Last fall’s recall election in California attracted worldwide attention. Beyond the Arnold factor lay an acute awareness that California alone represents the world’s fourth largest economy! It’s not surprising, then, that the West Coast market warrants its own woodworking machinery show, the AWFS® Fair.
According to AFWS Fair Director Angelo Gangone: “We get everybody involved in the secondary wood processing & machinery manufacturers, distributors, hardware manufacturers, and furniture building companies. The primary processors are lumber and saw mills. Though some have their own booths, it’s more likely that distributors will work the booths of the companies they represent. The Fair features the latest products and technology. All the major players are going to be there, and a lot of business goes on at the show.”
Sponsored by the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers, the next AWFS Fair will be held July 27 – 30, 2005, in Las Vegas. The show is held on odd-numbered years in accord with a gentleman’s agreement between the AWFS and the even-year IWF. First put on by volunteers in 1957 in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angles, it moved to the Los Angles Convention Center in 1977, and it’s been held at the Anaheim Convention Center since 1987. But in 2005, the show will move to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“The move offers a lot of advantages,” explained Angelo. “It’s easy to get in and out of Las Vegas with a lot of inexpensive airfares from all the major U.S. and international hubs. The city has done a great job promoting itself as a destination. The Hilton alone has over 3,000 rooms, and you can literally walk to the Convention Center. According to our research, most of the shows that switch to Las Vegas grow in both attendees and exhibitors. They call it the Vegas bounce. And the Convention Center has a huge amount of space available.”
Angelo estimated they have thousands of machines out on the floor. Attendees can often sit through a demonstration and see what the machines are about. Some bigger companies even have small theaters set up within their booths.
“Every year manufacturers are putting out new products with new features. The coolest demonstrations involve high-tech material handling & usually using robots. It’s one of the most expensive production processes in woodworking, so you’re seeing it more emphasized. More and more, smaller shops are buying into mass customization technology. It makes them more efficient and more responsive to market needs and more competitive. And though we’re always seeing more CNC equipment, new technology is being used across the board. Even some of the more traditional machines like shapers or sliding table saws are getting new high-tech features out there. It is a great trend and enables the manufacturers to actually separate themselves from the competition.”
Visitors often have dual goals.
“In many ways, people are looking for deals because they know the exhibitors will put their best price forward for the show.” Angelo explained, “But they’re also looking for ways to make their shops more efficient, and it’s a big thing to be able to find new vendors. They can go from one booth to another and see the differences between the products.”
It’s well-known that offshore manufacturers and manufacturing facilities have had a huge impact on tool manufacturing. But according to Angelo, domestic architectural millwork and cabinet manufacturers have been able to hold their own by upgrading their technology.
“These are the guys who use the new technology to create a lot of customized product without adding more employees.”
The Fair is the biggest thing the AWFS does, but the association is also heavily involved year-round in industry education and public policy at both the state and national level. With two years between shows, you might think there’d be plenty of time to get ready for the show. But Angelo and three other AWFS staffers are constantly working under deadlines. They are backed by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, board members, and committees. “We have people who are dedicated and not shy about putting their time in and really contributing.”
“I really like the adrenaline rush from the show.” Angelo noted, “It’s almost like a sporting event where you have a game plan together, and then you see it unfold. You get to see the people you have been talking to over the phone, meet new people, and have the excitement of just seeing business going on. There is nothing that pleases an organizer more then seeing happy exhibitors. And we make them happy, by bringing them good quality attendees and making sure the attendees are taken care of.”
For more information about the AWFS Fair visit their web site.