Get Ready for The New Normal
9/5/2014 7:02:00 PM

Last week I was discussing the success of IWF 2014 with a senior consultant friend who analyzes the industry. As we reviewed the many new offerings we saw at the show, he stated, “Well Ross, welcome to the new normal.”

The new normal. How many times in the last year have you heard that? But what does it mean?

Quite frankly, neither of us could succinctly define the term even though we both understood its essence. So what did we do? We went online to find an accurate definition! After sorting through dozens of websites, online resources, and sites for a recently cancelled TV show by the same name, we found a description offered by McKinsey & Company that provided the substance we sought. To paraphrase:

‘It is clear that the downturn we experienced is fundamentally different from the recessions of the past. We have not only experienced a turn in the business cycle, but a restructuring of the economic order.’

Hmmm. A restructuring of the economic order. So what does that mean? If we take a look at some of the exciting offerings introduced at IWF, the answer becomes clear.

Cabinet Vision premiered the first ever, interactive 3D visual platform. What an amazing experience! This approximately six foot tall, three foot wide, virtual reality gives architects, designers and cabinet shops the capability to immerse clients into their new kitchens. The technology includes a web component that gives the user the capability to actually build a kitchen from floors, countertops, cabinets, appliances … even wall color, in a 3D environment. Welcome to the new normal for kitchen design.

Hardware Resources is revolutionizing the drawer slide through a new, proprietary design that incorporates three distinct technologies into its slide series. By blending a virtually unbreakable steel pin, chamfered ramp, and floating polymer catch, it has developed a slide that works with the cabinet, not against it. Welcome to the new normal for drawers.

Vortex Tool has developed a mobile app, the Tool Selection Guide. It simplifies tool selection based on your cutting needs. All you have to do is input the type of material being cut, the horsepower of the CNC machine, the tool diameter, the thickness of material and the type of cut desired. The guide will recommend the best tool for your application. The App also includes calculators to determine chip load, feed rate, RPM and metric conversions. Best of all, if you need a tool it will link you to the latest Vortex Tool catalog where you can order online. Welcome to the new normal for tools.

Yes, welcome to the new normal. Our business climate has improved. While we may never see the explosive growth of the early 21st century, the dank days of limited spending are gone. The new normal is providing you with a steady flow of new clients, both residential and commercial. That trend will continue, at least in the short term.

Technological innovation continues to fuel the new normal. Whether you are ordering materials, tools, or equipment, high tech has made its mark. It will continue to be a big part of our future.

Years back, a wise man told me that CNC automation had changed our industry forever. He proposed that a business of artisans had become a business of operators. Well, those days are gone. We are in the midst of an evolution to another generation of new normal. No longer are we an industry of operators. Today, craftsmanship and experience fused with technology enables us to create what we could only dream about in the past.

The innovations introduced at this year’s IWF are just the beginning. In our new normal, technology enhances the art of our business. The value of the talented woodworker, finisher, and countertop fabricator will remain undiminished.

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