The 300 largest North American cabinet, millwork, furniture and fixture manufacturers recorded a seventh straight year of sales expansion. For the record, sales for the FDMC 300 group
of companies grew 4. 75 percent in 2018, to reach $54.691
billion. A year ago, 2017 sales grew by 5. 4 percent over the
How did they do it?
One reason is that most markets for wood products
continue to be strong. Even with a possible slowdown in new
residential construction and changes in the retail landscape,
most companies reporting to us had higher sales or sales
about equal to the previous year.
I’ve previously made the observation that this growth cycle
is different from the last one, which ended with a loud thud at
the start of the 2008 recession.
Companies are expanding, but they are doing so more
carefully. They are investing in technology, but they have a
plan for upgrading equipment and are following it. They are
not standing still with yesterday’s technology.
They are reluctant to add
employees (if they can find them)
and have found that they can
produce the same or more with
A lot of the gains are from
investing in technology and
software, and improving their
process with lean manufacturing
and other methods.
Especially technology that allows fewer employees to produce
That’s not an option – it’s a necessity. Since the people are
simply not available.
As one manager told me some years back after buying new
automated equipment, “I’m not replacing people, I’m replac-
ing job vacancies that I can’t fill.”
So, seven years of expansion in a row. This comes after five
consecutive years of declines from 2007 to 2011. What will
2019 bring? Right now the indicators are positive.
Stay tuned. ✚
Doing more with less
Companies are reluctant to add employees, if they can find them.
Saying goodbye to an old
friend who made me smile
When I first met Steve Ehle, we were friendly
competitors at different magazines. When
he died in January, I was proud to say we
were friends and colleagues. We chatted
on the phone regularly as he worked on
freelance projects for FDMC, but the conver-
sation could never keep to the subject. Steve
always had a humorous detour in mind. In
my case, it often had to do with my loca-
tion in the Maine woods that is also home
to a few moose. Steve rarely got through
a phone call without asking me, “How’s
Steve contributed a lot to the industry
over the years, but his unique and frequently
offbeat sense of humor is what I think most
people will remember about him and miss.
I know I will.
by Karl D. Forth
by William Sampson
✚ Follow Will
Karl online at