace, many times people only think about the primary dimensions of diversity; however, there are several dimensions of diversity that must be considered.

The primary dimensions of diversity are race/ethnicity, age, physical abilities/qualities, sexual orientation, gender, and religious beliefs. The secondary dimensions of diversity are just as important to consider. The secondary dimensions of diversity are work background, income, marital status, military experience, geographic locale, family background, and education. There are other dimensions of diversity that we don’t always think about, but that can have a great impact on our interactions in the workplace are language and communications – not just the language a person speaks, but also a person’s preference on how they send or receive communication with one another; appearance (including tattoos, piercing, and hairstyles), food preferences, and eating habits, allergies and other medical conditions, whether a person lives by the clock or is more lackadaisical when it comes to punctuality, preferred and most productive time of the day, flexibility, personal space preferences, how much of area do they require, smoking and non-smoking. Everything that makes up a person can be considered dimensions of diversity.

Each dimension of diversity adds a layer of complexity to individual identity. Together, the dimensions of diversity give definition and meaning to people’s lives and allow people to connect with others. Connecting with others is one of the best ways to ensure the long-term success of your workforce and your business as a whole. In coming articles and blogs I’ll discuss why it’s important to understand diversity and it’s many dimensions as well as how you can leverage diversity to benefit your company and your people.

To learn more on this topic come check out the "Diversity and inclusion in our Industry" at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.


Water occasionally

17. April 2018 12:04

By: Joe Knobbe, Senior Project Manager: Exclusive Woodworking, Inc.

At my company, Exclusive Woodworking, relationships are built over a period of years and nurtured on a regular basis. These relationships take years to grow, but once they’re established they only need frequent “watering”.

Admittedly, the architect and interior designer each have a certain aura. Architects are notorious for being aloof and intellectual, while designers' creative flair leaves them with a reputation of being fussy and difficult to please.

Unfortunately, those stereotypes scare some millwork professionals away, keeping them from making contact. When they do try, they are left frustrated, grumbling about how all those stereotypes are true. Occasionally, they'll bid on a project and waste hours trying to interpret specifications that seem to call for outdated products in all the wrong places.

Yet, there are others in the industry whose businesses flourish because of their connections to those two groups. Local architects and interior designers turn to them almost exclusively when they need help trying to write specifications for a project or are looking for design ideas.

Become a Resource

To be fair to the profession, architects must be visionary designers of structures and also technicians with at least some working knowledge of roughly 250,000 component parts of a project. Cabinetry and millwork is only a very small part of that total. It’s no wonder that the attention paid to the millwork specification by the architect often seems cursory.

This is where you come in. You can provide a valuable informational and educational service to design professionals that ultimately works to your mutual benefit. There is nothing better than a clear and accurate, use-appropriate product specification -- and nothing worse than one which is vague or sloppily written.

Have you ever seen in a spec for a project where they might call out a self-close, soft-close side-mount fully-concealed under-mount drawer slide full-extension with over-travel? Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but I have seen similar specs in bid documents.

You could take the typical approach and send an RFI for clarification or you could take a different approach, like we do at Exclusive. An approach we use is when there is a spec for expensive material or hardware, we provide pricing based on the actual spec AND also alternative pricing based on other options we recommend.

This is just one example of using an opportunity to get in front of a design professional and using it to your advantage. To learn more, attend “Working with Architects and Designers” during IWF.




Working Plastics in the Woodshop; More isn’t always better.

17. April 2018 11:57

By Ralph Bagnall, Woodworking Consultant, Author and TV Host: Consulting

Most wood shops rarely use plastics, and typically don’t have specialty blades designed for plastics on hand when they need to cut just a few parts for a project. Common woodworking blades will cut many plastics with suitable results, but which blade should you choose to cut with?

The woodworker’s first impulse is usually to use a fine toothed plywood blade of 80-90 teeth. It sort of makes sense; sheet plastics are often brittle, and we want the blade to cut with a minimum chance for chipping, so more teeth would seem to be the right choice. What is generally not understood is that heat is a far more important factor than impact stress in achieving a clean cut in hard plastics. Put simply, the more teeth in contact with the plastic, the more friction is allowed to heat the kerf, and the more likely the material will melt rather than cut.

It seems counter-intuitive, but a 50-60 tooth high ATB combo blade is a far more effective tool for cutting hard sheet plastics. The sharp points of the teeth score and define the edges of the cut before removing the waste  and the large gullets between the teeth keep the kerf sides from overheating through friction. Your cut will be better. Try it and see for yourself.

For more information about blades and bits cutting plastics, sign up for Session MFG7; “Working Plastics in the Woodshop”.


Leaders: Are They Born or Made?

11. April 2018 10:31

By: Christine Correlli, President: Christine Correlli & Associates

Here's How You Can Tell If Someone is an Emerging Leader—and What You Should Be Doing to Help Him or Her Develop Into a Great One.

You face tough customers and fierce competition. That, of course, goes with the territory in almost every business.

However, you also face complex organizational challenges—challenges that can only be addressed on the strength of dynamic leadership. Not just leadership at the top, but leadership in every department. This holds true for both large corporations, mid-size, and even small businesses.

More so, these challenges demand that you also look to the development of leaders for the future. This is due to the fact that the challenges of today will continue into tomorrow and be joined by new challenges still to come.

Finding and cultivating these future leaders is thus an imperative. How will you go about it?

Where to Put Your Focus

The starting point is to take note of individuals who exhibit high potential for leadership. Unimportant is whether these individuals are performing highly in whatever role they happen now to occupy.

The reason it is a mistake to prize performance over potential is that some people who are exceptionally competent at their jobs lack what it takes be a great leader. By elevating those who aren't cut out to be leaders, you risk the creation of department or companywide morale problems—and those can easily bring about a loss of productivity.

Consider this example. On the payroll of an average-sized company is a technician. Because he is the company’s best technician, it’s decided to promote him to the position of manager of the service department with the expectation that his excellent technical skills will translate into excellent leadership skills.

He eagerly and appreciatively accepts the new responsibility. However, in practically no time at all, it becomes evident that he is incapable of inspiring subordinates to act as a cohesive, functional, efficiency-driven, cost-conscious, innovation-minded team.

After a period of wishful waiting to give him a chance to “grow” into the role, top management finally realizes that pushing this technician to take on an assignment outside his area of expertise was a mistake. Now, someone in the company is going to have to play the “bad-guy” and remove an otherwise outstanding employee from his or her leadership post.

The job will go to someone else, but whoever gets it will be nervous about stepping into the shoes of a coworker who vacated not due to promotion but, rather, to demotion.

Additionally, the tech who lost the position will almost certainly be disgruntled, having suffered the indignity of being branded a failure. How much contagious bitterness he will spread throughout the company in the weeks and months ahead is difficult to predict. But spread it will, and almost surely to the detriment of the company—perhaps even to the extent of unsettling a number of loyal customers and reliable suppliers.

The corollary of this example is the employee who excels in his job but has no desire to be a leader. He’s promoted to that position regardless. A born follower at heart, he has no clue what to do with the leadership mantle thrust upon him. Things quickly unravel and, again, someone must act as the bad guy who brings news of demotion. Hard feelings surface and, once more, the company is in trouble.

Moral of these two stories: it is vitally important that you identify the right people for leadership roles—individuals who demonstrate actual potential to serve in that capacity.

Finding Employees with Leadership Potential

Here is a list of questions you should be asking yourself as you scout for individuals with the makings to become an outstanding leader. Does this person:

  • Demonstrate initiative beyond the current job position?
  • Proactively offer ideas and potential solutions to problems (thereby showing he or she is invested in the company’s success)?
  • Demonstrate accountability?
  • Possess interpersonal skills and work well with others?
  • “Make things happen” by being proactive instead of reactive?
  • Bend over backward to help customers and team members?
  • Exhibit unflinching reliability?
  • Think the same way you do when it comes to decision-making?
  • Motivate and influence others?
  • Appear capable of evolving into a strategic leader?
  • Express interest in developing or improving upon leadership and management skills?
  • Seem eager to take on more responsibility?
  • (Most importantly) Communicate clearly and concisely?

