Showing posts from July, 2012

The Forgotten Art of Customer Service

In these days of consumer confidence near historical lows, it's tougher than ever to get potential customers to make that purchase. The one area where consumer sales are still brisk is online sales, where the shopping experience is highly personalized - one can get on and make a purchase in seconds, or browse and compare items for hours in privacy...and then make the purchase in seconds with a simple click, click, click.

But fortunately for us (or perhaps, unfortunately) most wooden and home improvement items don't fit well with the online sales model. Most folks want to sit in a chair, or swing the doors on a set of cabinets, or walk on a floor sample in a showroom before they're sure that it's exactly what they want. After all, you're spending real money, not $14.95 for a paperback novel (or $8.95 for its electronic version).

Which is why The Wife and I headed out for a day of shopping together this weekend. We had some vague ideas of improving the entry way in o…

Housing Starts, Banks Sending Misleading Signals on the Economy

We're all looking for some good news out there. So sometimes we see it where it ain't. A colleague of mine sent me this article authored by no less than the famous Jim Cramer of CNBC.
An astounding read on housingA report from Wells Fargo reveals a booming mortgage business -- and a U.S. economy in fine shape.By Jim Cramer Mon 9:22 AM If you took the time out to read the report of Wells Fargo (WFC -0.72%) -- and, believe me, there was time to do it -- you would have been pretty much stunned at how much business it's doing and at how strong the mortgage business is in the U.S. Put the following facts in perspective from a company that has more than 30% of the mortgage market in this country.Mortgage business revenue was up 90% from a year earlier and 11% from the prior quarter.Revenue from refinancing was up more than $19 billion, or 43%, from the first quarter, "indicating continued strength in the overall housing market, where we see increases in sales and pricing…

Woodworking in 2012 - New Zealand Pine

Another excellent look at the modern wood industry. This one is a video from the New Zealand Pine Manufacturers Association, and it displays many of the same messages of the Holzindustrie Scheighofer video shared in the last post: sustainable harvest, processing efficiency, and response to markets. Especially interesting is the segment showing the value-added processing being done in Korea, and the pine-home construction in Japan.

I did a double-take on one line in the video: "Their [New Zealand wood products] distribution to market is frequent and quick, thanks to New Zealand's relatively central geographic location, and world-class shipping infrastructure."

Relatively central geographic location? Relative to what, Antarctica?

But that the good folks of the NZPMA could even claim this with a straight face is a testament to the fact that modern logistics is no longer a constraint on the world's economy, but an enabler of it. Something we here in the U.S. need to take…

Woodworking in 2012 - Holzindustrie Schweighofer

In contrast to the old-time woodworking of the last couple of posts, I thought you might enjoy seeing what state-of-the-art wood manufacturing is like these days. If you're not familiar with modern, profitable operations, you might be surprised. They're not:

dirtywastefulexploitative of the resourcemanual labor intensiveor politically incorrect as those old movies seem to portray. Rather, the best companies these days build on a foundation of sustainable harvest, efficient processing, and responsive marketing.
You'll see all three in the following corporate video by Holzindustrie Schweighofer, a great and profitable Austrian company that owns and operates several businesses in Europe. This is what a wood company should look like in this day and age. Be sure to notice that they are sorting logs by diameter prior to sending them into the sawmill...this increases efficiency and speed of processing, all the way through to final shipment of the lumber product.

This type of manag…

Bruce Scholnick - A leader for the times

A leader in the pallet industry passed today.
"Bruce N. Scholnick, who has led the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) as its president and CEO through a number of dynamic industry shifts, died of cancer at his home in Alexandria, Va., July 9.Bruce devoted his considerable energy and astute mind to the wood packaging industry from the moment he joined it in May 2000. His task-focused approach was at first misinterpreted as impersonal, but members soon recognized that what was driving Bruce was a passion for assuring their sustained success and that of the industry. His mission was to “help our members make and/or save money” in every program and activity he pursued.Bruce was a warrior on Capitol Hill and with Washington regulators when proposed rules threatened the industry. His tenacious dedication in all he did earned him the respect and affection of NWPCA members.Prior to his years at NWPCA, Bruce was Division Vice President of Member Services & Product…

"The Wooden Wonder" - The de Havilland Mosquito Bomber

The narrator in the video of the last post conveyed the attitude that woodworkers of the WWII era pretty much felt that they could build anything of wood. We've already seen that they accomplished this on the seas with the wooden patrol torpedo boats; but like on the seas, battle in the air had evolved to steel and aluminum-alloy duralumin as early as the end of World War I. However, shortages of these metals forced aircraft designers to meet the high replacement rate of fighting aircraft with another type of raw material.

As it always seems, man turned back to wood. Aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland, who had been building aeroplanes since his youth in 1910 and so had experience with wood in flight, submitted a design to the British Air Ministry for a prototype light bomber that incredibly had more speed than the famous all-metal Supermarine Spitfire fighters that had won the Battle of Britain. Because of its light weight and handling characteristics, the prototype was event…

Woodworking in the 1940's

Independence Day holidays, in whatever country they occur, are frequently nostalgic occasions to look back on the greatness of a county's past. And while we tend to reflect first on military histories, our independence is linked as strongly to our accomplishments in industry and application of our common work ethic. Here's a great old video about woodworking as it was conducted in the 1940's. As you watch the film, you'll notice how much woodworking processes, and the labor they required, have changed in the past 70 years. But as you do so, listen to the narrator's comments on the challenges in the industry, and you may notice that in many ways, the wood industry still faces the same challenges...employee development and availability, response to market preferences and demands, and technology advances.

In the next post, I'll share with you one of the great products produced in this era by wood workers and designers.

Tip AmountOption 1 $2.00 USDOption 2 $4.00 U…