SCM Group USA: enriching the woodworking industry

SCM Group USA: enriching the woodworking industry

In 1952, Giuseppe Gemmani was asked by Lanfranco Aureli to design a combination woodworking machine that would be competitive enough to become a best seller on world markets. The multi-purpose machine, branded “The Invincible,” was produced on an industrial scale and value priced. The machine was a huge success and helped propel SCM into an acknowledged world leader in the manufacture of woodworking equipment.

To commemorate its first 50 years, SCM is planning a 10-day festival of technology. The Fiftieth Anniversary Celebrations will be held May 14-24 at the company’s home city of Rimini, Italy. More than 100 machines will be displayed including SCM solid wood and panel processing equipment, Morbidelli machining centers, Routech routers, Gabbiani Macchine panel saws, DMC sanders, Stefani and IDM edgebanders, Mahros material handling equipment and Minimax machines. The exhibition will also highlight integrated manufacturing workcells.

While SCM maintains deep roots in Rimini, its 15 branches extend far and wide to the four corners of the Earth. One of SCM’s most successful international branches is in the United States. Since SCM began seriously exporting to the U.S. in the 1970s, it has sold more than 80,000 machines.

Today, the U.S. branch is anchored by SCM Group USA Inc., which operates from a 78,000-square-foot facility in Duluth, GA. SCM Group USA coordinates the distribution and service of its extraordinarily extensive product line offered through a national network of nearly 40 dealers.

Last May, Giordano Checchi rejoined SCM Group USA as Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Checchi brings a global perspective to the job, having had the opportunity to observe woodworking operations and trends in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

He recently shared his views in the question-and-answer session that follows.

Q: How do you view the U.S. woodworking industry today as opposed to five years ago? Where might it be five years hence?

A: The U.S. woodworking industry is undergoing a major change and is splitting into two trends of thoughts.

One group, made up of companies of all sizes, has abandoned the traditional search for cheap labor and has embraced the road of automation and the benefits of computerized process control. In contrast, after struggling with the challenge of finding cheap labor, particularly during the recent economic boom years, companies in the second group have taken their operations outside the U.S. where low-cost manpower is abundantly available.

Companies included in the first group are definitely facing challenges, but they are succeeding with their new manufacturing operations. In the process they are growing and improving efficiency, profits and the level of service to their customers. They are not only helping keep the U.S. wood products industry alive, they are providing a number of highly qualified jobs in the areas in which they operate.

Meanwhile, companies in the second group are enjoying a high level of revenues at very good profits. But in spite of their current success, managers of these companies must be mindful of the uncertainty that comes from trading with countries that may suffer from economic instability or sudden political changes. Furthermore, the decision to place short-term gain ahead of long-term growth has resulted in a large number of people, many of them highly qualified woodworkers, to be laid off. The overall economy is negatively impacted by these moves.

Q: How do these changes affect the way SCM Group USA serves its dealers and woodworking customers?

A: SCM Group USA is seeing an increased interest in CNC equipment, both in the advanced technology products and in the lowcost CNC machines typically distributed through dealerships. This is a sign that many small and medium size woodworking companies see the value of CNC equipment when applied to short runs of production or even to customized wood products.

One of our most critical jobs is to provide our customers with superior after-sales support, including training, parts availability and technical service. This also includes educating our dealers and woodworking customers about the importance of preventive maintenance.

Q: Since rejoining SCM Group USA last May, you no doubt have taken careful stock of the company’s operations. What do you see as its biggest strengths? What area are you looking to improve upon the most?

A: The major asset of SCM Group USA is diversity in terms of the width and range of solid wood and panel processing equipment offered to the market. This is also a challenge, particularly for our service and parts departments. However, since the company has finally reached stability in the way the market is approached, it is now possible to reinforce and strengthen the technical and the parts services.

I believe SCM Group USA is a major player in the U.S. woodworking machinery industry, capable of providing efficient solutions to the most demanding U.S. customers. Obviously, our customers will have the last word about the quality of the machinery and services that we will provide them. We are ready to listen. After all there is always room for improvement, and the best ideas always come from the people using the machines every day.

Q: In the Fall of 2000, Georgia Tech opened up the Advanced Wood Products Laboratory in Atlanta. The AWPL features about $2 million of equipment donated by SCM. How is the woodworking industry benefiting from this well-equipped classroom?

A: The Advanced Wood Product Laboratory is a true state-of-the-art woodworking facility, managed by the best school of engineering in the South, the Georgia Institute of Technology. Students from the college and from the industry use the lab.

SCM Group USA has access to the lab and provides engineers who run the machines. An intensive program of diversified training on virtually all woodworking machining technology is offered by the AWPL at affordable costs. Machine operators, technology engineers and manufacturing engineers are being trained every day at the AWPL Many of them are improving or updating their knowledge. Others are familiarizing themselves with CNC equipment in response to the fast-growing demand from the woodworking industry for skilled and highly qualified personnel, in perfect synchrony with the trends of the industry.

Q: Anything else you’ve been dying to tell our readers that we have neglected to ask you about?

A: I would like to conclude by saying that even though the recent past has seen America going through very difficult times, the future still looks good. There are plenty of people in the woodworking industry preparing for the fully-computerized manufacturing of furniture, fixtures, cabinets and all those other beautiful objects made of wood that make our lives pleasant.

SCM Group USA prides itself in partnering with these individuals, whose vision will shape the woodworking industry of the future.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Vance Publishing Corp.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning