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The WMIA: bringing global technologies to American woodworkers.

WMIA president John Derda discusses his association's commitment to providing U.S. wood products manufacturers with machines and tools that help give them a competitive edge.

At the Woodworking Industry Conference held Apr. 29-May 2 in Marco Island, Fla., John Derda, president of Derda Inc. of Niles, Mich., was elected president of the Woodworking Machinery Importers Association. The association, founded in the late 1970s, now includes more than 55-member companies, all dedicated to importing and servicing woodworking equipment or cutting tools manufactured around the globe.

Derda took time out of his hectic schedule to discuss association accomplishments and goals and assessed the state of the U.S. woodworking industry in a question-and-answer session with Wood & Wood Products.

Q Shipment statistics compiled by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association and the American Furniture Manufacturers Association indicate that U.S. sales of furniture and cabinet are on the rebound after two or three down years. Are WMIA members seeing any corresponding improvement in new equipment orders?

A At our last board of director's meeting we discussed the economy and agreed that we are seeing an appreciable improvement in business. The upward trend is also observed by most of our dealers throughout the nation.

Looking across the country, the only area that is still hurting is the West Coast. California is still in the doldrums not only because of as general economic slowdown but because of the impact of environmental regulations such as finishing laws. It could take a while for business to pick up there. The good news, though, is that we're seeing a lot of pent up demand loosening up for equipment sales in the Northeast, which was really hit hard by the recession a couple of years ago.

We are seeing a pick up in orders for big equipment like CNC routers, moulders and tenoners. Woodworking companies are making these purchases to increase their productivity and to become more competitive.

Panel processing equipment sales are also on the improve, especially because of the skyrocketing prices of solid wood that have more than doubled in the last year. A lot of existing customers are upgrading their panel saws and investing in more sophisticated edgebanders.

Q President Clinton has recommended reinstatement of the Investment Tax Credit as one means to spur industrial economic development. Does the association support the president on this issue?

A When the Investment Tax Credit was still in vogue, we would see an end-of-the-year surge by woodworking companies to purchase equipment. Many of our members support Clinton on reinstating the Investment Tax Credit because it gives manufacturers an additional incentive to upgrade their operations. We know there are customers who have been ready to buy machines for several months, but have held off because they want to see if the tax credit will be extended this year. I think it's a big plus that will spur all industries, our members, our distributors and our customers.

I think of equal importance to the WMIA, and the woodworking industry in general this whole issue of forest use. The president needs to support policy that will balance the nation's need to harvest timber with environmental concerns. Lumber prices are skyrocketing, and not just building lumber tied to the spotted owl debate, but hardwood dimension lumber costs as well. The current price of lumber is astronomical compared to a year ago. On balance, our timber industry does a good job of sustaining the forests through selective cutting and replanting. On another front, I think that as we continue to negotiate with Russia, we will see more Russian timber come here.

Q What do you view as some of the most important recent accomplishments of the WMIA?

A Over the past two years, we have tried to do things which will directly benefit the U.S. woodworking industry. One of our goals was to develop meaningful reference materials for both management and their employees.

At IWF '92 we introduced an exciting new desktop directory, the "WMIA 1993 Guide to Global Woodworking Technology." This guide not only provides the standard directory of all our members, but helpful cross references on the types and brands of equipment each of our members sell and the types of training programs each member provides. The back of the guide contains handy conversion and reference tables.

This year, we introduced the "WMIA Shop Guide." It contains 14 of the most often used conversion charts and tables including metric conversions, decimal equivalents, dust extraction formulas and international symbols in English, German, Spanish and French. It's designed to be used by the people who run the machinery. They often need answers quickly and now they have a quick, handy reference that they can turn to.

Both of these publications are offered free of charge and can be obtained through a WMIA member or through the association's headquarters.

Another area we felt strongly about was providing leadership on issues that directly affect the woodworking industry's ability to grow and prosper. To that end, we have been actively involved in helping to create the Woodworking Industry Conference and in setting the agenda for the International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair. Both of these events are important forums for discussing and addressing issues that affect us all, such as product liability, woodworker education, forest management, government regulations and the environment.

Q As you noted, the WMIA, along with the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America and the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, sponsors IWF. Is there anything new planned for IWF '94 that you can share with our readers at this point?

A First of all, the dates have been changed to August 25-28, a Thursday through Sunday instead of a Friday through Monday. We feel that this change will help boost attendance because the fair will only cut into one work week instead of two.

In addition, IWF '94 will be bigger and better than ever because the Georgia World Congress Center expansion is completed. All of the concourses will be open for better flow and new restaurants have been added. All in all, IWF brings the best of all worlds of woodworking machinery and supplies to the U.S. I think it has established itself as a world-class show.

