BWA Has Another Hit Meeting Event at Conestoga College for 60 Companies!

Having the Ontario Centre for Wood Processing at Conestoga College host the BWA Quarterly Networking Event seems a perfect fit! They are the largest post secondary wood processing program in Ontario. We all know how important our workforce development is for our industry. When wood product manufacturers get together there for a day of learning and networking, the atmosphere just feels right!

Consultations with BWA members have indicted two big themes (among many others) that they have in common: they want to reduce their costs and waste, and increase their sales. Very simple you would think. But the implications run deep into how we manage our companies, our processes, and our people.

To approach the Lean Manufacturing theme to reduce costs and waste, it is necessary to look at the lean principles in the Toyota Production System that are a benchmark for all industries. Looking further, we need to apply them to the wood industry.

No better way to do that, than to engage a collaborative presentation by two experts in the field: Sepp Gmeiner of Lignum Consulting, and Brad Cairns of the Centre for Lean Learning. Although these two experts may compete with one another, they rose to the occasion to work together for the benefit of our members. This true to the cluster model the BWA adapted from Austria: collaboration for the betterment of the industry as a whole, despite competition!

Sepp provided a thorough introduction of lean principles and how they can be applied to wood production, with good visuals and examples people could understand. Brad Cairns followed up with examples of implementation of lean projects with videos and concrete examples and results of what can happen when employees become engaged and a part of the process. One big take-away was the use of video in real time of what is happening in your shop before and after a project. The two together were a “dynamic duo” and we look forward to working further with both Sepp and Brad as they help transform our businesses to the next level.

On the sales and marketing front, Andrew Wall of Sandler Training provided an informative and interactive session on how we manage the right approach to sales development and the people we have working for us. This is a very complex system that, similar to production, requires disciplined processes to be followed consistently in order to achieve results. Andrew provided many examples and take-aways for members as we re-evaluated our current practices and considered the opportunity of developing discipline behind our sales strategies.

These two themes: Lean Manufacturing and Sales and Marketing, will be the centerpiece of a new series of learning and training coming up in the new year provided by the BWA. Stay tuned for the events coming up in the calendar in 2018.

In addition, Sadoon Mohiuddin of Canmade  explained the new anti-tipping by-laws (F2057 and F3096) Government of Canada is implementing for the home furniture industry. He brought in a sample of Vokes Furniture for the demonstration that was well received.

Finally, a rich networking opportunity took place over breaks and following the event at Edelweiss Tavern in Kitchener!

Mark your calendars for the upcoming tours of Toyota Canada Oct 26 and Nov 15, but you must register to obtain a spot, and be a member of the BWA!

For more information on the BWA and events like this contact BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker at

Global Buyers Mission 2017

The Bluewater Wood Alliance recently attended the Global Buyers Mission, hosted by BC Wood at Whistler, BC. Two BWA members: Provincial Plank and Creative Woods Unlimited attended with booth space in collaboration the Ontario Wood group of MNRF. BWA Executive Director Mike Baker also attended to participate in the Canada Wood Board meeting, and learn more about the partnership opportunities with other Canadian wood associations and the opportunities the Global Buyers Mission present for other BWA members.

The Global Buyers Mission is a strategically facilitated gathering of qualified buyers of wood products from all over the world including Belgium, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam.

This is an extremely well organized event, with BWA members receiving orders immediately following the show.

You can learn more about it here:

If you are interested in more information on the BWA and collaborative opportunities such as the Global Buyers Mission, please contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker:

Membership Inquiry – Cabinet Vision Programmer

A BWA manufacturing member located in the Cambridge area is looking for a Cabinet Vision Programmer – either an outsourced person or someone to work as an employee.

If you know of anyone with this skill set, please respond directly to this inquiry.

Click here to learn more.

BWA June Quarterly Event Provides Employment Law Updates, WSIB, and New Website!

Greetings from the new BWA Website!

