Koetter Woodworking: Moulding the Present for Future Growth
By Jo-Ann Kaiser | Posted: 07/03/2013 3:30PM
Koetter Woodworking is an award-winning, one-stop source for mouldings, doors, stair parts, custom millwork and more. In recognition of its efforts, the company was named the 2013 Innovator of the Year by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association.
“Koetter Woodworking has always been about quality products and customer service. It is also about evolving to meet our customer’s needs, incorporating innovation and remaining true to our core values including a commitment to sustainability,” say Jerry Koetter, COO, and Brian Koetter, vice president of sales and marketing.
Located in Borden, IN, just 15 miles north of Louisville, KY, the firm was founded in 1959 by Tom and Mary Frances Koetter. It began as an after-hours and weekend enterprise, with Tom providing frame stock for the Starlite Cabinet Co. As business grew, Tom and Mary Frances took the firm full-time and some 54 years later, the company continues to grow.
Still family owned, Tom and Mary Frances’ sons are continuing the legacy. In addition to Brian and Jerry, Randy is president and T.J. is vice president of IT. A fifth son, Rick, retired from the company. Also working at the 641,000-square-foot plant are 234 “team member” employees.
It was In the mid-1980s that Koetter Woodworking saw a need to broaden its scope and began to run lineal moulding, crown and baseboards. Millwork, trim, solid wood doors and stair parts were added to the company’s capabilities.
However, Brian says, “When the recession hit, like most in the woodworking industry, we faced tough times. We made key investments in technology and developed new programs that helped us survive the recession and prepare for the future. It’s a strategy that has served us well.”
Among the investments at the plant has been a variety of Weinig Group rough mill and moulding equipment. Jerry notes a key purchase for the company has been the LuxScan Scanner and Chop System, which also identifies knots, splits and grain deviation. “It runs 900 feet a minute, identifies defects and then executes a chop automatically,” he says.
Koetter also has 16 moulders, including two Profimat 1000s and a Powermat 500 moulder. In addition, Jerry says, “Our Weinig 2400 offers quick setup and has reduced set-up times from 45 minutes to five minutes.”
An estimated 16 million board feet of material is processed through the plant on an annual basis. A vertically integrated company, Koetter Woodworking has a 3,500 acre forest in addition to species purchased locally. The company also dries its own lumber in custom kilns, which have a capacity of 1 million board feet.
Also central to its strategy for success, Koetter Woodworking created EnvisionIT, a profile library and architectural design program. EnvisionIT not only catalogs Koetter’s extensive stock of moulding profiles, it also helps streamline the creation of made-to-order custom profiles.
An online tool, “With EnvisionIT, you may utilize a variety of features to assist with the creation of unique architectural designs for residential or commercial millwork projects. EnvisionIT also provides you with the ability to access the complete Koetter Woodworking library of over 7,000 stock and custom profiles,” Brian says.
“Users can meet with a homeowner or contractor and through a series of filters, see what fits best with a particular type of home,” Jerry adds. “Craftsman, English Tudor, Colonial or whatever the home’s style, users can see what is compatible. It also allows us to execute an order seamlessly.” The program also enables architects and designers to easily incorporate profile drawings into the plans when specifying Koetter products.
In addition to a history of innovation, Koetter’s commitment to sustainability is also long-standing. “As users of hardwoods we know the future must involve sustainability. We constantly push for best practices and sustainable harvesting methods including harvesting only mature timber, and have a history of education programs for the public and schools,” Jerry says.
What also sets the company apart is its commitment to continuous improvement — to the business, the industry, the environment and the community.
“We are willing to reinvest in our business,” Brian adds. “We are not absentee owners — we’ve made our careers in the industry. We value our reputation for quality and sustainability and we value our customers and our team members.”
Mary Frances and Tom Koetter, founders of Koetter Woodworking. Family owned, Koetter Woodworking was started by Tom and Mary Frances in 1959. What began as an after-hours and weekend enterprise, with Tom providing frame stock for the Starlite Cabinet Co., has grown into a dynamic venture.
For the first 25 years, the company provided local cabinet shops material to build cabinets before broadening its capabilities in the mid-1980s. The move proved successful and enabled the company to thrive.
With Tom at the helm, Mary Frances served as the secretary/treasurer to Koetter Woodworking. Today, their sons continue the legacy at the family-owned firm.
Mary Frances passed away October 2012. According to those at the company, "she touched the lives of many people." Said Koetter's Carol Phillips, "Though Mary Frances was never one who wished to be recognized for her contributions, she was selfless in giving of her time, talent and treasure. Behind the scenes, you would always find her identifying and supporting whatever cause that needed attention. Mary Frances’ devotion to her faith, family, community, and friends was evident to all that knew her and were fortunate to have her as a part of their lives."
About the Author
Jo-Ann KaiserJo-Ann Kaiser has been covering the woodworking industry for 31+ years. She is a contributing editor for the Woodworking Network and has been writing the Wood of the Month column since its inception in 1986.