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Do's and don'ts for bosses.

Listen up, top brass! Don't get to work at 9:30 and spend the rest of the morning in the office couched in front of a computer or with your ear glued to the phone. Take a look at your mail and messages, give your directions to office personnel and get into the plant.

Learn as many employees' first names as you can. Make it your business to attend departmental meetings - but don't take them over. Instead, listen to what irks your employees about their jobs. Make sure they know that the door to your office is always open, including taking appointments for personal visits after hours. If you chat with workers, fine, but not with the same ones all of the time. Don't play favorites.

Superintendents: Have a special subject for each departmental meeting. Make strong statements concerning safety and quality at each meeting. Accident prevention should always be at the forefront no matter how great the productivity goals. Quality, as they say, is job one. Give credit whenever credit is due and make sure the foreman holds the main position at the meeting.

Machinery Department Foremen: Be well prepared for items on the agenda plus be ready to react to other business items that might arise. Call attention to safety and quality issues by citing good and bad examples experienced in your department since the last meeting.

Make sure the employees in your charge are in tune with productivity goals. Make sure they are doing a good job of maintaining equipment by regularly inspecting it after hours. Arrive well before the workers on your shift come to work and get everything organized for the day.

Don't let your workers leave their posts to search for things. Make sure everything is in place at the start of the day. Keep a bright and smiling personality and offer words of encouragement whenever warranted.

Make sure people dress for safety and work safely around machinery and other potentially hazardous areas of the plant.

Finishing Foremen: In addition to the above, keep a set of color samples for checking the consistency and quality of finishes directly opposite the shader's booth. See that the samples are protected from overspray when not in use. Be certain no lint-type rags are used to wipe panels.

Don't be shy about working with the technicians of your finishing materials source for improving your system, troubleshooting problems or implementing new finishes.

Chief Inspectors: Be sure that each departmental inspector goes from one operation to the next and understands exactly what quantity and quality is expected to be produced at each station. Meet with each departmental inspector each day and be aware of any problems that might crop up between them with operators or foremen.

Hold weekly meetings with all inspectors. Talk quality, quality, quality and flush out all details of problems. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for the sum of their work. You should be so proud of the final products that leave your shop that you gladly sign the certificate of quality that is shipped with each item.

Sales Managers: Learn the quality details that you know will interest the retail buyers, sales people and consumers. Be prepared to go to top customers to present new ideas. Show them the backs of cases, the undersides of table tops and other hidden quality features. Listen careful to their reactions. This is one way to build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers.

Office Managers: When talking to customers, being kind and thoughtful is far from the whole picture. Whenever possible try to emphasize service and quality, plus get to know your customers on a first-name basis.

Respond to customer inquiries and complaints in a timely manner. If it's going to take a while to research an answer, tell them when they can expect you to get back to them. Don't leave them hanging or the irate ones might hang you first.

Q We are a small cabinet shop and we have been making raised panel doors for all these years with little or no difficulty- until now. You have a sample of the doors that have white bleached stripes of about 1/2 inch wide running along the joints. We are using the same grade of maple and the same glue. We've tried changing glues, but have had the same results. What do you think is going wrong? Thanks for helping us. Mr. B.

A I have a few questions for you. 1) Did you remove the glue squeezeout before it hardened? 2) If you did allow the glue to harden, at what point did you attempt to remove it and by what means? 3) Have you ever read the "Metz Rules" frequently published in this column? I hope my questions have opened your eyes to the answers. If not, let me know.

Q We are custom makers of high-grade furniture. Recently another manufacturer asked us to run several hundred dovetailed drawer boxes for him. The pay was good (please, don't print the amount) and the work was well within our capabilities. Do you think we should consider doing this regularly in addition to our normal projects? I have done a quick scan of potential accounts; they number quite a few. Thank you. Mr. D.

A I agree that you got a great price, but don't think you can expect to command it every time, especially if you entered into the marketplace and tried to compete with bigger, longer-established component specialists. Go ahead and do some piece work when you have the time and can name your price. Otherwise, stick with what you do best.

