Volume 45, Issue 9 - November/December  2006

Happy Trails
AMD Ropes Up and Wrestles Down Another One

by Drew Vass

On Sunday, October 15, 2006, more than 65,000 wide-eyed, excited faces pour into Dallas, filled with anticipation. There’s cheering, shouting, face-painting and endless camera flashes, as hearts pound and adrenaline begins to pump. More than 115 hard working, dedicated professionals look forward to exhibiting their talents before a sold out Texas crowd …

Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about the Houston Texans versus the Dallas Cowboys game that took place in Texas Stadium. Who in their right mind would come to Texas and miss an event like this? Two NFL interstate rivals going helmet-to-helmet in the “Big T?” The answer is — anyone with the word “millwork” appearing anywhere on their resume. For these people, there’s no question about it – the 42nd Annual Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) Convention at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, was the right place to be.

Well, there may not have been any face-painting or world-famous Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but more than 150 exhibitors were every bit as anxious, as they anticipated the grand opening at the exhibit hall on Monday at noon. 

An AMD board of directors meeting was held Saturday at 9 a.m., followed by a golf tournament at Cowboys Golf Course, which served as the event kickoff. 

School is in Session
At the request of its members, AMD assembled a full line up of industry professionals to present topics like: warehouse management systems, workforce demographics, industry codes and standards, emerging foreign millwork suppliers, lean manufacturing and a robust remodeling market.

Get with the Program
Sunday morning, presenters faced a room full of attendees for the opening educational session: Conquering Warehouse Challenges with Real-Time Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). 

Dave Wratkowski, controller of J. B. O’Meara of Burnsville, Minn., served as opening speaker and explained the benefits, if not necessity, of using a warehouse management system (WMS).

He began by explaining the preparations necessary for implementing a WMS and urged close consideration of physical layout: racking and aisles, position of printers, bin ranking and numbering, and bar coding. Then he explained how to evaluate system infrastructure by estimating the number of users, identifying potential bottlenecks, purchasing scanners and the appropriate number of licenses, and considering a contingency plan for power outages. 

Simon Sikora, controller of Bridgewater Wholesalers of Branchburg, N.J., complimented Wratkowski’s advice by urging companies to inform its employees ahead of time with the “what’s” and “why’s” and make them a part of the process from the beginning. 

All of the panelists seemed to agree about the core benefits of a WMS: increased productivity, sales and customer satisfaction; improved order accuracy and product measurements; more accurate receiving with higher volume potential; easy and accurate picking; improved damage and inter-company/branch transfers; decreased training time for new employees; reduced payroll and operational costs; and a more organized approach to business overall.

Sikora said his company’s productivity and sales were: “up 20-percent, while hours worked were only up 5-percent.” He further added that, “Receiving no longer involves tripping over one another.” 

The third speaker, Ed Detmer, vice president of corporate development for Reeb Millwork in Bethlehem, Pa., cited a 16-percent increase in his company’s sales within the first year, a 17-percent improvement in operating labor efficiency, an increase from five percent to 99-percent in order fulfillment, and an 11-percent increase in office labor efficiency. He said Reeb’s office handles about 25-percent more calls with the same number of people.

Greg Libby, systems quality control manager, Brockway-Smith of Andover, Mass., boasted that a WMS increased confidence levels in general. 

“It forces the entire company to improve,” he said. “As you fix problems that come up, you re-examine how you do business,” he added. 

The overall message was abundantly clear – if you aren’t using a WMS, get with the program.

Comb-Overs to Computers
AMD’s second educational session was on the topic of Managing Change: Understanding the Demographics of the Evolving Workforce, presented by Marilyn Moats-Kennedy, a management consultant for Moats-Kennedy Inc.

She captivated a packed audience with her extensive knowledge of this subject. The hall was frequently filled with chuckling and laughter, as she skillfully delivered a message filled with wit and humor. 

“Every year you are older or doing the dirt nap,” she said, as she introduced the topic of an aging workforce. Then, she explained each generation’s characteristics and provided insights for effectively bringing people into the workplace, keeping them and tying them together.