The Bluewater Wood Alliance cluster has developed a new website platform to facilitate engagement and connectivity between members, suppliers, potential new customers and our strategic partners. As with anything new, there will be bugs to iron out. Please make sure you register on the site ASAP so you can get connected with the rest of the cluster! If you have any questions or feedback for the site, please forward them along!

The benefit of the BWA cluster is that members get access to updated information on important topics related to their business. Most members are busy with the day-to-day pressures of customers and timelines, and do not have the resources devoted to non-direct business tasks like legislative due diligence. It is a challenge to “do it all” in changing times and keep up to date.

BWA’s June 29, 2017 quarterly networking event featured an Employment Law Update by Jill Sampson of The Alliance Lawyers of Grey Bruce. In addition to current employment law, the new legislation: Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 was reviewed. It is not yet in force, amendments will be effective on varying dates between January 1, 2018 and 2019. While the minimum wage increase to $15 per hour is getting the most attention, there are other far reaching aspects of this legislation that impact wood product manufacturing businesses. One of these is equal wages for part time and full time employees effective April 1, 2018. Other due diligence was reviewed and much discussion ensued between members and Jill, bringing extended value to this forum. The power point from this presentation is posted in the member area of our website in the Resource Library.

WSIB was the other main topic reviewed and how it compares to (and is not!) the Ministry of Labour. It is an expense all BWA members incur. Members benefitted from a presentation by Paula Andrade that reviewed updates and changes to resources available, and methods to minimize your risk and the premiums you pay.

Because paying WSIB is mandatory, it is often seen as a financial burden without much ROI for companies. On the contrary, there are some excellent programs and initiatives to tap into that are not well known as they should be by our members. Resources to help with development policies and procedures and other compliance systems were reviewed. Most important, there is a 5% rebate on your premiums available by participating in 4 sessions that help you with your safety program. The BWA is coordinating a series of events for this training. If you are interested, contact the BWA today!

As for all of our networking events, members continued into the late afternoon for networking and further developing their business connections in the wood industry!

Please mark down Sept 29 for the next BWA event hosted by Conestoga College!

If you are not a member of the BWA and would like to learn more, please contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker:

BWA Quarterly Event with Member Case Studies at Humber College Attracts Wood Industry

Building relationships that add value is what the BWA cluster network for the wood industry is all about! The Bluewater Wood Alliance cluster region includes all of southwestern Ontario. This means that we have members in various parts of the region that need convenient access to our events and networking activities. Humber College in Toronto hosts the 2nd largest post secondary cabinetmaking/woodworking program in Ontario. The perfect breeding ground for industry business and workforce development- and host for the BWA quarterly event!

Drew Aaslep is the lead faculty for Humber for their programs, and he shared with the members their program scope and facilities with a tour following the event. Great assets they have, and students ready to join the workforce!

The event kicked off with a presentation by Steve Smith with the government of Ontario who updated all of our members on current programs that are available to them to help their businesses. Always good information that is well received!

The topics this quarter started with the Ministry of Labour, dust collection standards, and the story from a BWA member that had a recent experience with being shut down due to an initial complaint from a disgruntled employee. This complaint lead to a series of visits from the MOL which then had them focussing on the dust collection standard. He was assisted by engineer Wayne Vollick of Quinte Consulting who help solve the members problem. Wayne helped to tell the story that many of the members could empathize with given the complex system of regulatory legislation that governs our workplaces. These discussions are priceless, as we hear real stories from real situations and we share solutions!

The next topic had the same flair with a combined presentation on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems provided by BWA associate members Seredex, BDO, and Planit Canada. This was followed by a valuable member case study provided by BWA member and past board president Andrew Schuster of Crate Designs. Andrew told the story of how Crate designs pursued ERP for their business, including set-backs and added costs and time, with a positive outcome. Andrew’s closing remarks after telling their story included: ” while it took longer than expected, was a lot of work up front, and cost a little more than we planned, we can’t imagine running our business without it now…what took hours and days to complete in the past can now be completed in 10 minutes.”

