2012 WOOD 100 Strategies for Success: Productivity Enhancements
By Karen Koenig | Posted: 09/07/2012 10:59AM
More than machinery, it takes a dedicated and skilled staff to drive productivity at the required levels needed by woodworking facilities of all sizes. Today’s workers must be familiar with green and lean manufacturing and also have a mindset for quality control and project management.
CW Keller & Associates Inc., Plaistow, NH
The art of obtaining and retaining skilled workers to run the machines and oversee projects is of vital importance to today’s woodworkers. “We are continuously searching for top talent from within the industry and related fields,” says Les Holland, head of engineering at the high-end, architectural millwork and casework firm.
A diversified company, CW Keller also produces modern furniture pieces and complex concrete forms, in addition to performing 3-D modeling and engineering services for the woodworking industry. Among the company’s recent purchases, Holland says, has been the latest versions of AlphaCAM, AutoCAD and Rhino. And with a mind to customer service and delivery, CW Keller also invested in a delivery truck and custom-made trailers “to better deliver specific products.” Planned acquisitions in 2012 include solid surface and thermoforming equipment.
Aggressive in finding jobs, CW Keller has more than 38 years of experience working with a wide range of residential, commercial, institutional and retail clients on national and international projects, and is a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute. The project pictured is an office for C Change, a capitol investment firm in Boston.
What often distinguishes the company is its ability to look outside the box when it comes to the production capabilities of “envelope-pushing” projects, such as its line of ply furniture. Also known for its sustainable manufacturing at the 30,000-square-foot plant, CW Keller says it uses eco-friendly manufacturing and building techniques for LEED-accredited projects. The company says it uses formaldehyde-free, recycled content particleboard and MDF cores and is a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified shop.
Olon Olon Industries Inc., Georgetown, ON
Competition can be fierce among component manufacturers, and Olon Industries is no exception. The company, whose sales grew 12.5% in 2011, manufactures a range of products including five-piece cabinet doors, drawer components, custom profiles and wrapped mouldings. According to Jenn Rapagna, sales coordinator, Olon is focused on “servicing our customers well, producing quality products and innovation in developing new products for new markets.”
To stay competitive, in 2011 Olon relocated from its Jeffersonville, IN, facility to a larger 107,000-square-foot plant also in Jeffersonville, and added panel processing and edgebanding equipment, a wrap line slot coater and high-speed feedthrough drilling machines. 2012 plans include upgrades to panel processing and wrapping equipment.
Mortensen Woodwork Mortensen Woodwork, Union City, GA
Sales for the architectural millwork, casework and mouldings maker increased 9.1% in 2011 — and the company is not done yet. “Building our revenue by increasing our casework production line was a focus this past year,” says GM LaGrande Till. “We worked with Stiles and brought in a BHX 055 machining center and reorganized our casework area to be more efficient and turn it into a profitable area for us.”
Mortensen also installed Metal Halide lighting to reduce energy costs and improve the workplace environment, and the addition of Schmalz vacuum lifts help to reduce labor, minimize injury and mitigate product damage, Till says. This year, Mortensen also acquired another dust collector for the mill department. “This should help us as we create room for additional overflow capacity,” Till says, with the purchase of another edgebander and veneer sander also under consideration.
More Productivity Profiles
Adriatic Wood Products Inc., Brooklyn, NY
Plans for improving productivity at the custom and stock moulding manufacturer include purchasing with tighter specifications. “This will help reduce the waste factor and labor involved,” says President John Grbic. “We also have material already in line for delivery to reduce downtime,” he adds.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., East Earl, PA
On-time, consistent shipments, competitive pricing and customer service are among the attributes that make the wood cabinet components manufacturer a success in the industry, says Jeff Eichenseer, director of marketing and product development. Among the company’s broad range of products are: cabinet doors, drawer boxes, mouldings and RTA framed cabinet systems.
Great Lake Woods Inc., Holland, MI
Katie Malmstadt, marketing manager, says the moulding, millwork and components maker “continues to review internal procedures, processes and technology for maximum efficiency.” And for 2012, it “has started to review long-term commitments with vendors, plan for more internal training to improve workmanship, invest in technological additions and make capital improvements to the facility.”
Benedict Millworks Inc., Kings Mountain, NC
“Be as lean and cost-effective as possible” are the words of advice from Owner Stephen Benedict. Sales for the millwork, staircase, turnings and casegoods manufacturer grew 7.1% in 2011.