Your goal in asking these questions is to select as candidates for leadership development those individuals most likely to deliver results.

In the course of conducting your talent search, keep in mind that no rule requires you to only consider employees under the age of 40.  You’ll find great potential leaders among the ranks of your Millennial employees, yes. But you’ll also find worthy candidates among the gray-haired set. Always remember that the older employee who is intimately familiar with your processes, procedures, structure, culture, and perhaps even your customers may turn out to be an ideal individual to train for a leadership role.

Also, do not overlook the significance of America being a multicultural, multiethnic society—a fact duly acknowledged by federal and state Equal Opportunity laws which encourage you to strive for the most diverse workforce possible. So be sure to give minority employees careful consideration as potential leaders. Women also bring unique qualities and perspectives to the leadership table and, as well, enhance your ability to attract, hire, and retain top talent at all levels.

Women tend to excel in developing their teams. They also tend be servant leaders who believe their purpose is to serve those they lead, bring out the best in them, and help them to excel in all they do. They also encourage collaboration.

Beginning the Process of Leadership Development

Now that you have identified potential and emerging leaders among your employees, it is time to prepare them for positions at the top.

The process of developing a leader involves 10 steps. Happily, these steps are simple.

  1. Bring your emerging leaders together so that they can learn from one another. Invite them to jointly explore new ways of doing business, innovate better ways of conducting existing operations, cultivate stronger management/employee relationships, and strive to deliver highest quality service to customers, to the other members of the team, and to you. Challenge them to come up with approaches that can be adopted company wide to better support your sales team.
  1. Provide ongoing, repetitious training. The “one and done” approach to leadership training won’t cut it. The most effective way to provide training that continuously covers familiar ground (in order to hammer home the business concepts every effective leader must possess) is to offer instruction that has practical application to your leadership trainees’ day-to-day activities. The result of this training should be competency in each of these areas:
  • Strategic thinking
  • Effective decision-making
  • Managing and motivating employees
  • Change Management
  • Accountability
  • Culture transformation
  • Customer-service excellence
  • Conflict management
  • Execution
  • Communication Skills
  • Any additional training relevant to your company
  1. Send your leadership trainees to IWF Atlanta to see the latest technology and equipment and participate in the educational sessions.
  1. Send female leaders and emerging leaders to a “Women’s Leadership Event” or training program. You could also follow the example of smart companies that have benefited greatly by implementing in-house women’s leadership development programs or, put together one of your own.
  1. Designate a seat at your executive meetings to be filled by an emerging leader. If you have more than one emerging leader in your stable, allow them to sit in on a rotating basis—welcome a different emerging leader each time the top executives meet.
  1. Request that each emerging leader’s supervisor monitor his or her progress, and update you on it at regular intervals. Make the same request to your HR department.
  1. Instruct your emerging leaders to communicate with one another often in order to share their challenges and be able to help each other.
  1. Assign to your emerging leaders the responsibility for devising viable solutions to one or more of the company’s most pressing problems. When you do, you will be amazed at the results.
  1. Set up shadowing. Have your emerging leaders spend a full day tagging along with an executive to see up close exactly what he or she does to contribute to company success. Have them shadow other key individuals as well.
  1. Welcome your emerging leaders into your meetings. Solicit their thoughts about the hits, runs, and misses of the previous week. Encourage them to offer their views about what they might have done differently during those last five business days to achieve greater success.

One final point. If your company is family owned and you’ll one day be passing the baton to a son, daughter, grandchild, or other relative, be sure to have in place a succession plan that includes the 10 leadership development steps listed above. Your heir apparent needs to be fully ready, willing, and able to step into your shoes and carry your legacy forward. Leadership development of family members is a matter you cannot ignore.

It has been argued that great leaders are born, not made. But that is incorrect. Because even natural-born leaders must be trained before they can successfully occupy the big office or be in front of a counter.  You owe it to your company—and to yourself—to properly and completely train individuals who are legitimately suited to become leaders. Otherwise, you may be doing nothing more than courting disaster.

