Harry Urban is the Business Development Director for CCI Media. Harry is a woodworking industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience in business-to-business publishing, trade shows and conferences. Since 1980, Harry served as an editor of Wood & Wood Products. He became the publisher of the magazine in 1988 and led its expansion into events and other ventures. As the editor and publisher of Wood & Wood Products Harry travelled extensively throughout North America and overseas visiting and reporting on major manufacturing facilities and trade shows. He coordinated the acquisition of WMS in 2006.
From 2008 to 2015 Harry served as the Vice President – Events/Design Group for Scranton Gillette Communications where he managed all face-to-face and virtual events for publications related to infrastructure, horticulture, home furnishings, building and architecture.
What is the background of CCI Media, Inc.?
Tim Fixmer founded CCI Media Inc. in 2010. CCI Media is a business-to-business media company focused on the industrial wood products manufacturing and located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is a strong online woodworking entity for the entire North America, with a significant footprint in Canada.
CCI Media acquired Woodworking Network from Vance Publishing in 2015. Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo is a bi-annual show with growing popularity. This year our exhibit sales grew 42% over 2015 sales. The principal of the show is Tim Fixmer, while I managed it back in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Under the Woodworking Network umbrella, we also publish two magazines, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage, which are also distributed in Canada.
In addition, we run the trade show Wood Pro Expo, which is coming up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on October 19th and in Charlotte, North Carolina in February, 2018.
All these trade shows and magazines are part of the Woodworking Network family, which is owned by CCI Media.
When and where is the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo going to be held this year?
The Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo (WMS) will be held between November 2 and November 4 at the International Centre of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
WMS will feature three days of education sessions, hands-on demonstrations, as well as the largest exhibition of woodworking machinery, supplies, and software in Canada.
What are the events planned for WMS Expo this year?
The WMS Expo goes back to the 1970s. This year we are making a bigger emphasis on four educational tracks - Finishing Materials & Techniques, Cabinet Production & Design, Trends in Panel & Hardware, and Small & Large Woodshop Best Practices.
We also have a tour to a company called ProPly Custom Plywood Inc., a highly automated hardware panel producer, which employs robotics. That’s great new technology and the tour will be available to all conference pass and ticket holders.
In addition, for the first time we are doing a WMS networking after-hours reception on the first evening of the show.
How many people usually attend the event and what’s the typical audience?
Approximately, 4,500 to 6,000 people attending the event. We expect the attendance to be along those lines this year as well. The trade show is really designed for the professional wood workers, as well as for the management and engineering of woodworking companies.
We get attendance from across Canada and we are making a very strong effort to bring in woodworkers from the eastern and western provinces, not just from Ontario. Also, there are some Americans who come from the region just south of Toronto. We do get some overseas attendance as well.
How important is education for the wood industry?
The wood industry is a huge part of Canada’s overall economy, approximately 9% of the country’s GDP. As a result, the need for a strong national trade show and well thought education is of paramount importance. The huge organization behind the event is made up of seasoned veterans in the woodworking industry.
We have a working relationship with Canada’s top educational facilities involved in the woodworking industry and with Canada’s top woodworking associations, such as the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association, the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada, and the Bluewater Wood Alliance, an Ontario-based organization.
We also work in tandem with the top two Canadian woodworking magazines, Wood Industry and Woodworking Canada, to maximize attendance through promotion.
Who is the keynote speaker this year?
Our lunch keynote speaker for the first day is Sylvain Garneau, the CEO of Groupe Lacasse, a major office furniture manufacturer from Quebec, and the President of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) for North America. He will be addressing the issue of workforce development among other things.
Why did you choose workforce development as the keynote topic?
The woodworking industry relies on skilled labor force and it is important for the woodworking industry to be perceived as a desirable industry. We try to attract young people into the industry and we help them develop their skills. We want them to look at the woodworking industry as an exciting, viable, and rewarding place to be in.
Sylvain Garneau has particular success in workforce development in his organization. Besides, this is a common theme across the entire woodworking industry in North America. Training and retaining employees, as well as attracting young people into the industry, is crucial for the long term viability of the woodworking industry.
In woodworking, as well as in many other traditional industries, skilled workers are retiring and there is a shortage of people to replace them. The great thing about the WMS show is the display of some new and exciting technologies that can not only enhance the productivity of companies, but can also make the woodworking workplace more desirable.Woodworking has never been the most exciting workplace. It was never looked upon as a really high-tech, high-skill area, or an attractive manufacturing industry, such as the auto industry in the past or the computer-related industry recently.
It seems, however, that we have made a full circle and people take a lot of pride in making things with their hands that serve a purpose, such as great furniture and cabinets. Many of the companies that attend our show make the most beautiful and highly competitive products on a global basis for furniture, cabinets, millwork, architectural woodwork, etc.
Who are the key exhibitors at your trade show?
The big exhibitors are manufacturers of woodworking machinery, cutting tools, hardware components, and raw materials. Machinery is broken into two or three different areas like panel processing, solid wood machining, computer-controlled machinery and wood waste. Of course, the software to put this together is also very important and will be presented.
One of the big trends in the woodworking industry is Industry 4.0, a buzzword that stands for the automation in which data is exchanged in manufacturing to really create the “smart factory.” The theme of many of our exhibitors is based on Industry 4.0. So, some of them will have not just machinery on display, but also off-site machinery on large panel displays to show different automation systems in action.
Are there any preshows before the event?
We have an off-site preshow called Finishing Technology Symposium by Taurus Craco. It’s an education session that will also include a machinery demo of finishing equipment. That will actually happen off-site at the facility of Taurus Craco, which is not far from the convention center, the day before the show.
What are the issues that people in the industry are mostly concerned about?
The top issue in woodworking probably is hiring, training, and retaining the workforce. The state of the economy, especially the housing industry, is another priority because it is always in lockstep with the woodworking industry.
Right now the housing industry is very strong in Canada and that’s playing well for our attendees and exhibitors. Certain sectors, like cabinet manufacturing, are doing extremely well.
There are some trade issues that are weighing heavily on our audience, but the economy is strong in Canada and the United States, which is a great outlet for Canada’s exports.
How overseas machine manufacturing impacts the woodworking industry?
It does have an impact as some of our European machinery manufacturers are already manufacturing machines in Asia. We also have Asian suppliers exhibiting at the event.
In addition, the types of materials used in woodworking for years have been integrating composites that can be pure-wood composites, such as medium-density fibreboard and a family of wood panel products, but can also contain other materials.
Our most successful manufacturers certainly follow and stay ahead of the trends in terms of their offering. So, many woodworkers, at some point, would be machining some other type of composite product or machine plastics.
It has always been part of the mix, but wood is a sustainable resource that has been an important part of everybody’s life in furniture, flooring, or the structure of a home. Its sustainability makes it a really important product.
The Canadian wood industry, in particular, does a fantastic job of maintaining and sustaining its wood resource. It is the only raw material that just keeps giving back. For every tree that gets down to go into a wood product, there are more trees being planted.