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Who Wants To Talk Technology?

Who Wants To Talk Technology?

Story by Rich Donnell,
Editor-in-Chief

On page 14, we publish an article written in 1980 by the founding editor of Plywood magazine. The article celebrates the magazine’s 20th birthday. In 1960, Jim Burrell, that editor, charted the course that Plywood magazine, Plywood and Panel magazine, Plywood and Panel World magazine and Panel World magazine would continue to follow for 50 years. Sure there has been considerable tweaking along the way—such as to the name of the magazine—but the editorial and advertising plan hasn’t veered much.

Three years after Burrell wrote that article, I joined Hatton-Brown Publishers Inc. and its slew of forest industry trade journals, one of which, Plywood and Panel, had been acquired only a year or so before. By the time I started, Hatton-Brown had re-named it Plywood and Panel World, and even formed a separate company to encompass it. This means that I’ve been associated with the magazine for more than half of its 50 years.

I’ve always found the magazine to be especially stimulating. One reason is because of its international presence; another reason is because of the diversity of industries that comprise the panel industry; but most importantly because of the vibrant companies and people that Panel World writes about.
I have so many stories in my head of mills, companies and people I’ve encountered along the way. But one story I especially recall is this:

In 1988, I traveled to several machinery manufacturers in Germany with our overseas sales rep, the Englishman, Alan Brett. It was my first trip abroad, and Alan had drawn up a rigorous schedule of interviews and factory tours. One of our visits was to Schenck, the forming machine manufacturer located in Darmstadt.

You have to keep in mind that I had been a sportswriter. The X’s and O’s of a football game plan can get pretty complicated, but it’s nothing compared to “wind sifting,” which was what Schenck was all about.

I remember when we pulled up to the old Schenck factory. It certainly intimidated an international novice like me. People in Germany weren’t speaking as much English back then, so basically Alan steered us with his broken German into a dark conference room where I would interview one of Schenck’s technology specialists. I had prepared a list of questions for our technology “rap” session.
Then Günter Natus entered the room. He looked very serious, very German. His English was good, but it still sounded very German. “I know Plywood and Panel World,” he said. “I see that you are expanding beyond the coverage of only plywood and into particleboard.”
This of course was the purpose of my trip: to show companies such as Schenck that we intended to emphasize all panel and board products and technologies. If Günter recognized it, we must be on the right track.
I tossed several “technical” questions at Günter, and he was kind enough to answer them as if I understood what he was talking about, though we both new I didn’t.

Nevertheless, I left the meeting thinking two things: that I can do this panel industry beat; and that Günter Natus is in the top five of the smartest people I have ever met.

Well, I’m still here, and so is Günter (with Dieffenbacher). We cross paths now and then, most recently at the Panel World PELICE event in Atlanta in early February. He’s still in my top five. I’m still on the panel industry beat.

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