Q We have sent you a detailed report of our problem with medium density fiberboard that is cracking. This only happened with one batch,' all the others from the same source were OK. The cracking became noticeable right after the MDF was finished, before being sanded. All involved parties claim the problem is not their fault. What do we do?Mr. A

A I think either the moisture content of the MDF was well over the 7 percent target or a poor sealer coat is to blame. My hunch is that the moisture content was off. The panels were probably still drying at the time of sanding, causing the panels to crack. My advice is to purchase a moisture meter and use it regularly to inspect panels and solids from delivery through assembly.

Q We have an opportunity to make a chair that features a single bent piece that attaches to the front and back legs to form the seat and armrests. How are we supposed to bend this material? We could use the job but know this is beyond us. Please tell us what to do. Many thanks. Mr. D.

A Don't think twice about doing it yourself. Contract the bentwood seats out to a steam bending specialist. Put your heart and soul into developing an excellent finish and sturdy construction worthy of the high price you should be able to fetch.

Q Two tips you have given us over the years are paying off well. First, our lumber drying is much improved since we started covering the bunks with tarps. Second, we have improved the ventilation of our lumber storage area. This took place after a couple of weeks of monitoring the storage area for temperature and humidity changes. We couldn't believe how much the climate fluctuated during that period. We just wanted other readers to know that these tips really can do wonders. We've saved a bundle in lumber costs.

A I'm glad to hear things are working out so well. I trust you are still monitoring the storage room closely and are using a moisture meter liberally throughout your operation.

Q We are having a problem with some paint finishes that are fading yellow. Is it the finish, the wood or what? How do we get rid of this? We thank you. Mr. D.

A Sunburn is no better for your furniture finishes than it is for your body. When finishing, be sure your material source provides you with a topcoat that has a protective sun barrier. OK?

Q I have written you a long dissertation (attached) on how we are getting complaints about color changes, mainly fading. We have already consulted our finishing material source, who asked us to come to you for a second opinion. Our source is sending in someone next week for a more thorough investigation. In the meantime we thought that we would see what you have to say. What do you think? You've been great for us. Mr. T.

A Although it could be a material problem, I would guess that it is caused by sun fading. Just as I suggested to Mr. D., talk with your vendor about finding a material with a greater UV barrier. I'm glad to hear that your supplier is sending a man out to give you first-hand advice.

Q At a recent meeting, I got into an argument with someone over the ideal specification for temperature and humidity when storing lumber. I said it was about 65F and 35 percent relative humidity. My colleague argued that temperature doesn't matter as long as the humidity is OK. Who's right?

A What you suggest is what I have been recommending for years. Your colleague is part right. You can get by with a temperature up to nearly 80F as long as the humidity is kept constant.

Q In accordance with your column, we set up a quality control inspection team that follows your instructions to the letter. After a few weeks, and many conferences between the plant superintendent, the chief inspector and myself, the amount of waste and rejects was down dramatically. This is all well and good except in the past few days, the super has begun to complain that our quality control is so rigid that the inspectors are stopping operations for "every tittle thing." No doubt, we all want quality, but at what price? The super is concerned about upholding this large plant's production record. I am stuck in the middle since I'm the one who instigated this quality kick and since both the plant superintendent and the chief inspector report to me. What do you think I should do? Please comment and my many thanks. Mr. T.

A Bring the two men together for lunch and go over the production and quality goals. You have to find some middle ground. Each quality problem that is discovered must be taken case by case, but your inspectors need some parameters to decide when to shut down a machine that not only includes the gravity of the problem, but how soon the product needs to get out the door. My guess is that some of these problems are not being caught at the front end, when lumber is delivered. You shouldn't have to shut down operations so often if your wood is properly dried unless you have some real problems with the accuracy of machine settings, tool dulling, etc.

Q I am sending you a newspaper clipping of an article about a Los Angeles-area manufacturer that is making "way out" contemporary designs. I have a thought or two on introducing some far-out changes of my own into our basic construction. My ideas include a unique type of drawer construction that I think is better than dovetailing or mitering. I have sent you a sample. What do you think? Mr. Mc.B.