To learn more about this topic, check out the "Are You a Boss? Or a Leader?" session at the IWF 2018 Education Conference.

© 2018, Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc. Christine Corelli has had a distinguished 25 year career as an international keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and business columnist. She has authored six books, including the best-selling, Wake Up and Smell the Competition - now in it’s fifth edition.  Corelli’s clients are characterized by Fortune 500 companies, major trade associations, and an abundance of mid-size and small companies. To learn more visit - To contact her for an upcoming meeting or event, call (847) 477-7376.




Buying that big machine

11. April 2018 10:21

by Matt Krig - Northland Woodoworks

Congratulations! You made the decision to buy a new machine and have taken an important first step. However, regardless of whether you are upgrading existing equipment or venturing for the first time in the world of automation, there are several things you need to consider.

Do your research.

Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions, repeat. Don’t ask your machinery sales rep, either; ask your peers. I am a member of the Cabinet Makers Association, and they are a great resource, including an online forum which is invaluable for these types of questions. Whatever you do, seek out people who have been there and done that. They may tell you what not to do, which sometimes is more meaningful than being told what you need to do.

Buy more than you need.

It’s important to plan for the future when you make this type of capital investment. You want your business to grow – that’s why you are buying the machine in the first place.  If that’s the case, then you should buy more machine that you currently need.  Obtaining additional horsepower now will save you the trouble of going through this process again in a few years.

Know the ancillary costs.

Your total spend will be a lot more than the sticker price of the machine and the install. During your research, find out what other costs are involved. This includes power requirements, air, dust, software, etc. The unexpected may still occur, but you can minimize the stress by preparing in advance.

Be prepared for downtime.

The install will take longer than promised. That’s a guarantee. Prepare for the worst case scenario, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Admittedly there will be delays, but you still need to keep your production going. If you are upgrading existing equipment, do not sell that machine until you are fully operational (for some time) with the new one. If you are buying your first machine, continue to produce as you have been, even though it may be slower than what you want to do with the new machine. Accomplishing some work is faster than not getting anything done.

Take advantage of training.

Be sure to do the necessary training to operate the machine, and document it. The idea is that you can then train others.  You only need one slot in the class, but then you can share what you learned with others in your company who will run the machine now or later. Also, if there are training updates, take advantage of those too. Incremental changes can really impact the machine’s efficiency, and you want to get the most bang for your buck.

Schedule preventive maintenance.

You can’t afford downtime, so arrange for preventive maintenance right way. Schedule when it’s convenient for you, instead of in a crisis when the machine goes down in the middle of an important project.  A small interruption now will save you a ton of time and money later.

To learn more, attend the IWF seminar “Buying that Big Machine”.  The session is presented by a panel of shop owners, including myself, who have been through this process and want to share with others what they learned and what they wish they had known.


The Art of Pricing Profitably

9. April 2018 13:35

By: Bobbo Buckley, Software Developer: Cabinotch Innovative Solutions

We will be hosting a program at the IWF Education Conference that is all about the mechanics of your estimating system, what you do with your costs. How to take those costs and apply them to what will become your Estimate, and ultimately your Proposal (and we will spend time distinguishing between an Estimate and a Proposal).

We will cover in detail the principles used in the design of an Estimating Software program I have been a part of since 1999, principles I believe help cabinetmakers sleep well the night after providing highly difficult or complex estimates. Principles that help take your costs and build upon them to provide an Estimate that carries a level of detail that requires no supporting drawings for the vast majority of projects.

As mentioned earlier, Estimates are the gateway to revenue and profits, so we need to be acutely aware that we do not provide Estimates for the sake of providing Estimates, but to win projects. We will spend the last portion of our time together talking about just that, how our Estimates, and our presentation of those Estimates can be an integral part of our sales and marketing program.

To learn more about this topic, check out the The Art of Pricing Profitably at IWF 2018.


Having trouble finding skilled woodworkers?

