2021 Woodworking Year in Review.
With 2021 now in the rear-view mirror, we are reflecting on the trends and challenges we encountered over the past year with an eye on the future as to what is to come.
Covid continued to wreak havoc on the supply chain, which affected our industry in so many ways. Woodworking supply chains were challenged to obtain components to complete jobs and were sometimes forced to accept substitutes to keep supply moving. Certain market segments have experienced adverse effects on demand, such as the hospitality industry, while others, like the kitchen cabinet industry, have experienced significant growth. Many consumers spent money on home improvements and construction projects with funds that may have been allocated to other areas, including travel. Kitchen cabinet manufacturers saw the need to keep up with this demand shift and implemented new production machinery.
2021 saw the further strain on the tight labour market. Finding employees to work in factories has become a major issue that large and small companies were/are faced with. Many mid-sized to larger companies turned to automation to maintain or increase production levels with lesser staff. Companies like Cuisi-N-Art in Gatineau, Quebec, purchased a fully automated material storage system that automatically loads two Anderson CNC routers. The company was looking to double their production capacity and felt that new technology was the only way to achieve these goals. They are now well on their way to achieving this goal.
Automation comes in different forms. Companies like Marvel Cabinetry in Calgary, Alberta, implemented the Omnitech Selexx Pal CNC router with automatic offloading capability. The automatic offloading in conjunction with a Delaney handling arm means that the machine can be run by a single operator and allows for higher production resulting in less time wasted between processing sheets.
Another labour-saving solutions we saw implemented was the Doucet BT3 automatic return conveyor. This allows for a single operator to run an edgebander. In addition to saving on labour, the BT3 means fewer handling defects.
We saw some key developments in regards to machine safety. Altendorf began selling their new HANDGUARD panel saw with revolutionary technology that automatically detects the possibility of a hand coming in contact with the saw blade and eliminates the hazardous situation before it occurs. A state-of-the-art camera system and AI automatically brakes the blade rotation and drops the blade safely below the table thereby avoiding any potential contact with a hand. The saw can be reset in seconds and is ready to run without damaging the blade or the machine. Saws for Canada will be available in the 2nd half of 2022.
Time is money in production, and many manufacturing companies are busier than ever, searching for ways to streamline their operations. Years ago, only the larger manufacturers could afford a CNC router. It has now become the norm for many small and medium-sized shops to utilize CNC technology to keep up with their competition and the demands of mass customization. Companies that purchased their first stand-alone CNC router are now purchasing full-line systems that automatically load and unload the router, thereby reducing the cycle time required for unloading processed parts and loading the next sheet. The full-line system will grab a new sheet of material and push the processed pieces off to a conveyor while cleaning the spoil board, increasing process efficiency and saving production dollars.
Leadermac introduced a new version of their PROSET control system. This allows the operator to maintain accurate measurement of tools within tool libraries. Additionally, it stores all cutterhead and setting parameters for each profile. The result is lightning-fast changeover between jobs and greatly reduced time. In addition, Leadermac saw growth in sales of high RPM moulders which allow for increased feed speeds. For instance, a machine with 8000 RPM spindles can run up to 33% faster than a machine with 6000 RPM spindles. This can result in huge production increases at the end of each day. Many new features and improvements continue to be added to the Leadermac line of machines to improve operator efficiency, increase throughput, and reduce downtimes.
2021 seemed to be the year of the edgebander and the rise in popularity of high gloss and textured laminates for use in cabinet doors. These materials require precision machining with high visibility and an aesthetically pleasing quality look. Historically only a few companies had edgebanders capable of machining these panels. To help manage production and control costs, companies decided to bring this machining back in-house. Starting with edgebanders like the Cantek MX370P, an economically produced machine with pre-milling and corner rounding, manufacturers have been provided with the ability to produce their cabinet components and doors in-house. The quick-change gluepot allows the operator to quickly change from white to clear glue, thereby minimizing the visibility of any glue joint. For companies looking for higher production and automatic changeovers, the Altendorf F5 and Bi-Matic Prima 7.3 Plus ONE edgebanding machines are available. These allow for fast adjustment of various working units, all from a touch screen interface.
The trends for 2022 are a continuation of what you have seen for the past number of years; increased production while minimizing the need for additional labour. As technology evolves, manufacturers of varying sizes can better exploit automation previously only available to large producers. There’s no doubt that efficiencies flowing from solutions like the Anderson MLS multi-bunk loading system will continue to make production facilities more competitive. Similarly, the evolution of edgebanders offering more features, automation, reduced downtime, and versatility in machining a wide range of materials will allow producers to cater to end users’ discriminating tastes efficiently.
Working together with our customers to solve today’s manufacturing challenges is why we are here.
Building Trust. Creating together.