2012 WOOD 100 Strategies for Success: Technology Integration
By Karen Koenig | Posted: 09/06/2012 3:29PM
Investments in technology are helping today’s woodworkers to be leaner, greener and expand their production capabilities, thereby spurring growth in their businesses. New opportunities await those companies that have the organization in place to accomplish this.
Closet America, Lanham, MD
There are no shortcuts when it comes to building a successful business. Before founding the closet and home organization company in 2007, company President Skip LaBella says he researched the industry, its standards and, as it says on the company’s website, “analyzed every facet of the process, from design, sales, manufacturing, installation to service, and we created new and innovative ways to improve everywhere we could.”
Reception to the home organization company’s products has been positive, and sales in 2011 climbed 44.5%. Closet America manufactures its products in a state-of-the-art facility in Landover, MD. In addition to the machinery used in the shop, in 2011 the company began “utilizing a screen-to-machine implementation that combines design, engineering and manufacturing,” LaBella says.
Quality and customer service are very important and the company uses a “factory team concept” to oversee projects from beginning to end. In addition, quality control is verified prior by an on-staff engineer, certified by The Closet Institute of America. Closet America is a past recipient of a Guildmaster Award for exceptional customer satisfaction.
Closet America is a multiple past participant of Wood & Wood Products’ WOOD 100. Following last year’s recognition, LaBella noted, “In this challenging economy, it’s more important than ever to give our customers more value for their hard-earned dollars. We accomplish this by enhancing the customer experience through 3-D computer technology, custom manufacturing, and our unyielding focus on customer service. Yet, achieving this level of professionalism and receiving this honor would not have been possible without the complete dedication from every individual who makes up the Closet America family.”
BriMar Wood Innovations Inc. BriMar Wood Innovations Inc., Goshen, IN
A number of factors have contributed to the commercial office furniture company’s continued success, including a “continual diversification of products offerings to participate in wider ranges of our market pertinent to price point and design flexibility,” says Brian Roe, president and CEO. 2011 sales for BriMar rose 12.7%, marking consecutive years of double-digit growth.
As part of its commitment to flexibility, BriMar expanded its production capabilities with the purchase of a larger Holz-Her Contriga edgebander “to update our banding technology, improve our product quality and eliminate costly rework situations.” The company also offers high gloss finishes, as seen on the Kate Spade tables (pictured).
Northland Forest Products Inc. Northland Forest Products Inc., Shakopee, MN
Not every company can say it invested $1.4 million in technology in the last 30 months — and it’s not done yet. “Housing starts have been at an all-time low, so we decided to reinvest in technology to be able to compete in a profitable manner, to keep our full-time employees and improve our position for the years to come,” says Dick Pyle, president and owner of the hardwood moulding and dimension lumber company whose sales grew 8.5% in 2011.
Winner of the WMIA 2012 Wooden Globe Award for Commitment to Excellence through Technology and Innovation, NFPI’s purchases include: Weinig Powermat 1000 moulders, Timesavers planer sanders, Raimann movable blade ripsaws with a ValueRip computerized system, Ultimizer color scanner with a width recognition system and printer, MillVision lineal moulding software cell, Rondamat 960 knife grinder, Weinig optical comparator, and a Flow Water Jet knife cutting unit.
More Tech Profiles
Allegheny Store Fixtures, Bradford, PA
CEO Darcy DiFazio says the wood and metal fixture firm was able to increase productivity while growing sales 36.6% in 2011. The company purchased a state-of-the-art edgebander and upgraded computer equipment, DiFazio says, and plans call for the addition of a CNC router in 2012.
Elias Woodwork, Winkler, MB
In addition to a recently purchased automated door frame line, sanding line and upgraded optimizing system, Elias’ facilities include state-of-the-art finishing departments, says Jeremy Funk, marketing manager. Elias manufactures a wide range of products, including cabinet doors, drawers and other wood and laminate components, plus it also carries a full line of eco-friendly bamboo components. 2011 sales grew 3.4%.
PIN, Irving, TX
The store fixture and hospitality/healthcare furnishings firm stocked up on technology while growing sales 16.0% in 2011. Among the products: Holzma panel saws, Weeke machining systems, Ligmatech clamping systems, Wemhoner membrane press line, a Homag edgebander, and a stain/sealer/topcoat finishing system. “[We will] continue value and process engineering, and reposition the entire plant for increased efficiencies,” says President Jeff Pray.
Elegant Cabinets Inc., Green Bay, WI
The custom cabinetry firm’s sales grew 10.6% in 2011, and predictions for 2012 are even better. Along with purchasing a new sprayer and double-headed sander, President Dustin Devroy says, “We will try to maximize our profits by being as efficient as possible.”