9. April 2018 12:51

By: Glenn Koerner, Fox Valley Technical College

Currently, in your woodworking shop, is 50% of your workforce 10 or fewer years away from retirement? 15 years from retirement? Are your shop workers burned out from working ridiculous amounts of overtime because you cannot find enough help to keep up with customer orders? You are certainly not alone if you answered yes to any or all these questions.

Locating and attracting young, skilled woodworkers is a daunting task these days. Gone are the days of simply calling up your local tech school woodworking instructor and asking him or her to send over the “best guy”.

We have put together some strategies that will potentially make it easier for you to obtain these illusive new employees. Some of the suggestions may be easy, while others may be a bit painful. Nonetheless, you need to do something to ensure your labor force is strong enough to support your business currently and in the future.

Come learn more about these strategies at the “How to Develop a Relationship with Local Educational Facilities for Potential Employees” session happening on Wednesday, August 22tnd, from 11:00am -12:30pm.

Come learn more about this topic during the "How to Develop a Relationship with Local Educational Facilities for Potential Employees"session at the IWF Education Conference.


Make your machine work for you

5. April 2018 15:44

By Leland Thomasset, Taghkanic Woodworking


If you have a nested-based CNC and you're simply using it to make cabinet parts, you’re leaving money on the table. You should be utilizing your machines in unique ways, so that it becomes a profit center.

Consider your CNC as another employee in your shop.  As an employee, the machine needs to contribute to your bottom line. If your employees simply did the job that was required, would you give them a raise or promote them?  Would you even keep them? We all want employees that go above and beyond what we ask them to do, but why would we accept status quo from our CNC?

Start by thinking outside the box – quite literally, the cabinet box, that is. To create more than just typical cabinet parts, you need simplified processes to get more out of your CNC router. By doing other types of projects, you keep your CNC busy throughout the day instead of just when you need the parts cut for the cabinets.  By fully employing your machine, you can secure additional projects that are difficult for others to do. With a little ingenuity and input from others, they will be easy for you to do on your CNC.

When you start working on projects that are not simply flat sheets, you will need to come up with a solution for workpiece holding. For nested-based machines, it’s typical to use a vacuum table to hold materials in place. For smaller parts or mirrored machining, some fixtures have the part screwed from behind. As a suggestion, though, create a pocket in a secondary sheet of material to hold the part precisely where it belongs. For example, if you have a sign that you need to machine and you think the vacuum will not hold it, then you could put a piece of material on the table and make a cut-out for the part to nest into. Then, you place the part into this cut-out. When you do this, you know your part is precisely where it is supposed to be in relation to the work that needs to be cut into it.

Inventive ideas like this will help your CNC do more, be more efficient, and make additional revenue. To learn more, attend “Boundary-pushing with your CNC” during IWF to learn tips and tricks from myself and two other veteran CNC owners.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Boundry - Pushing with Your Nested - Based Router" session at the IWF Education Conference.


Growing into Automation

5. April 2018 15:33

By John Park - SCM Group USA

You know you should become more automated, but you’re not sure how to do it. The first step should be to build in manual processes that will be automated over time as the organization learns to deal with automation.

Automation and robotics are changing our industry. All companies, regardless of size, are constantly faced with the need to increase efficiencies while closely managing expenses. It’s no secret that if you continually improve processes, then you can create better products and ultimately move your business forward.

“My CNC is my best employee” 

Although at first this statement may seem to be in jest, yet in reality it’s the absolute truth. Machines are efficient and they show up every day to get the job done.

So can automation fill the skills gap? It’s certainly a reasonable option. Automation can also help to improve innovation, create better jobs for existing employees, and meet market demands in the woodworking industry – even for small shops.

Many of the production jobs in cabinet shops can be monotonous or temporary due to the seasonality of customer demand. Because of this, it is a struggle with employee turnover and finding workers who are willing to simply pick up and put down parts all day long. Instead, with automation, you can focus on recruiting workers for advanced skills, such as cognitive jobs that leverage technology on the shop floor and offer career advancement opportunities.

Whether you embrace the idea or stand adamantly against it, there's no denying the widespread integration of robots is already happening. Although for now, robots are stuck with the monotonous, mundane jobs skilled human workers would rather not do.

