College of Woodworking Knowledge returns to AWFS

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Employee development and retention, making the most of social media, expert bidding advice and business strategies for growth in the new economy are among the topics that highlight the AWFS fair's College of Woodworking Knowledge business management track.

The track begins July 19 with an all-day seminar. Brian Swanson, director of operations and enterprise excellence at NACS Inc., a manufacturer of custom machinery and automation, will lead the "Lean Manufacturing: Hands-On Simulation Workshop" from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Split into competing companies, participants will work on a simulated manufacturing floor, building product during four business cycles. At the end of each cycle, the teams will evaluate their net margin via a profits-and-loss statement and gain firsthand experience during the transition from a traditional to a lean manufacturing environment.

This workshop was also conducted at the 2009 AWFS fair and earned a perfect score, based on feedback from attendees.

The rest of the business management track schedule is as follows:

July 20

9 to 10:30 a.m.: Wednesday's first session will cover "Becoming the Next Generation Manufacturer," presented by Zenagui Brahim of the New Hampshire Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

It will be based on the results and strategies from the 2009 Next Generation Manufacturing Study conducted of 2,500 U.S. manufacturers by the Manufacturing Performance Institute for the American Small Manufacturers Coalition. The study refers to a framework that will drive manufacturing growth in the 21st century, based on world-class performance strategies.

"I hope the attendees will understand the six strategies to become the next-generation manufacturer. The world is changing and is becoming more and more competitive. The study has helped a lot of manufacturers take a look at it from a benchmarking point of view," says Brahim.

"Attendees will also have the opportunity to talk about how to address, as manufacturers, the six strategies so they can perform better. What are the areas manufacturers are looking into and how they're trying to help themselves to become more competitive, while hopefully getting closer to, or at, a world-class level."

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Tim Northup, corporate controller for Stiles Machinery, will present Wednesday's second session, "Arm Yourself with Financial Savvy," on financing options such as leasing, cash purchase and extended financing with an emphasis on leasing.

Northup will review the 2010 Tax Relief Act and how it can benefit the woodworking industry, including tax incentives, depreciation, write-offs, tax shelters and sections of the IRS tax code applicable to manufacturers such as Section 199 and the research-and-development credit of which not all accountants are aware.

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Brian Swanson of NACS Inc. returns with a 90-minute session, "Listening to Your Customer." Based on actual experience, Swanson will discuss tools and concepts to help manufacturers improve the way they do business through customer feedback.

July 21

9 to 11 a.m.: Sean Benetin, president of Millwork & Moore in Blairstown, N.J., opens Thursday's lineup with "Cost, Pricing & Profit: The Art of Bidding."

This two-hour session will focus on operational expenses as a base to bid projects for profitability. Benetin will share his Excel-based template for determining day-to-day expenses, including depreciation of assets, owner/operator value and supplies, calculating a true hourly rate and, most importantly, turning a profit.

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Thursday's second session, "Strengthening Your Workforce from Within," will be a panel discussion moderated by Phil Bibeau, executive director of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association.

Panelists will include Jeff Cronk, president of Lloyd's Custom Woodwork in Concord, Calif.; Jake Gieschen, owner of Jake's Custom Woodworks in Smithton, Mo.; and Brian Stowell, president of Crown Point Cabinetry in Claremont, N.H.

"They're going to share some of the things they are doing to remain as an employer of choice," says Bibeau. "Most companies have pared down their staffs to a skeleton crew. Everyone that I've spoken to has said 'If my key people leave, we're sunk because we don't have a lot of backup.' So we're going to look at how you can maintain your current people and bring up the skill level so you've got a good progression in case someone should leave.

"It's a diversified panel. I've done something similar to this for two years at IWF and it has drawn quite a few people. A lot of things that will be shared do not involve a lot of money."

1-2:30 p.m.: "Think Creatively! Business Strategies for an Evolving Market" follows, moderated by Steve Lawser, executive director of the Wood Components Manufacturers Association.

Panelists Sean Benetin; Kent Gilchrist, president of Fremont Interiors in Carmel, Ind., and Don Shultz, CEO of PremierGarage, based in Phoenix, will focus on revamping business models, cooperative solutions and marketing ideas to operate successfully in 2011 and beyond.

July 22

1-3 p.m.: Friday's session begins with "Profitable Growth through Innovation," presented by Rich Meyer of the Indiana Manufacturing Extension Partnership, based on the Eureka! Ranch business course.

"Companies that innovate are far more profitable than companies that don't," says Meyer. "I'll share basic principles as to how to innovate. The keys to successful innovation include outside stimulus, diversity of the group working on the innovation and driving out fear in the process.

"We'll also talk about important concepts for taking a new innovative product or service to market," says Meyer. "We'll do some exercises to help illustrate the importance of the concepts discussed. We'll help a fictional company develop a new product and marketing message."

3:30-5 p.m.: The business management track concludes with "Social Media Boot Camp: A How-to Guide for Woodworking Professionals" on Friday afternoon, presented by Jacquelyn Clair of the Marketing Design Group.

"I will offer step-by-step instructions on how to harness the power of the social web to attract customers, build better business relationships, generate leads, recruit talent and stay relevant with your audience. The introductory session will teach the basic principles of social media and how it will fundamentally transform the future of your business. I will also provide the tools and best practices for developing, executing and maintaining an effective social media strategy," says Clair.

"Attendees will get a brief overview of the social media landscape and how it's transforming the way information is consumed and what it means for their business. I'll then walk them through the strategic planning process that includes outlining goals and objectives, identifying one's target audience and selecting metrics to measure success.  Once the strategy is in place, I will help attendees with the tactics to ensure objectives are met, results are maximized and their audience is fully engaged. This includes listening strategies, content management and community engagement, tools for efficient execution and measurement as well as promotion. Attendees will leave with tangible, actionable information that they can take back to their shop and incorporate into their promotional strategy."

For the complete College of Woodworking Knowledge schedule and registration information, visithttp://awfsfair.org/education/full-cwwk-program.

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