WMS: Back in Action

Grace Tatigian

UPDATE: As of September 16, WMS 2021 has been postponed until Spring 2022 due to COVID-19.

There’s no doubt that the Woodworking Machinery and Supply Conference and Expo (WMS) has long been the premier woodworking trade show in Canada. And it could be that 2021 had been the most anticipated show to date.

“I think our community is chomping at the bit to get back out there,” said Harry Urban, WMS Show Manager. “There have been no major woodworking trade shows in Canada since 2019. People want to know what’s out there, what’s changed in terms of hardware, software, materials – all kinds of things.”

In 2019, WMS hosted 175 exhibitors and over 5000 attendees. I wanted to know what Urban was expecting this year. He was optimistic.

“I’m hoping for numbers that are close to 2019,” he told me. “We’re really feeling the demand, and there’s a real sense of reopening.”

Regarding organizing the event during a pandemic, WMS is in good hands considering Urban organized the Wood Pro Expo in Florida in June. A lot of the precautions for WMS will also depend on the venue. The International Centre team has been working hard to prepare the facility for the long-awaited return of events, meetings, and conferences. Over the past few months, they have collaborated with a wide range of experts, including public health organizations, local and provincial government, and industry professionals, to help develop a set of comprehensive safety measures to keep everyone safe.

Regardless of the measures in place, Urban says that the team is still committed to delivering all of the fan favourite elements of the show.

“We’ve got the Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Association, Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada, Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario, Wood Manufacturing Council – all the big players – lined up to participate in the educational component of the show,” explained Urban. “These are complementary events that happen live on the WMS floor. Attendees always look forward to these; you can learn a lot.”

Urban says that they always aim to have a wide variety of speakers available considering how varied the audience is: “We’ve got people from all across the industry – everything from mom and pop cabinet shops to FDMC 300 large manufacturers.”

All these attendees have in common are the challenges that everyone in our industry has recently faced.

“The North American market, in terms of both supply chain and staffing shortages, has been in a tough spot over the last couple of years,” said Urban. “I think that people are looking for solutions to these problems. They want to reconnect with previous suppliers and meet new ones.”

That’s one of the big pluses to trade shows, something that WMS is hoping to facilitate with the implementation of a new app. Using the robust Whova platform, the app will facilitate planning, networking, logistical considerations, and a host of other features. Attendees can log in as early as September to start connecting with exhibitors and schedule meetings to make the most of their time at the event.

With travel starting to open up within Canada, Urban hopes that the show will see attendees and exhibitors from all over the country.

“Usually, it’s mainly people from Ontario, but we also have some key players from BC to Newfoundland,” he said. “It’s really for everyone in Canada.”

That’s highly likely with the sheer number of people who are itching to get back into the trade show world. For those traveling for the event, it’s worth it to check out Wood Technology Days, organized by the Canadian Woodworking Machinery Distributors’ Association (CDMDA) where local manufacturers will host open houses to show off their facilities and showrooms.

“Some of this machinery is the size of aircraft carriers,” pointed out Urban. “So we’re collaborating with CDMDA to provide a good experience for everyone.” 

Registration for WMS had been open since early August, and the event will take place from November 4 to 6 at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

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