It’s no secret that North American woodworkers have been slow adopters of technology in their production and design processes. However, I witnessed a change of attitude after the latest recession. So many companies reduced their workforce by double digit percentages that they were reluctant to hire new workers to handle increased orders when the economy improved. As a result, woodworking companies finally began automating their plants. Now, equipment suppliers and software companies are seeing steady rises in orders and business is humming.
What’s really helped the typical woodworking manager accept the latest in technology is product innovation. Software and equipment suppliers recognise that the woodworking industry is predominantly populated by small companies. These suppliers know there is a large market for lower cost options for small companies to help them automate their processes. Newer CNC machining centres can now do multiple tasks in small batches which make them attractive to custom wood products manufacturers.
Not only is the small cabinet shop looking at CNC, but they are also using software for design, drawing capabilities, 3D renderings, cut lists, reports and also pricing and bidding. Design software programs incorporate suppliers’ catalogues to allow for drag and drop elements into project drawings, and they allow for tooling options and product labelling.
Lean manufacturing and Industry 4.0 are buzzwords we often hear in manufacturing. However, it was believed these concepts only applied to large production manufacturers. It is good to see the smaller wood products manufacturers embracing technology and upgrading their processes, whether their operations are custom, semi-custom or production.
Custom Media Director
Laurel Didier is the Director of Custom Media of Woodworking Network and the Publisher of Closets and Organized Storage Magazine. Woodworking Network is a product of CCI Media. Laurel has more than 30 years experience in the secondary North American wood products industry. She has traveled around the world to various trade shows and events to gain insight on the latest trends and emerging technologies affecting the industry. Laurel recently relocated from Chicago to Phoenix where she enjoys the warm sunny climate and lounging by the pool with her fur babies.