Embracing Opportunity in 2021
As an association, the WCMA approached 2020 with the anticipation of embarking on a European Tour with incredible international networking, observing innovative manufacturing processes, and enjoying Italy’s culture and cuisine. In other words, creating lifetime memories!
Well, 2020 was a year of lifetime memories, but not the ones that we had on our agenda going into the year! With the onset of COVID-19, we all anticipated a year that would be more than a little unstable. Projections ranged from a slow down to thinking that many companies would not make it through. However, despite these predictions of economic downturns and much uncertainty, surprising opportunities presented themselves for many WCMA members. Companies found that trends in the DYI market were more active than in the past, and we found more people than ever focusing on their home improvement projects and looking to us for assistance. I have seen the creativity and resilience of our membership to leverage this unprecedented series of events to our advantage. Many of our members have found this to be a year that our ability to sell our products exceeds our ability to manufacture them.
That leads me to share what probably is the greatest difficulty of 2020. Our members have found that the challenge of employee retention and recruitment at the top of the list of 2020 challenges. Some have reported that while they are able to keep their workforce engaged, replacing those who are retiring is difficult. What is most amazing is that this is during a time that unemployment is on the rise, yet our members struggle to find competent help. Go figure!
Because of these challenges, outsourcing has become more important than ever, affording members an opportunity to keep their operations open and their workforce engaged. As OEMs struggled at keeping up with product demand, the need to outsource components becomes more of a necessity. The model is simple. If making components becomes the bottleneck to producing and shipping finished goods, outsourcing components makes economic sense.
In an effort to find alternative ways to communicate and provide valuable services, the WCMA developed strategies to support and educate our members. In early 2020, a dedicated COVID-19 web page was created and updated as reliable information became available regarding legislative actions, relief packages, business assistance programs, and safety protocols relevant to the wood products industry.
The 2020 WCMA Fall Conference and Plant Tour event was successfully shifted to a virtual platform. The 2-day event featured three plant tours, Q&A sessions, an educational session on Lean Manufacturing presented by Jeff Finney of UltCab, and a keynote address on Economic Forecasting by Taylor St. Germain with ITR Economics. In addition to the success of the event itself was the introduction to virtual round tables as a means of networking.
In 2021, the WCMA will be hosting round table discussions on a variety of topics that affect our industry. Some topics under consideration are employee retention, recruitment and engagement, lean management, and supply trends. Please share your ideas for discussion topics by sending them to WCMA staff at email@example.com.
The WCMA strives to connect members to potential suppliers. Meeting deadlines and fulfilling customer expectations can be hard, and the WCMA seeks to lessen that burden through networking, sales inquiries, the WCMA Source Guide system, and the website Member Listing.
As an association we do not stand alone in our industry. We believe in connecting with our members, as well as collaborating with other associations. Promoting and supporting WCMA members and the wood products industry as a whole is a high priority. Progress continues to be made through WCMA’s work with the Real American Hardwood Coalition, Hardwood Federation, Wood Resource Industry Collaboration, and more. We also look forward to visiting more of your locations in 2021 and attending trade events as COVID restrictions loosen.
Our growth is the result of our determination, networking, and cooperation for mutual success. For the WCMA to continue working hard for our members, we need to continue expanding our membership and educate the next generation. If you would like more information about the WCMA and the work we do, please visit www.WCMA.com or contact Amy Snell, Executive Director, at 651.332.6332, or firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope that each, and every one of you find 2021 to be a bountiful year of blessings.
Leon Osborne, President
Wood Components Manufacturers Association