Q What are the goals being actively pursued by the WMIA?

A Our goal has always been to help the U.S. woodworking industry regain its competitive edge and become a player in the global market place.

Our main goals have been to provide leadership and support on issues important to the industry such as better training for woodworkers, sharing our knowledge on how to better compete in the global marketplace and resource management.

Five years ago we initiated the Innovator and Educator of the Year Awards to give recognition to outstanding woodworking companies, institutions and individuals who train woodworkers.

The Innovator of the Year Award is designed to call attention to excellence in the woodworking field. American woodworkers are the best in the world. We created the Innovator of the Year Award to underscore this excellence. This award is the only one given by a manufacturing group to a woodworking company. It's designed to call attention to the success that can be achieved by merging imported woodworking technology with American ingenuity. The companies which have won this award are continuously looking to integrate the latest technologies into their plants. They are not content to rest on their laurels. They are managed by people who are constantly looking forward and they are representative of what is best in the U.S. woodworking industry.

The Educator of the Year Award is representative of the WMIA's goal to help woodworkers update their skills through training and education. It is especially important that American woodworkers take advantage of these educational opportunities because of the increased complexity and sophistication of today's equipment. The Educator of the Year Award not only calls attention to the need for new educational techniques, but also rewards those in our industry who are creating new programs and educational methods to meet the challenge.

This year we are launching a new award program, the WMIA Exporter of the Year, because we want to stress the importance of rewarding companies that are aggressively pursuing foreign market opportunities. The Exporter of the Year Award is designed to recognize U.S. companies that are doing an outstanding job of exporting their products.

We truly believe that imported equipment and the knowledge and expertise that are members have of world markets can be tapped by American woodworkers to help them become more competitive exporters. The ability to compete globally is vital to the future of the U.S. woodworking industry.

To support our goal of recognizing the importance of exporting, we are in the process of developing a new booklet called the "WMIA: Keys to Exporting." As with our Shop Guide and Global Guide, it will be a helpful tool for woodworking companies.

Q This year's WMIA theme is "Working with WMIA pays off." What are some of the pay offs American woodworkers derive from working with WMIA member companies?

A There are several payoffs and benefits. The most important benefit is that WMIA member companies sell the latest woodworking technology...the equipment that is revolutionizing woodworking throughout the world. By forming partnerships with WMIA members, companies can learn how to produce their products better, faster and cheaper. Even more importantly, WMIA members back this technology with service, training and on-time delivery. The payoff is big in terms of greater productivity, competitiveness and profits.

Another key benefit is that WMIA members communicate the needs of U.S. woodworking companies to worldwide equipment manufacturers. This connection enables our customers to obtain the right equipment for their current and future needs.

WMIA members are also timely sources of information about what is happening overseas. We know what types of machines and tools foreign competitors are installing in their plants and what types of products they are manufacturing. Because of our knowledge of the global marketplace, we can assist U.S. woodworking companies plan for the future in terms of equipment purchases, production techniques, new product designs and global marketing plans.

For those companies newly involved in exporting or planning to enter the overseas markets, WMIA members are invaluable resources. We can help with the ins and outs of shipping, customs and billing. We can also provide insight into business customs, rates of exchange and market practices. Our WMIA "Keys to Exporting" will lay out many of these insights and resources.

Training and service are also two high priorities for our membership. As I have said, improved woodworker training is one of the WMIA's goals. Our members are committed to working with our customers to train their employees and solve their problems.

Many of our members have developed topnotch training centers and programs. Our members have factory-trained technicians and inventory hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spare parts. Today with many members specializing in computerized equipment, problems with machinery can be diagnosed by modem. This capability not only eliminates a costly service call, but helps a customer get his machine up and running faster.

In short, the pay off is increased profits and growth -- the kind of growth that helps U.S. woodworking firms retain and create jobs.

Q What are your goals for your two-year term as president of the WMIA?

A My goals are to continue building upon the foundation we have been laying for the past five years. This includes continuing to recognize the achievements of the American woodworking industry through our awards program; continuing to develop and provide helpful resource and information materials for the industry such as Global Guide and Shop Guide; and continuing to provide leadership on issues important to the industry. In addition, we want to continue to be responsible to the needs of our membership and be more accessible to both the membership and the industry.

We consider ourselves to be problem solvers. The WMIA exists to both further the interests of our membership and to serve the U.S. woodworking industry.
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Title Annotation:The Competitive Edge; Woodworking Machinery Importers Association
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:May 1, 1993
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