Embracing the movement and working in tandem with technology is necessary to uncover the true potential of next-gen robotics and to determine the exact role humans will play in automated manufacturing.

Come learn more about this topic at the "Robots in the Small to Medium-Sized Shop" session at the IWF Education Conference.


Let’s Make Urban Wood a Household Name

4. April 2018 14:41

By Jennifer Alger, CEO

Far West Forest Products

The terms urban lumber, salvaged logs and reclaimed or recycled wood often get used interchangeably. While all of these terms are about repurposing wood and keeping it out of the waste stream, in mind there are some important distinctions to their meanings and thus how they should be used.

Urban Lumber is the lumber sawn from trees that have come down in storms or were removed for any reason from your city neighborhoods, yards, parks and streets. This is the wood that traditionally would have gone to your local landfill, cut into firewood or fed into the chipper. By purchasing urban lumber or products made from urban lumber, you help extend the lifecycle of your local community trees. Urban Lumber also fits into the salvaged category as well.

Salvaged logs are wood that has not been previously sawn into lumber and is typically still in log form when we acquire it. Many of our salvage logs are windfalls – literally trees that came down in a storm. Utilizing these logs for lumber allows us to extend the lifecycle of the tree. This is how we get much of our old-growth material. Salvaged logs can come from an urban setting and fit into the urban lumber category, or they can be from forests as well. Essentially these are any logs from trees that were not felled for their timber value.

Reclaimed or recycled wood is wood that has previously been sawn into lumber and used in the construction of buildings, bridges, water-tanks or other structures. Reclaimed wood has been removed during some type of a demolition project and instead of going to the landfills, its lifecycle has been extended by recycling it and preparing it to be used again.

Why Buy Urban, Salvaged or Reclaimed Wood Products?
In the late ’90s, it was estimated that 3.8 million tons of solid wood waste was going into California’s landfills each year. This dramatic number just show what was happening in our area; there was a similar situation around the U.S. when there was an incredible amount of exotic wood being imported. We are not advocating that you should stop using imported woods. In fact, we may even carry some of them. But we do believe that we can better utilize the woods that are right here in our local communities. In many cases they are every bit as beautiful as the treasured exotics from around the world with their burl, figure, spalting or other character features.

By turning logs into lumber instead of material left to rot in a landfill, you essentially stop the decomposition process and sequester the carbon. In addition, by purchasing and using local trees the carbon used to transport the exotics from overseas is lessened. Couple all that with the fact that most urban wood in the U.S. is milled on portable thin kerf band-saws such as a Wood-Mizer, that consume an extremely low amount of energy, and you really take a big whack at lowering the overall carbon footprint by utilizing urban wood.

We at Far West Forest Products encourage you to take a look at urban wood as your first option. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for the local economy, and it’s Beautiful!

Not only that, where else can you get a one-of-a-kind piece of wood or lumber that no one else has with which to build your next family heirloom. The urban wood industry is utilizing woods that are typically not used as lumber because there aren’t enough of them to create a commercial market for the larger mills.

Why I’m a Proponent of a Market-Driven Solution
I believe that collectively our urban products will be more affordable and more sustainable if the industry grows through market-driven solutions as opposed to legislative action. Although I’m very passionate about using urban products whenever possible, I fear that legislating it could complicate the process to the extent that the average sawyer and lumber producer either couldn’t afford to do it or wouldn’t want to deal with the paperwork that comes when the government gets too involved in an industry. This in turn would drive up the price of urban wood products as well as potentially decrease the supply. The industry has to be viable economically for the tree service company, the sawyer, and the consumer in order for it to be sustainable.

I would prefer that local governments get behind and support (as Cal Fire’s Urban Forestry division in California has), but not necessarily legislate the urban wood industry with cumbersome red tape. I believe that if we can educate the consumer and keep it affordable, they will choose urban wood products based upon environmental, economic, emotional and aesthetic reasons.

Let’s work together to make urban lumber and urban wood household names and go-to products for every wood products consumer in America.

Come learn more about this topic at the "The Urban Wood Revolution is NOW! Come Join the Movement" session at the IWF Education Conference.