IWF: Bringing Woodworking Pros Together

IWF: Bringing Woodworking Pros Together

Every two years, equipment manufactures and distributors and cabinet shop owners gather in Atlanta to introduce, buy, sell, and learn about the latest in professional woodworking equipment. The next International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair – U.S.A.®, more familiarly known as IWF, will be held next August 2004. And they’re expecting a crowd!

According to Paula Emde, IWF Director of Marketing and Communications, “The last show, in 2002, was ranked the 9th largest trade show in the United States. We had just over 1,300 exhibitors and about 44,000 people from all over the world in attendance. And we expect the same for 2004!”

Started in Louisville, Kentucky in 1966, the show moved to its current home in Atlanta, Georgia in 1982. Three industry-related organizations, the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA), the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA), and the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA), own and sponsor the show. Exhibitors and attendees come from around the country and around the world.

“Most exhibitors have live demonstration the duration of the show,” Paula explained, “Because people want to see how fast it works, how well it does, what are the tolerances, and the variables. Some of the manufacturers get together and make tables for Habitat for Humanity. And some set up a production line where the raw MDF or boards are put in at one end and — through the use of bar code technology and a minimum amount of human labor — a cabinet is made!”

Attendees are looking for something that can help them double production without hiring additional people – and still maintain high quality. The exhibitors have to pick and choose what they bring to the show. Small tools are available to buy and take home. And usually toward the end of the show, Paula explained that you start seeing sold signs going up on big pieces & to be crated off and delivered after the show.

The show is not open to the public, but Paula mentioned that it still attracts a considerable number of serious woodworking hobbyists.

“With 1,300 exhibits, there’s something to please everyone.” She noted, “They can’t see the latest two-sided planer down at their corner hardware store. And companies known for making fine hand tools, like Lie-Nielsen, always exhibit. Eventually some of the professional tools will trickle down to the commercial market & the plunge router is a good example of that.”

The show provides a good vantage point for the state of the industry, and Paula described some of the trends.

“Imports are having an impact on the furniture manufactures.” Paula noted, “And the large facilities with 250 people or more who are seeing a downturn in their business. Yet overall cabinetry, flooring and millwork businesses are doing well in the United States. It’s all tied to the recent boom in housing starts and covers the range from ready-to-assemble to custom cabinetry. It’s the small shops employing 19 people or less who are growing. They can respond to a client’s needs quickly, charge prices that meet or beat the imports, and deliver a product within two to four weeks.”

With a full-time staff of only seven people, IWF hires a lot of temporary labor to put together the show. Two and half weeks before it starts they bring in special indoor cranes from Las Vegas and Chicago to start setting up the show. And it takes seven days afterwards to tear it all down.

To read more about the next show in Atlanta, visit the IWF web site.

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