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Technology: Industry's Favorite Toys & Gadgets
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Embracing new technology is not easy. Is the wood packaging industry ready? The following comments from our industry thought leaders share on several areas of old and new technology, along with a little nostalgia. We reached out to all of our members and here is what they had to say in answer to the following questions: Q1: What ‘old’ technologies/equipment do you still use? Fax machine, dot matrix printer, walkie talkie, pagers, paper rolodex, etc? Q2: What modern day technology/equipment do you use (laptop computer, smartphone, paperless fax machine, electronic billing/invoicing, business software? Q3: Which new tools are your favorite toys that you or your business couldn’t survive without in today’s business environment? Q4: Which available new technologies, such as driverless vehicles, drones, robotics, 3-D printing, RFIDs or other, do you anticipate using for your business in the short term (1-3 years) or long term (3-10 years)?


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Q&A: John Romelfanger, CEO, H&S Forest Products, Inc.

Posted By John Romelfanger, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: Our favorite is still the fax machine. We work with a number of Amish mills and a fax is the only quick way to communicate in writing with them, and vice versa. Just because something is “old” doesn’t make it useless. Another old standby is the tape measure. This may not be considered “equipment,” but it’s very important in the pallet industry where 1/8” can make a real impact on costs and pallet strength.

A2: For our sales staff, the cell phone for virtually instantaneous communication via voice and email almost anywhere, plus all the functions that apps can do (traffic, weather, GPS, mapping, etc) is critical. For our accounting staff, the accounting software enables us to be more efficient and accurate, then we have better information to manage our business. Both of these technologies make our customer service staff’s job better.

A3: GPS apps work not only for driving directions, traffic issues and re-routes, but for accurate ETAs to your destination.

A4: I’m not convinced that we’ll see totally driverless vehicles soon (that don’t crash), but today’s technologies can make driving safer. There is currently brake assist, lane keeping assist and backup cameras, and I’m sure they’ll improve and become available on more vehicles. A lot of mills still use older equipment that work fine, so newer manufacturing technology doesn’t always produce the efficiencies needed to justify the capital expenditure.

I hope to see 3-D printing capabilities for pallet designs that can be shared with customers and prospects. While not full scale, a picture is better than words and a 3-D print is better than pictures.

ACH payments have gained acceptance in the last 2-3 years and, hopefully, will soon replace all paper checks. Some companies need to get better at providing the remittance details behind these payments.

We also look forward to pallet software assisting with load planning (some do today). We expect to use these resources to help improve overall efficiencies at our mills while also maximizing the pallet loads.

Someday, RFIDs will be a cost effective and reliable way to track pallets. This technology would have a significant impact on the pallet industry. If a customer knew they would have the opportunity to reuse their pallet, it would make economic sense to improve their durability, increase their useful life. It could also create a possible business case for utilizing an alternative material (wood composites, plastic, etc.) which costs more to build a pallet.

We’ll also see an impact on utilizing imaging technology for improved quality screening of raw material and finished product that currently rely on the human eye and judgement.

Email John Romelfanger, H & S Forest Products, Inc.

Tags:  3D printing  app  drone  imaging  mapping  pds  rfid  technology 

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Q&A: Randy Panko, Blade Sales Manager, Wood-Mizer, LLC

Posted By Randy Panko, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: We still use the fax machine to ensure that documents are received reliably. I also keep a notebook with me of current addresses, phone numbers, and my most immediate “things to do list” rather having all this info on an electronic device.

A2: Spending as much time as I do visiting sawmills, pallet mills and attending tradeshows, it is essential that I have my laptop, smartphone and GPS. Emails, reports and following daily sales are difficult without these convenient “toys.” Even though I use my cell phone as a GPS, I prefer my Garmin which is more visible in the vehicle, and user friendly.

A3: With global operations, we communicate via Skype. This allows us to keep in touch with our counterparts in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. For travel, I use What’s App, Tango and Messenger to communicate with my family. For travel arrangements Delta, IHG Hotels and Lyft get a lot of my attention.

A4: This year Wood-Mizer invested in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Batesville, Indiana. We used a drone to monitor and document the construction process which was later used as an educational/ informational video for our worldwide employees and the public. We also developed product videos and photo shoots using a drone. Our marketing and IT department utilizes “Slack” which is an internal communication tool where information, files and videos can be quickly shared without using up email or server space. It is a great communication and instant chat tool for staying up to date on the latest projects.

Email Randy Panko, Wood-Mizer, LLC

Tags:  app  communications  drone  gps  skype  technology  video 

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Q&A: Bradley Van Swol, AAI, CPIA, Vice President, Hays Companies

Posted By Bradley Van Swol, Hays Companies, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A1: Paper copy of a daily planner. If I lose it I’m toast, but it’s what works for me.

A2: Without a doubt, my iPhone map app!

A3: Working with clients throughout the country, I rely on my iPhone map app. It might take me on the longer route, and I’ll have no idea where I am, but it gets me where I need to be!

A4: Our organization runs 36 offices nationally. We’ll continue to utilize every new form of communication technology that becomes available to improve overall efficiencies. Email and text messaging has its place, but Live Chat, Live Conferencing, Linked-In Navigator allow us to work better with our clients. We also incorporate advances in computing power such as programs through SalesForce where large volumes of data are stored in the cloud at minimal cost. The algorithms are easy to access and help us to improve sales while ensuring that we are selling the right products to the right customers. In-office face time is invaluable, people are busy and efficiency is critical. With these advances in technology, I can work with a client located 500 miles away on a daily basis more effectively than I can with quarterly in-office meetings. More importantly, customer relationship management (CRM) allows for sales on a global scale. Location becomes insignificant as long as I deliver as promised.

Technology in robotics is amazing, especially in healthcare where once difficult medical procedures are almost routine and recovery times are reduced dramatically. Drones? There will be more regulations, but drones will have a place when it comes to improving efficiency and reducing costs; i.e. a drone can probably more efficiently deliver a package than a vehicle when you factor in fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc. Drones have range limitations and will never be the end-all be-all when it comes to technology. Their usage will depend on what works for that particular business. Will drones impact the labor force? Possibly, but it may be more about transitioning roles of labor than it is a reduction in labor. The same for driverless vehicles which is part of the evolution of technology where you’ll see the transitioning of the role of a workforce, but not necessarily a down-size in the work force. Another example: paper currency. Don’t have $5 but have your smartphone? You can buy that!

Email Bradley R. Van Swol, Hays Companies Insurance

Tags:  app  drone  labor  technology  transportation  video conferencing 

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