When Stanley Furniture made the bold decision five years ago to bring manufacturing operations of its Young America furniture line to the United States, some regarded it as part grand experiment, part gamble.
The gamble has paid off and Stanley Furniture, which invested $8 million to revamp its Robbinsville, NC, facility and improve productivity, has been growing the sales of its youth furniture. In recognition of its efforts, Stanley received the 2013 Wooden Globe Award for Commitment to Excellence Through Technology, by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association.
According to Stanley CEO Glenn Prillaman, producing cribs and youth furniture domestically offers a competitive advantage in the marketplace, including expanded color and style choices and expedited turnaround.
“By producing the line domestically we have the ability to turn around an order in 30 days and can offer an ever increasing number of options,” says Bob Harold, former vice president of Operations and current advisor to Stanley COO & CFO Micah Goldstein. Harold and Goldstein worked jointly on the project to modernize and automate the 500,000-square-foot plant.
“Technology provides an opportunity to cut the differential manufacturing costs typically seen between the U.S. and Asia. [It] is one of the key factors in the success of our Young America line,” Harold says.
Harold notes the high-efficiency of Weinig Group’s rough-mill system has been a key component for its competitive manufacturing.
“It lets Stanley produce a Young America product that offers variety and differentiation, along with flexible manufacturing that enables shorter lead times and higher inventory turns — all part of Stanley’s strategic initiatives to remain in control of its manufacturing process, compete globally and manufacture domestically.”
Part of the rough mill system, Weinig Group’s ValueRip 4 Plus infeed system determines the board’s width, shape and crook. Laser lights display the optimized rip solution. The ValueRip is used in conjunction with a LuxScan CombiScan; Dimter 450 Quantum optimizing chop saws; Dimter Profipress C joint gluing system; and Weinig Powermat moulders and planers — all linked with MillVision production software.
“By combining key equipment and automating steps previously done by hand, we have been able to cut crew sizes of three and four down to one,” Harold says. “In one instance, a Weinig moulder incorporates a Fletcher sander on the back, with a Doucet return conveyor, stacking 20-30 parts. A single operator now feeds the parts whereas in the past the same operations required four people,”
Another change was to bring in-house the finishing of bed rails, back panels and ancillary items. Stanley originally intended the line for panels and flat parts, but testing showed it could also be used for “semi flat” assembled pieces such as bunk bed ladders, intricate head and foot boards with heavy turned detailing, thereby freeing the first finishing line for more case goods.
A Doucet tri-level 100-foot-long multi-layer staging conveyor allows the Superfici system to manage 30 10-foot long batches, controlling their final cure time and routing after each process. “This solution was needed to automate the flow around the new Superfici flatline, and bring the finished product to its packaging system. Doucet’s closed loop solution fully automates the task of routing the product through multiple passings of coating and curing, then directing the products to the packaging facility,” he says.
Other key equipment includes Doucet BTWB and STWB conveyors for use with Timesavers widebelt sanders and MR Moulder return conveyors, which are placed after lines containing the automatic feeders, moulders and linear sanders. According to the company, only one operator is needed to manage each line, reducing the workforce by a minimum of 50 percent, while allowing maximum constant productivity.
Stanley also uses Doucet’s DWM Dovetail Drawer Clamp for drawer assembly. Other equipment integral to the production process includes: a Locatelli CNC lathe and sander which enables Stanley to produce turnings in-house, a Newman EPR-34 double roughing planer, a Fletcher brush sander, a Bre.ma drilling and automatic hinge insertion machine, Bacci (Biesse) lineal profile sanders and Bacci Jet CNC machining centers. The company adds the Bacci Jets have enabled it to reduce labor by moving operations that once required multiple machines, onto one.
In addition to equipment upgrades, Stanley’s approximately 350 employees have also been involved in continuous improvements.
“We look at safety first, quality, flow and then cost. If we can improve quality and flow, costs will follow,” says Michael Kaplan, who heads the eight-person Continuous Improvement Team.
Kaplan says they have run at least 32 continuous improvement events, amounting to 8,000 people hours. “Improvement events pay dividends in so many ways. It improves production, reduces waste, helps control costs and it reduces the need to rework parts.”