Hearing this kind of information from fellow industry members  is extremely valuable to our manufacturers as they attempt to embrace new technologies to help their businesses thrive. This kind of sharing and technology transfer of information is central to the success of the BWA cluster model.

The BWA has scheduled three Finishing Training dates in May: May 10 at Conestoga College, May 24th at Humber College, and May 31 in Walkerton, ON. Register now while there is space!

The next quarterly event is June 29, 2017 at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre in Walkerton, ON.

If you would like more information on the BWA and its activities, please contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker at


BWA Quarterly Event – Humber College, April 5, 2017. The BWA cluster includes all of southwestern Ontario and our college partners. They make the perfect hosts for industry to network!


BWA Quarterly Event – Humber College, April 5, 2017. Andrew Schuster of Crate Designs telling the story of how Crate designs pursued ERP for their business.

BWA Plant Tour Focus Group Examines Water Based Coatings Attracts 50 Members: Again!

The strength of the Bluewater Wood Alliance cluster is that it brings into action many inputs from our industry to help members innovate! Not only do manufacturing members get to visit other plant operations and learn from best practices and help brainstorm solutions to shared challenges, but the expertise of Associate Supplier members is also brought to bear on a topic of shared concern for all! To top it off, our educational stakeholders are also involved, and in this case Conestoga College on the topic of water based finish conversion.

BWA plant tour focus groups are focused on Continuous Improvement where the host presents a challenge to the group to help them solve. Associate members are “cherry picked” by the host according to area of expertise to participate in the exercise. These are facilitated so that the host is also able to share their business model and best practices. Solutions to challenges are brainstormed by the group creating a “Kaizen” style of interaction that stimulates insight into visiting member’s own operations back home.

Woodlawn Furniture Market / Ruffsawn / Woodhaven in Guelph is a unique BWA member company with a main process focus on finishing supplied manufactured product. Their new 32,000 square foot finishing facility and showroom is a site to behold, and they are in the midst of assessing the benefits and steps involved in converting to water based coatings. Some visiting BWA members have already converted to water based, but most have not. BWA Associate members attending that supply coatings included Richelieu, Performance Abrasives, Katilac Coatings, Sherwin Williams, and CCI Finish Works. We now call them the BWA finishing Dream Team!

The tour and discussion lead to several themes for consideration by members:

  • Water based issues shared with various types of wood: “Sugar Popping” when sap in white hard maple leaves the wood traveling through the finish, creating white spots. “Blooming”, “Clouding”, “Fog” – found under the topcoat, which remains after curing. Oak wood – trouble with colour ‘pop’ across surface. Members have found that oak needs to be soaked or misted with water before staining, watched for colour variations across a panel and may need retouching by hand. Wetting wood can raise the grain of the wood causing issues.
  • Associate members stressed that a dry environment and control of humidity are key factors to prevent issues, including the ones listed above: air movement, conditioning of wood pre-finishing, misting of wood with good quality water or methyl hydrate when using water base and have two different set-ups for water and lacquer-based finishing.
  • It was suggested to stick with one system/one supplier to easily trouble shoot issues as they come up.
  • Avoid mixing water base coats with oil base, although combining water base topcoat with oil stain has worked for some members. This allowed them to claim that they used a water base finish for marketing. However, associates believed there is a high risk of peeling.
  • An Associate suggested that if you’re thinking about changing over, work it in gradually, buy a new spray system with new pump and allow employees to work with the water base gradually because water based does feel different when spraying.
  • Some members were concerned about the colour depth of water based stains and matching existing stain. Associate members were confident that water based has improved. After wood furniture is finished and cured it is nearly impossible to tell if the finish is water based or not.
  • Images 2000 – Converted to water base and developed a drying system that takes 4 minutes that works very well for them. They emphasized that the key is control over the environment – air movement, temperature and humidity.
  • Water base: = No ‘off gassing’, which is good for customer perception and work environment.
  • Issue of drying/curing time for lacquer base: New drying technology are available in the market (Richelieu) – Microwave Unit – Thermal reactive pads – Wall mount
  • Some members believe that it is the long-term obligation to their employees – movement to water base will directly improve their quality of health.
  • Conestoga College can help facilitate R+D with water based conversion, as a non-bias alternative engaging multiple suppliers to find the right “fit”.