A Right off, I must say that such radical changes would have to be obviously better or they are just a gimmick. I don't see your drawer assembly method as an improvement over dovetailing in any way, shape or form. Some of your sketches are interesting. Maybe you should concentrate on the designs, still incorporating traditional joinery.

Q Add me to your list of readers who has discovered the benefits of developing close relations with one source for finishing materials. The expertise provided by our vendor really helped us out of a jam recently and literally saved us thousands of dollars and several bottles of aspirin. Why doesn't everybody go this route? Thank you. Mr. J.

A I am glad that you found a good outfit to work with. Obviously, many companies are more intent on pinching pennies by shopping around then they are in developing a lasting relationship with a key vendor. They don't know what they are missing.

Q When edge gluing solid tops made with varying widths of lumber, I'm not sure I understand the importance of "reversing" them that you frequently write about. Also, what happens when a new board is to be added? Mr. F.

A If you want to keep your panels straight, the rippings must be no more than 3 inches wide and be reversed every other strip end for end. This gives you the balance you need and helps prevent warping. Of course this is predicated on the notion that the strips have the same and correct moisture content and that your plant's climate is properly maintained. I would be leery of "adding" a strip to a panel at some later time unless it is the exact moisture content of others in the panel. Understand?

Q We have a yard man in his fifties who we are considering promoting to foreman of our kiln operations. He is a good worker and said he is interested in learning everything about drying. Do you think we should give him a shot considering his age or look outside of our company for someone younger? Thanks. Mr. K.

A First off you had better be careful that no one learns that you would consider not promoting this man based on his age or you could get into big trouble with the government and possibly be presented with a costly lawsuit. That said, the answer seems obvious. If you think he is capable of quickly learning what he needs to know to do the job, then give him the opportunity. If you think he is not up to the task, including being able to effectively manage others in the department, then look for a more experienced candidate. At any rate, you've come to the wrong source if you think 50-something is old.

Q We are having a problem with thin MDF that we prepare for panel cores. We haven't had any problems until lately, when the edging that is carefully sawn showed signs of tearing. What are we doing wrong? We read everything you write. Thanks. Mr. L.

A I would be able to give you a more educated guess if you had sent me a small sample of your problem. My hunch is that your MDF is too dry, perhaps caused by improper storage conditions. Take a moisture meter to a few of the troubled pieces and see if I'm right. Let me know what you find.

Q We need information on how to secure qualified finishers, people that really know the art and the science. Do you have any resumes? Ms. B.

A Sorry, I do not currently have any such leads on file Maybe if you post a help wanted ad in a newspaper serving a major furniture/cabinet area, promoting a solid wage and benefit package, you'll find some good candidates. If you want top people, you had better be ready to pay for them. It should go without saying that good help is hard to find these days.

Q We make cabinet doors featuring heavy mouldings that must be kept from rattling. Do you know of a good source for spacers that we can use to leave ample space in the boring. Thanks a lot. Mr. B.

A I think allowing 1/16 inch should be enough to prevent rattling. If it becomes necessary, then you can add small bits of foam rubber into the boring holes to do the trick.

Educate Your Customers

Q We make maple blocks shaped to pattern for cutlery displays. It so happens that we recently had several hundred returned by one customer as "rejects" due to small mineral streaks, knots, etc. we buy No. 1 common lumber and better. It is impossible to see these imperfections in the wood until we start shaping them. Even then, we consider these "problems" to be small things and way too costly to cut off in the roughmill. Do you think we should take these blocks back? Mr. A.

A These imperfections you describe really are not objectionable in my mind and certainly meet lumber grade rules. In fact, I think they add interest to the finished piece. I think you need to educate your customer to the real world of wood and woodworking. Invite him into your plant so that he can see what you are doing. It is important that he not only sees that you are using No. 1 common or better, but is made to understand that even higher-grade woods will experience some color variations. In addition, just as you wrote, machining the wood will reveal mineral streaks and a knot or two along the way. Explain to your customer that his aim for perfection would mean increasing his price considerably. Good luck.
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Article Details
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Author:Metz, Jerry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Previous Article:Finishing.
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