While she covered each generation from 1934 to 1988, there was a particular focus on “Boomers,” born from 1946 to 1968 and “Busters,” born from 1969 to 1978. According to Moats-Kennedy, “Boomers” make up an astonishing 40-percent of the population and 37-percent of the workforce, while the following generation (spanning from 1960 to 1968 and labeled “Cuspers”) represents a 40-percent drop in the birth rate, clocking in at 11 percent of the total population. “Busters,” she said, “Were the tenth generation to come of age” and “saw one parent laid off,” she added. According to her, this may explain their lack of loyalty and a tendency to move around rather than up. This generation makes up 20-percent of the total population and 18-percent of the workforce. Making up a combined 55-percent of the total workforce, there was a particular focus on “Boomers” and “Busters” and how to bridge these two generations.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Boomers were described as a money- and work ethic-focused generation, that puts work first, expects to lead, shows loyalty to their employers, cares deeply about what others think, wants others to work with them and understands a chain of command, but … is technically challenged. 

“Busters” were described as a generation that focuses on principle and satisfaction, puts lifestyle first, does not feel the need to lead, is loyal to skills, could care less what people think, prefers to work alone, always puts the individual first and … is technically savvy.

Her suggestions? “If you can’t keep Boomers in the workplace three years longer, you’ll be there alone,” she said. 

As to how you should go about keeping them, she suggested offering a 30-hour work week, providing continuing education on the Internet and having “Busters” mentor “Boomers” on the computer. 

To keep the “Busters,” she advised offering flexible work schedules that will accommodate travel and leisure. She also suggested incorporating an episodic work schedule—for instance, three months on and three months off, and further advised employees to, “give up the forever mentality,” because, according to her, employees are no longer interested in staying with one company forever. In spite of their demanding characteristics and lack of loyalty, Moats-Kennedy said that “Busters” are well worth employing.

All Rise …
Update on Codes and Standards: Is Your Company Up to Speed? — proved to be one of the more popular educational sessions. Speaker Sarah Rice, C.B.O. of Schirmer Engineering, spoke, along with members of the association’s certification task group. The primary topic of discussion was door and window regulations. Rice explained that there were no code changes that would alter door and window regulations after the 2006 International Code Council hearings, but the 2009 International Building Code process has already begun.

She advised attendees they will begin to see door and window regulations in the next ten years pertaining to air (high velocity winds), water and structure, and cited insurance companies as the driving factor. She said Florida, specifically, is heightening its level of requirements for exterior doors. “You will start to see more test data requirements,” she warned, then queried the audience, “Is there an outcry from distributors to give test data?” The answer from the audience: “No.”

According to Rice, there is no consensus on how to test component-based door systems when it comes to exterior side-hinged door standards. She said sliding doors are required to show test data for air, water and structural, as a matter of choice, not mandate.

Rice expects mandatory test requirements and labeling regulations in the future. She also reminded attendees that with the North American Fenestration Standard (NAFS), a distributor is considered a manufacturer by definition if they pre-hang doors.

Rice paused to recognize a representative of the Window and Door Manufacturers’ Association (WDMA), Rick Perry, then explained the value of cross-talk and cooperation between associations. She said AMD, the American Architectural Manufacturers’ Association (AAMA) and WDMA all agree that structural performance is the only characteristic that can be demonstrated in component-based door systems at this time. Furthermore, there is a general concern regarding coordination of performance values between various types of doors, as minimum performance values are based upon steel doors only.

Around the Globe in 60 Minutes
At a Global-ization of the U.S. Moulding and Millwork Market session, the predominant topic was: China, China and China. Speaker Russell Taylor of International Wood Markets Group Inc., in Vancouver, British Columbia, provided an overview of southern hemisphere, Canadian, New Zealand, Russian and other foreign providers, but the audience interest was clearly focused on China.

Taylor pointed to strengthening foreign currencies, gross domestic product and interest rate policies as primary U.S. economic factors impacting offshore suppliers. He pointed out that, since 2001, the currencies of most wood supplying countries have strengthened against the U.S. dollar. He cited new housing starts, repairs and remodeling, and other equipment manufacturers as key factors impacting moulding and millwork demands and offshore and domestic suppliers. While a decrease in housing starts will clearly impact demands, he pointed out a growing trend in increased ceiling heights – saying that more than 50-percent of first floor ceilings and 25-percent of second floor ceilings are 9-feet or higher, requiring more linear feet of mouldings and millwork than common 8-foot ceilings. 

A graph of U.S. wood product imports from China showed a continually steep climb from 1996 to the present and a caption exclaimed, “Exports of non-furniture wood products are just starting to get rolling!” 