American Country Barns, Bethlehem, CT
John Purtill attributes increased productivity for the timber frame barn kits maker’s 10.0% sales growth in 2011. Made from hemlock or Douglas fir, the barn kits are made using a combination of woodworking machinery, including a recently purchased saw, and traditional hand tools.
Double D&M Fabricators Ltd., Sherwood Park, AB
In addition to purchasing a CNC router in 2011, and a sander in 2012, Owner Mike Dul says the cabinet company is looking to expand its production and “source other products to produce.” 2011 sales grew 40%.
Foggy Bottom Woodworks LLC, Muscoda, WI
New and enhanced technology, including an upcut saw, widebelt sander, TigerStop equipment and an upgraded moulder, helped streamline and improve the production process at the cabinet and wood products firm, says Rick Tisdale, managing member. Sales grew 5.3% in 2011 and should go higher with the planned purchases of a dovetailing machine, clamp carrier and larger planer this year.
Brown Wood Inc., Lincolnwood, IL
The components manufacturer offers a wide range of machining capabilities, including carving, turning, moulding, shaping and CNC routing. 2011 sales grew 6.8%, according to Amy Mikal, vice president of marketing.
Fancher Chair Co., Falconer, NY
Improved productivity is one of the factors which helped spur the chair firm’s 34.7% sales growth in 2011, says President Pete Scheira. “We purchased another five-axis CNC machining center,” he adds.
Allwood Products Ltd., Concord, ON
On the heels of CNC machines purchased in 2011 to improve efficiency and quality control, a linear shaper may be next on the horizon for the office furniture manufacturer, says Eli Bard, manager.
Interiors in Motion Ltd., Mississauga, ON
“Keeping up to date on technology and materials,” including the purchase of new CNC and CAD software, helped the furniture and Corian fabricator thrive, says President Derek Fronczkowski.
GW Hartisan, Laval, QUE
Owner Gilles Houle attributes the cabinet firm’s 26.9% sales growth and production gains to new equipment, including industrial saw and gluing machines.
More Space Plus, Clearwater, FL
President Clark Williams says new machines and materials are helping the wall bed and furniture firm to thrive.
Pro-Ply Custom Plywood Inc., Brampton, ON
Vice President Mike Vigneux cites faster turnaround and new machines for spurring sales growth 11.1%.
Wood Works Custom, Franklin, TN
Owner Tom Vernon credits new machinery plus taking on a “higher volume in purchasing” for the residential cabinet company’s 28.6% sales growth in 2011.
SoftSails Consulting & Millwork LLC, Oakland, NJ
President Bill Watters cites “lots of CNC tooling and the addition of outside program development” for spurring the high-end commercial and residential casegoods and millwork firm’s sales growth 8.9%.
JMC Wood Manufacturing, Bridgeton, MO
Along with a CNC contour edgebander purchased in 2011, the laminated components maker may also invest in a nesting router or panel saw to further “reduce our production costs,” says J. Michael Brady, sales manager.
Wisconsin Built Inc., Deerfield, WI
The store fixture firm’s sales rose 78.8%, due in part to improved productivity from new machines, including a Weeke nesting router with auto labeling and Microvellum software. “We [also] watch our spending and build every project as smart as we can,” says President Jeff Ball.
Quest Engineering Inc., West Bend, WI
“We provide the same great customer service we always have, coupled with our growing capacity to produce high-quality goods in short lead times,” says Chris Lefeber, president of the architectural casework and surfaces firm. Aiding the 49.0% sales growth was a new CNC boring/dowel insertion machine and automated case clamp.
Seatply Products Inc., Montreal, QUE
“Investments in technology and increased productivity” enabled the chair components maker’s sales to grow 25.0%, says CEO/President Levon Afeyan. Among its purchases were two five-axis CNC routers, an automated finishing line, feedthrough press and wood shredder.
Antique Creations Ltd., St. Philip, Barbados
New machinery, including a jointer, widebelt sander and dust collector, helped improve productivity at the furniture and millwork firm, and grew sales 38.9% in 2011, says Mark Simmons, manager. Looking for greater sales in 2012, Simmons says the firm plans to buy a six-head moulder and CNC machining center.
Kitchen Cabinets Inc., Grand Prairie, TX
Employee skills and technology helped the cabinet firm grow 19.0%, says Burt Bogue, national sales manager.
Valley Doors, Boiling Springs, SC
Investments in CAD, along with customer service, are helping business grow, says Owner Bill Gutierrez.
Links to 2012 WOOD 100: Strategies for Success stories
More Wood 100 ideas will be detailed in an upcoming webcast on Nov. 14. Register at WoodworkingNetwork.com/webcasts.
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 Woodworking Network magazine (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 email@example.com or Google+.