If you would like to attend a BWA Plant Tour Focus group, you will need to learn more about membership by contacting BWA Executive Director Mike Baker:

Next event: April 5th hosted by Humber College in Toronto! Stay tuned for details!

BWA members take a tour of Woodlawn Furniture Market’s plant.

Their new 32,000 square foot finishing facility and showroom is a site to behold

Not only do manufacturing members get to visit other plant operations and learn from best practices and help brainstorm solutions to shared challenges.

Our Plant Tour Focus Groups are also great networking opportunities.


BWA Plant Tour Focus Group Attracts Over 50: Largest Tour Group Yet!

The shop floor is where “rubber hits the road” when it comes to running your business. It is the place where BWA members feel most at home. Being on someone else’s shop floor opens your mind to new ideas, and helps you to envision solutions to your own problems. It also helps you to realize how good you really are already, and where you have opportunities for improvement!

The BWA Plant Tour Focus Groups are facilitated in such a way to be relevant and valuable to both the host, and visiting members. They are becoming very popular, which is shown by our largest turn out for one of these tour groups with over 50 people January 25, 2017!

GCW Cabinetry in St. Thomas had a challenge with their panel processing area. They wanted to improve the flow, increase their production capacity, and reduce part handling. This also included brainstorming the best option for a drilling machine to complement their beam saw. Other considerations were reducing material waste and managing their offcuts.

Diverse perspectives on solutions are drawn not only by fellow manufacturers, but also by BWA supply chain members who are selected by the host to attend. GCW requested 7 BWA supplier members to attend. These included machinery and tooling manufacturers, software solutions providers, and Sepp Gmeiner of Lignum Consulting. When you put the ideas of manufacturing members along side subject matter experts, the result is a very powerful collaborative consultation that can only take place when members are engaged, and it is facilitated effectively.

The event started with an introduction to the GCW business model and an overview of the area of the shop under scrutiny. They provided some schematics of the flow, and the group reviewed the improvement exercise before venturing out on the shop floor. This was followed by a debrief in the GCW showroom.

Some of the suggestions included the following themes:

  • Return conveyor strategies
  • Operator job design at the out-feed areas
  • Part sorting strategies
  • Yield challenges/strategies: saw vs. CNC
  • Scheduling strategies
  • Supermarket kanban opportunities
  • Use of colour coding components
  • Barcode labelling methods
  • Use of white boards for communication
  • Error proofing operator processes
  • Interloping part strategies
  • Plus many more!

Another valuable part of the day was the time that members had to connect with one another. Long after the session ended, members continued to linger, and network with each other. Many new supply opportunities have come from these connections made within the cluster.

Comments from members included: “When is the next Plant Tour Focus Group?”

The next BWA Plant Tour Focus Group is scheduled for February 22, 2017, hosted by Woodlawn Furniture Market Guelph, ON.

If you would like more information on the BWA so you can attend these events, please contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker


BWA Finishes 2016 Hitting Milestone of 100 Member Companies!

Greetings everyone!

This past year has been a very busy and productive one for the BWA and its members! Factories are busy! Members are engaging in BWA networking events, plant tour focus groups, projects, and training.

New members are joining, and our industry is starting to get some momentum. This past week, our 100th member joined: True North Log Homes in Bracebridge.

The BWA now sits at 70 manufacturing and 30 associate supplier members, and we are continuing to grow!