He pointed out that China’s wages equal approximately 50-cents U.S. per hour, or $100 monthly. “At that rate,” he said, “35 to 50 Chinese equals one U.S. or Canadian worker.”

In addition to the growing strengths of China’s export market, Taylor pointed out some of the constraints its industry faces: increasing difficulty sourcing competitively-priced raw materials; increased energy, transportation and labor costs; competition with Vietnam, lack of high-level management expertise, branding and innovative designs; and other specific constraints by sector. 

He said that China is also one of the fastest growing importing countries, mainly in logs and industrial lumber for domestic processing. While, he said, “it will continue to be the world’s engine of production for a variety of commodity and value-added products,” he seemed to speculate that many of its tactics and environmental issues will eventually present serious problems.

Use the Force
In an Introduction to Lean Manufacturing, presenter Joe Beckett, director of client development for Lean Advisors Inc., provided attendees with insights into trimming the “fat” out of their businesses. He introduced “lean” as “a way of life” and a simple strategy aimed at eliminating waste, variation and work imbalance.

Beckett defined waste as, “any activity that consumes time, space or resources, [but] does not add value to the product, service or other deliverable as viewed from the perspective of the external customer.” According to Beckett, the real challenge isn’t recognizing waste, but knowing how to remove it properly.

He said by implementing five key principals: specifying value, mapping the flow of value, making value flow, pulling from the customer and seeking perfection, companies can cut lead time, cost, labor requirements, space, inventory and defects. He detailed each principal with real life applications and illustrated result measurements taken from a millwork client. Among the results were: a 35-percent increase in throughput, a 22-percent improvement in efficiency, 78-percent lead-time improvement, a 50-percent reduction in lost-time accidents and a 25-percent reduction in rework.

Beckett warned that, in order to implement the lean philosophy, “organizations must be willing to change.” He explained that, while many companies “do” lean, they don’t “become” lean, because, while many believe in lean, they simply aren’t willing to learn.

A Hot-Button Market
Ron Spink presented an overview of the remodeling market and its potential growth, then joined in two local remodelers to provide insights for dealers on how they can target this niche. Spink pointed out a growth in total existing and aging U.S. housing stocks as a predominant factor in a strong remodeling market. 

A graph illustrating how improvement-spending increases with a home’s age showed a spike around the 30-year mark and a steady ascension from 39 years onward.

He also reported a staggering increase from $4.0 trillion in 1995 to $11.2 trillion in 2005 in total home equity and pointed out that 78-percent of all home improvements are handled by professional remodelers. To wrap up the session, he introduced Texas remodeling contractors: Bill Salese and George Lewis (president of the Texas Home Builder’s Association).

Salese and Lewis explained why remodeling is, and according to them always has been, a steady market, then spelled out how distributors and dealers could appeal to remodeling contractors through their “hot-buttons” and expectations. They explained why remodeling requires a higher level of sales expertise and how getting measurements right the first time and punctual delivery were of the utmost importance.

Let’s Bring This Ghost Town to Life
Monday morning marked the opening session as members poured into the Texas Ballroom. The stage was decked out in old western scenery and mock building fronts, but rather than a good old-fashioned shoot-out, moments after everyone was seated the “streets” exploded with country-western dancers.

AMD immediate past president, Carl Detering, president of the Detering Co. of Houston, danced onto the stage with his wife, Kit, both dressed in traditional western-wear and joined in with the dancers, before rolling out a podium to begin the session. Detering said he was, “fired up about AMD and how it can make distributors better.” He said, “AMD can help distributors be experts—experts on sourcing, logistics and codes and regulations.” He was joined by past AMD president Terry Bumgarner as they discussed the future of the market and association, then Detering introduced the event’s opening speaker, Col. Oliver North.

North discussed his job as a journalist and the war in Iraq, as he challenged millwork companies to hire veterans, requesting that they specifically target them with their ads. He explained that, while you cannot solicit “Veterans Only,” it is acceptable to say “Veterans Wanted.” He passionately cited the benefits of employing those with military experience: familiarity with chain of command, the ability to work independently, yet a team player orientation.

Round ‘Em Up
Following the opening session, attendees siphoned into the exhibit hall for its grand opening. While some exhibitors were disappointed by the initial turnout, Tuesday’s attendance was much improved.

“We had a good day yesterday (Monday),” said Rick Gallant, vice president of sales and marketing for Largo, Fla.-based Wise Corp., an exhibitor showcasing pre-hung door machinery. “I’m expecting a good day on Wednesday, since the floor will be opened up to dealers, architects and more.”