Cabinets by Baja Inc., Las Vegas, NV
Strict quality control plus good employees helped contribute to the hospitality and commercial millwork manufacturer’s 10.0% growth in 2011, says CEO/General Director Manuel Rios Ugalde. The company also added FSC certified products to its mix, and is looking to purchase a CNC router in 2012 to further improve productivity.
Carriage Hill Cabinet Co., Frederick, MD
President Douglas Fauth credits lean manufacturing for the kitchen cabinetry and built-ins firm’s 35.4% sales growth. In addition, he says, “[We’ll continue to] remain flexible with our product and service offerings and get as lean as possible with cost savings.”
Concept Millwork, Santa Ana, CA
Sales for the company grew a whopping 74.2% in 2011, due in part to its ability to estimate and project manage all phases of architectural millwork, store fixtures and commercial casework, says Richard Gubler, owner. Projects range in size from $5,000 to more than $250,000.
Crowder’s Custom Cabinets Inc., Hampton, VA
For this cabinet manufacturer, success comes from “keeping up to date with changes in techniques and the training of our employees,” says Mike Crowder, president/owner. A CNC router is among the company’s recent purchases.
David Sherk Woodworking, St. Clements, ON
Owner David Sherk credits reduced delivery times, increased efficiency and new machinery including material handling equipment for aiding the solid wood panel and door company’s improvement.
Camlen Inc., Lac Brome (Knowlton), QUE
Plant Manager Amy Brown says “continued analysis of sales vs. inventory” helped the residential and “reinvented antique” furniture maker stay on course. Aiding in productivity was the purchase of three spray booths.
Indian River Shutter Co., Palm City, FL
Lean manufacturing has helped contribute to the plantation shutter company’s sales growth, says President Wesley Scott. The company also has invested in automation to improve its just-in-time production, Scott adds.
Garcia’s Cabinet & Trim, Corpus Christi, TX
According to Owner Jaime Garcia, the custom cabinet and trim shop improved efficiency and increased its production of doors following the purchase of a 37-inch widebelt sander. Sales increased 10.0% in 2011.
New World Millworks Inc., Castle Rock, CO
Mick McKee, purchasing manager, says the architectural millworker looks to be “competitive in the marketplace and to not limit ourselves as far as any type of work.” Investments in equipment include a CNC machining center. 2011 sales grew 31.8%.
Gat Creek, Berkeley Springs, WV
CEO Gat Caperton attributes throughput growth and new equipment, including a straightline ripsaw, for the 4.5% sales increase in 2011 for the solid wood residential furniture maker.
Furniture Concepts Inc., Largo, FL
President Lance Breakwell says the millwork and casework maker “runs a very lean operation.” It works with a variety of materials, including solid wood and veneers, laminates, solid surface and stainless steel.
Reborn Cabinets, Anaheim, CA
“We have been able to increase our profit margins by focusing on lean manufacturing and retaining higher qualify staff. We also document and train so we can minimize repetitive mistakes,” says CFO Anthony Nardo. 2011 sales for the kitchen and bath remodeler grew 39.5%.
Elipticon Wood Products Inc., Little Chute, WI
Owner John Wiley says the millwork company continues to focus on lean and green training, team building and cross training of employees and programs to improve efficiency, “in order to be able, in most cases, to meet 24-hour requests for product.” In addition, Wiley says, Elipticon will “continue to redefine our market emphasis, focusing on both very high-quality millwork and components.”
North American Plywood Corp., Parsippany, NJ
The plywood panel and component maker’s sales grew 10.7% in part, due to lean manufacturing practices, plus the addition of CNC automated equipment, says GM Donald Kuser. Plans for 2012 include a CNC router and saws.
Rivermede Woodworking, Vaughan, ON
“We are continually exploring innovative ways to improve production accuracy, efficiency and ultimately profitability,” says Diana Gucciardi, director of the cabinet and door firm. “We develop and implement SOPs that meet our unique manufacturing demands. We also explore machinery, specifically how automation will assist in attaining our directives.”
Unique Statements in Wood Inc., Bay Shore, NY
Employee skills are helping drive the architectural millwork firm’s success, says President Scott Woodrick.
WDI Companies, Forest Lake, MN
Reduced delivery times and quality craftsmanship are integral to the POP firm’s success, says Dan Kammerer, vice president.
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About the Author
Karen M. KoenigKaren M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Wood Products (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Google+.