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:

BWA Plant Tour Host Art For Everyday Shares Challenges and Expertise!

Through-put challenges created by bottlenecks in production are common challenges for all manufacturers. Driving wasteful steps out of your process to decrease your lead times for product is a true way to lead your company towards profitability. These common challenges come to life at the BWA plant tours and all manufacturers participate in the brainstorming and sharing of solutions to make improvements. This is the big value-add for the host, and the participants see their own challenges from a new perspective. Supply chain members are “cherry picked” to attend by the host to provide their expertise on the issues at hand. Ideas are shared that members can take back to their own facilities.

On Nov 3, 2016, BWA member Art for Everyday in Toronto hosted a plant tour focus group to help them get new ideas on how to reduce the bottleneck at their sanding areas. Art For Everyday is a manufacturer of custom architectural woodcarvings supplying over 1200 decorative corbels, capitals, mouldings, corner posts, island posts, mantels, appliqués, rosettes, custom woodcarvings, and other decorative architectural components. They supply designers, architects, and cabinet and furniture companies the decorative components they require.

The tour started with an overview of their business, and a short presentation in their showroom. The group was then divided into 3 groups to tour the plant, with time spent at the area in question. This was then followed by a debriefing session. It was at this session that ideas began to flow from the members to help them with their challenge.

An example of a few of the ideas included:

  • Decrease through put by setting a time limit per unit.
  • Maintain the customers expectations but adjust finish standards. AfE standard in their sanding department is 220 grit. BWA members suggest lowering the standard grit to 180. It will still produce good surface finish and 180 is a standard for some of the BWA members present. BWA members also felt 180 is better for finishing.
  • Change CNC tooling to improve surface finish and decrease the time spent in sanding. Diamond Tooling  v.s. Solid Carbite bites. Solid Carbite is current standard at AfE.
  • Improve the programing on the CNC machines to decrease the time spent in sanding.
  • Vibratory finishing – for small parts. This type of finishing is used by another member for small parts such as knobs. This sanding technique is more popular in other industries.
  •  BWA members noticed an over use of sand paper. Suggesting that AfE change sandpaper pads more frequently to speed up production.
  • Speed up production in the sanding department by adding more specialized sanding machines such as a radius sanding machine for curved surfaces.
  • Treat flat surfaces in large batches before turning. Not with orbital or hand sanders but machine sanding. Recommended to upgrade to a 2 drum sanding machine.
  • Put sanding pads on a 5 axis CNC machine to sand the pieces in the machining department.
  • Some new sanding technologies were shared by BWA Associate members Performance Abrasives and Allied Stars.

The BWA cluster model facilitates this kind of knowledge sharing. This is just a sample of the type of synergy between companies that takes place. For more information on the BWA, please contact Executive Director Mike Baker:

Minister for MNRF Attends BWA 21st Quarterly Networking Event: a Big Hit with 90 Attendees!

When you take the true clustering model the BWA delivers by including stakeholders like Conestoga College’s Ontario Woodworking Centre, combined with manufacturing members sharing best practices as the key speakers, supply chain members adding expertise, and a networking venue to make industry connections to help grow your business, the magic happens!

The event kicked off with introductions of everybody in the room, so you know whom you want to talk to on the networking breaks. A true metric of engagement is who you see out at these events. This was followed by an update of BWA activities, projects, and membership by BWA Executive Director, Mike Baker. New BWA members Carocell Interiors, New Image Kitchens, Performance Abrasives, and Freeport Technologies were welcomed! The BWA is now at 95 member companies and growing! 

Next the Hon. Minister of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, spoke to the crowd about her concerns for the industry, both primary and secondary in Ontario, and their endorsement and support for the BWA cluster model. The BWA was honoured to have the Hon. Minister present at our event to see what a truly powerful cluster of companies we have become in Ontario. We look forward to having her out to future events to learn more about the needs of our member companies in the secondary manufacturing wood products industry in Ontario!

Next up: a dynamic collaborative presentation by three BWA manufacturing members who are custom CNC houses: Loren Burns of Precision Woodcraft, Ethan Vos of Cutting Edge CNC, and Grant Nicholson of Upper Canada Stretchers/Nicholson Design. Each of these creative individuals shared their perspectives on what CNC is and its potential for what it can do. Many BWA members will never get a CNC in house, and will always need to outsource this expertise. Others are on the edge of making a CNC purchase, and have multiple things to consider. Other have been using them for years. There was something for everyone as they covered all aspects from software to tooling to vacuum  and maintenance. From pushing the envelope for the production of complex designs, to volumes of repetitive or complex router patterns, or attractive and inspiring art pieces, all angles were discussed.  Stay tuned for future talks from these folks, as they just scratched the surface and have more expertise to share.

Next, David Blackler, Finishing Technologist with Conestoga College, Woodworking Centre of Ontario provided a presentation on finishing that included considerations for surface spraying variation for wood species and mdf products, and how can you maximize coverage and minimize passes (cost reduction). This was followed by addressing choices of laquer and nuances for wood and mdf, and considerations for training employees in house.

Dave finished off with a short demo of the spray simulator used for training. There were a few brave folks from the audience that gave it a whirl to test their accuracy!

The finale was a tour of the Ontario Woodworking Centre. Conestoga College has the largest post secondary woodworking training centre in Ontario, and members were able to tour the shop and see all of the new equipment and capabilities that are in use.

This was all followed by a social gathering for food and beverage at a local establishment, where the networking continued into the evening for many members (often the best part!)

Whew! What an afternoon!

If you want more information on the BWA membership and its activities, contact BWA Executive Director Mike Baker at

From left: BWA Executive Director Mike Baker, BWA President/Chair Dennis McGlynn, MNRF Hon. Minister Kathryn McGarry, Executive Dean for the School of Engineering/IT and Trades Julia Biedermann, Conestoga College President John Tibbits

Grant Nicholson shares his vision of CNC capabilities.

BWA Finishing Training is Back by Popular Demand!

It is what the customer sees first. The look, the feel, the durability. Those that have finishing in their process know how important it is. Yet, it is also one of the jobs that can be hardest to fill. Its not a comfortable job most days with respirators and the repetitive motion, in addition to the cost of labour, equipment, and material.

This is why workforce development for the wood industry is very important. We need skilled finishers that understand how to be efficient and also do a quality job that is pleasing to the end user.

The BWA ran two one day sessions, May 18 and June 8, 2016, for front line finishers in partnership with Conestoga College. The course involved an overview of finishing theory and HVLP Spray Equipment: Airless, Air Assist, equipment maintenance, Stains: spray, wipe, water-based, solvent based, Sealers, Topcoats, Pigmented lacquer, Trouble Shooting, Process Control, and Simulator Practice.

Companies have the choice of a Phase 2 in-house as a follow up to the training working with the company’s equipment and transferring the knowledge further into the plant. This phase has been found to be most successful, and funding has been accessed through the Canada Ontario Jobs Grant for many of the companies.

If you are a wood manufacturing company and you would like to learn more about the BWA Finishing Training, please contact us at


Darren Ivany of Norcab Kitchens uses Conestoga’s spray simulator


The finish of wood products is the most critical step in the process!