“It’s a great place for the manufacturer and distributor to come together in a relaxing and interesting atmosphere,” said Kevin Karrip, sales manager for G-M Wood Products of Newaygo, Mich. As for exhibiting, Karrip said, “For us it was a huge success. Time and money well spent.” 

“The Convention continues to provide a forum for its attendees to focus on business and networking,” said AMD executive director, Rosalie Leone. 

“Everything, including the hotel, guest speakers, entertainment, catering, etc. were all top notch,” said Sam Mink, product manager for ECMD Inc., headquartered in North Wilkesboro, N.C. “But I think the ultimate gift that AMD gives is the opportunity to network with new people or simply touch base with those you haven’t seen in a while to observe new products or ideas to better your own business,” he said. 

Wednesday morning there was an awards breakfast featuring the Afterburners, fighter pilots who delivered a motivational message regarding “flawless execution” through a process of planning, briefing, executing and debriefing. They warned against “task saturation,” and said recognizing this problem is 90-percent of the solution.

A New Sheriff In Town
AMD’s new president Don Houghton, president of Reeb Millwork of Bethlehem, Pa., was presented and joined by his wife, Kay. (To read more about Don Houghton, see the October issue of SHELTER, page 40.) Irv and Pat Kvalheim of KVAL Inc., in Petaluma, Calif., were presented with the Ron Taylor Award of Integrity and Commitment. Both delivered inspirational messages regarding the past, present and future of AMD.

The awards breakfast was followed by a final exhibit hall opening, when AMD welcomed dealers, architects, builders and other industry professionals to attend. 

“I was not aware of a show that encompassed such a wide array of products associated with millwork. Being in the doorframe and hardware business, I was aware of most of what was available, but found surprises and learning opportunities down every aisle,” said Tim Eunice, vice president and general manager of CALPLY® door systems division in Phoenix, Ariz.

Until We Meet Again
The event concluded with a final night gala, “Diamonds and Denim,” a country and western-themed evening of fine dining, socializing and entertainment with performances by Crystal Gayle and Lee Greenwood. 

As for next year’s event, Leone said, “The 2006 Annual Program Committee and AMD staff will be planning to put together a successful show that we hope will surpass our 42nd Annual Convention.”

A Millwork Collection
The 42nd Annual AMD Convention had virtually every millwork product available to distributors. Here is some product information SHELTER collected to tell you about.

Panel the Wall and More
Portland, Ore.-based Contact Lumber offers long-length, clear, tongue-and-groove paneling for use on walls and ceilings. 

Like many of Contact’s natural wood-wrapped products, the paneling offers clear, defect-free, color-consistent lengths of up to 16 feet and widths up to 10 inches.

Get Organized with Power Bin
Sunbelt of Alpharetta, Ga., supplies rack storage systems, drive-through buildings, pre-engineered metal buildings and more to the lumber and building materials industry.

One of the most popular products for distributors is the company’s Power Bin system which handles and stores lumber, plywood, MDF moulding, composite decking, roofing and other building materials.

It incorporates pigeonhole bins that are equipped with heavy-duty rollers. In addition, the material can be loaded into the bin automatically by means of a battery-operated loader deck.

No Special Tools Required
Finsa of Spain offers FINmoulding, which is an ultra-light MDF moulding covered with Jesso—a clay-coating system. The company says the moulding’s finish is totally uniform and smooth, which allows for direct installation. The mouldings require no special tools or additional materials for handling, cutting, painting or installation and screws and clamps can be used on them.

The Laundry Look
Heritage Veneered Products of Shawano, Wis., has added a number of new designs in its Woodport® door line. 

The company offers a two-panel square, two-panel arch, four-panel eyebrow and 12-lite panel combination in its half-lite door series. In its French glass door series, the company is offering glass etched with: laundry, faux prairie and reeded glass designs.

Door Clip Makes Transporting Products Easier
LCS Precision Molding of Waterville, Minn., has a door clip that holds pre-hung doors securely during transportation and installation. The LCS605 fits all interior and exterior doors with a 2 ¼-inch by 1-3/8-inch edge bore and is attached with screws to both the door slab and side jamb.

Company literature states that utilization of this door clip will ensure door slab alignment and distributors will be able to maintain a stable door for transportation and job-site installation.

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.