Wendt Industries Inc. is more than just a cabinets and casegoods manufacturer; it is also a distributor and a contractor. The company has leveraged these capabilities into strong growth in a relatively short period of time.

 

In addition to manufacturing casegoods, Wendt Industries Inc. is also a distributor and a contractor, offering furniture, flooring, signage, graphic displays and other items.

According to Michael Wendt, president of Tracy, CA-based Wendt Industries Inc., many companies in the woodworking industry could mine their customers deeper for business opportunities. Wendt’s company, which caters to the sports facilities market, offers more than just a line of cabinets and casegoods.

“If you look at your customer and they only want one thing and that’s casegoods, then you better look again,” says Wendt. “They want more than you think they do.

“From the very beginning, I saw a niche that I could actually go in with my book of business, take my existing client base and harvest even more activity from it,” Wendt adds.

Wearing Many Hats

In addition to manufacturing cabinets and casegoods, the company offers furniture, multi-faceted flooring systems, signage and graphic displays. Design services with 3-D computer renderings and computer animated fly-throughs also are available to Wendt Industries’ customers.

It is this strategy of diversifying its product offerings and selling more to each customer that dramatically increased the company’s sales from $1 million per month to more than $1.5 million per month in less than a year.

“It’s the marketing of your name and then being able to pull these resources together to bear on one customer,” Wendt explains. “We offer multi-faceted products that are complementary to one another.”

The key, he adds, is asking what else a customer might need.

“I don’t sell manufactured goods on every invoice we send out of here,” explains Wendt. “We’re a manufacturer, but we’re also a distributor and a contractor. When we put all three of those disciplines together, we have a very complex entity that we’re running.”

Wendt admits that some customers might be skeptical about his capabilities, but they are quick to learn that he can back up his claims.

“When you think about what service is, it’s not just picking up the phone and calling someone, it’s not just delivering something. It’s actually delivering something your client is requesting, and perhaps something they never thought you could [offer],” he adds.

The additional sales opportunities provide more revenue, and the customers find it easier to deal with just one company to fulfill their needs, Wendt says.

“Why do they like that? Because they can write one check, to one guy, and it’s done,” he adds.

“Look to the future when purchasing machinery,” says Tim Donowick, executive vice president, manufacturing/engineering. Below, an employee processes a board on one of two Weeke point-to-point machining centers. At right, products move through the shop in a U-shaped pattern, so that they begin and end at the loading docks.

Controlling Production

Founded in 1994, Wendt Industries Inc. did not manufacture its own products when it was established. Originally, the company utilized contract manufacturing agreements to produce its casegoods. However, Wendt found that the manufacturers did not have his best interests at heart.

“It never worked out because I didn’t have people who were thinking along my lines,” he explains. “They weren’t thinking of my best interests; they were building for themselves.”

Also, by working with contracted manufacturers, Wendt says the company was not able to grow at the rate he thought it should. So, in 2005 manufacturing was brought in-house to better control costs, quality and productivity.

“Yes, it was a risk, but the risk is being far outweighed by the economic upside,” says Wendt.

Moving production in-house meant a lot of capital investment for machines and more employees. The company went with CNC machining to help ensure certain standards in productivity and quality were maintained.

“You have to have proper engineering, you must have proper vision and you must have proper software, equipment and people to pull it off,” says Wendt.

Tim Donowick, executive vice president, manufacturing/engineering, keeps a watchful eye on what is occurring on the shop floor. “You need to challenge your capabilities to find your shortfalls,” he says.

The employees are all cross-trained on the various machines, and when work is building up in one area, they know to switch around to other areas and eliminate the bottleneck. Finding the right employees to run the equipment, though, was another matter.

“I did not dream that I would have such problems trying to find a qualified individual or even a group of qualified individuals,” Wendt remarks. “Finally, after two years, we’ve got a solid crew.”

From Stiles Machinery, the company uses a Holzma front loading panel saw, two Brandt edgebanders, two Weeke point-to-point boring machines, a Altendorf sliding panel saw and a Ligmatech clamp.

Additionally, the company utilizes an AccuSystems auto drill and dowel inserter, an Evans 180-degree postformer, an Orma hydraulic press from Midwest Group One, a Powermatic table saw, a hinge drill and insertion machine and an edge sander.

Materials are purchased on a just-in-time basis, and the company gets deliveries three times per week.

During the busy season, the company will complete enough goods for 20 to 30 projects per month to be shipped nationwide, Wendt says.

“The logistics coming out of here and what we deal with can be quite intense,” Wendt remarks.

“Velocity is everything,” Donowick adds.

Velocity is a key component of production at Wendt Industries Inc., where 20 to 30 projects are completed in a busy month.

Mass Customization

Customers of Wendt Industries are able to choose from a wide variety of options in materials, finish, hardware and other accessories. Coupled with the volume of the typical order and the velocity with which jobs are completed in the shop, Donowick terms the company’s production process one of mass customization.

Typically, customers will choose the product that they want from an adjusted base standard. Yet the company will also produce fully custom pieces as well.

A majority of the casegoods going out are manufactured using laminates, followed by veneers and solid wood.

Because it serves the sports facilities market, Wendt Industries products also need to be made tough to withstand the battering they will get from the end user. Therefore, the company also builds a line of casegoods using phenolics, which are moisture resistant and will last longer.

“We’re everything you’d want to come to to supply your facility,” says Donowick.

“Wendt Industries Inc. is successful today because we offer products in a dynamic market,” Wendt says.