Here are some of the highlights of this year:

  •  4 Plant Tour Focus Groups engaging members in Continuous Improvement methodology
  •  4 Quarterly networking events with subject matter expertise and supply chain members
  •  First quarterly event hosted by Post-Secondary Institution (Conestoga) with visit by Hon.  Minister McGarry, MNRF
  • 2 public Finishing training sessions followed by in-house training by subscribing members
  • 2 High School wood shop tours to BWA members for workforce development
  • Export development project to Index Design Show, Dubai, UAE in May, 2016
  • Export development project to High Point Market, High Point, NC. for April and Oct markets
  • BWA offers sponsors to 20 High schools for Woodlinks curriculum with Wood Manufacturing Council
  • BWA participates on 2 program advisory committees for post secondary: Conestoga and Georgian College to facilitate industry input to curriculum
  • The BWA is continuing to pursue opportunities for its members with its government partners, and wishes to thank the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for its ongoing support!

Make sure to mark Jan 25th, 2017 in your calendar for the next Pant Tour Focus Group hosted by GCW Cabinets in St. Thomas!

On behalf of the Bluewater Wood Alliance, its members and board of directors, we wish everyone a Christmas and prosperous new year!

We can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us in 2017!


Best regards,

Mike Baker

Executive Director


BWA 22nd Quarterly Event Continues with CNC, Export, and Process Improvement!

The 22nd BWA event was held at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre in Walkerton, ON, and hosted over 40 BWA member companies. CNC, export and continuous improvement remain as strong themes for BWA members.

Canada has a tremendous resource of Trade Commissioners that are stationed in markets all over the world, and based here in Canada with the ability to connect with them. Sameer Ahmed, our regional trade commissioner based in Waterloo, ON, presented details on their services to BWA members. Approx 35% of the BWA members that don’t export have the possibility to consider it, and approx 20% of BWA members’ business models don’t fit with exporting. Currently, approx 45% of BWA members do export somewhere. There are many resources available and details from Sameer’s presentation are posted on the BWA member page. Sameer can be reached at:

The theme of CNC continued with BWA members Loren Burns of Precision Woodcraft in Millbank, ON, Ethan Vos of Cutting Edge CNC in Newmarket, ON, Grant Nicholson of Upper Canada Stretchers in Owen Sound, and Ewald Becker of Planit Canada provided a collaborative presentation followed by Q&A.

Loren Burns shared what happens to create a custom part for a customer using 5 axis CNC, and followed the path from the drawing in Master Cam to creating the code and machine set up and running time. Consideration for tooling, wood species, and nesting and set up were all discussed while members witnessed the creation of one of his parts. All were educated on the amount of time it takes to set up vs. the actual machine running time!

Grant Nicholson shared his technique of using custom software in comparison to “off the shelf packages”. He explained his process of creating 3d vector code from photographs and drawings to create art and custom parts to be made on a CNC. Grant shared images of his process of creating his unique art that he takes to CNC.

This was followed by Ewald Becker of Planit Canada who provided an overview of the advantages of “off the shelf” design software, with some examples of Cabinet Vision. Price points range from $1000 to get started and go up depending on your needs. Advantages of ease of use and with a focus on your business purposes are the focus for turn key software solutions and many of our members use them.

Ethan Vos of Cutting Edge CNC then shared “CNC on a budget”; essentially how you can get started using the technology without spending a lot of money with a focus on good software, good tooling, and the right attitude! Ethan shared many valueable examples that he himself has put into practice that were “take-aways” for members.

Finally, Sepp Gmeiner of Lignum Consulting shared his visions of Fit and Complete: an extension of his recent article in Woodworking Magazine. Sepp reminded everyone that if you focus on the basics of wood production: 15-20% of productivity can be improved without new equipment purchases! Waiting, Re-starting, Waiting: Why does it happen in your process? Sepp had the crowd thinking critically of how we conduct our day-to-day routines and find the opportunities we over-look with the basics.

As with all BWA events, the networking was rich, and extended after the event to a local restaurant into the evening. We observed many new business relationships sprout as happens at all of thee events.

If you want more information on the BWA, contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker at: