Tony Creek at Brighton Cabinetry sums up his program in one simple phrase. “Recycling isn’t costing us money, it is saving us money. In fact, we make a little too.”
Started in 1996, Brighton Cabinetry is a mid to high-end cabinet company in Neoga. IL, that makes a totally custom line of cabinets. On my recent visit to Brighton, VP Tony Creek was highlighting their focused program on saving money in manufacturing by recycling in several different ways.
“In 2006 we had a 30 yard dumpster that we sent out 28 times a year. Each dumpster cost us $400 to haul away. Now dumpsters are up to $500 a load, but we are only sending 6 a year” said Creek.
As I toured the very clean plant, I saw several innovations in recycling that not only helped reduce cost but also manufacturing time.
The most obvious cost savings came from sending all their waste plywood and solid wood to a grinder. This grinded wood is mixed in with the sawdust through an efficient dust collection system and then stored in semi trailers set up to handle wood dust. A local wood recycler who pays for the semi loads and uses them for turkey and animal bedding owns the trailer. When the animal bedding is soiled, it is spread on the fields as fertilizer
Tony Creek highlighted the grinder as a focus for the plant. Not only does the grinder take the excess, it also caused us to focus on how much waste we were creating. This started our project managers to look at the cut yields and improved how much wood we were actually using per project. Our total waste has gone down on each job.” As the savings were realized in the wood waste, Brighton then saw other ways to increase manufacturing speed by cutting out excessive packaging arriving from their suppliers.
“We used to get our doors individually packaged from our supplier” said Creek., But as they looked at the amount of cardboard and plastic wrap needed for this shipping, Brighton saw another way to save. “We worked with our door supplier to send in our doors on pallets interleaved with cardboard sheets. The pallets and sheets are saved and eventually shipped back to the door manufacturer to reuse. This has eliminated loads of packaging waste, and it has also sped up our door assembly line. By not having to unwrap each door we can pull out the doors much faster. We were worried that we would see an increase in door damage, but that has not happened“ said Creek.
As a member of the Environmental Stewardship Council, and a KCMA Company, Brighton continues to look for other ways to reduce, reuse and eliminate extra steps in their process. Foam sent in by suppliers is saved to package their own cabinets. Cardboard is baled and sold off. Aluminum recycle centers are strategically located throughout the plant..
As I walked the plant Tony Creek mentioned that the whole crew has gotten on board with the recycling attitude. “ When we added the can recycling container in the break room, the crew asked if we could also put one in the plant. Having it closer to their workstations makes it easier for them to recycle. All of the can recycling money is saved and when we have enough, the company has a free pizza lunch with the savings.”
When Brighton first started in 1996, they had about 10 employees. Now at 37 employees, Brighton Cabinets is ready for the next growth spurt. “In 2003 the Illinois Manufacturing Extension worked with us on a better plant layout to increase our work flow. That layout is still working well, but we are ready for our next plant extension.” Said Creek.
Brighton sees their increase in orders come from two main factors. The first being their excellent customer service. “Our customers always tell us how impressed they are with our team. Our customer service is excellent, with the focus on reacting quickly and picking up the phone personally. We feel having that by giving the customer the ability to call any of us at any time, we can take ownership of any issue and respond immediately.” Most of our business is by referral from one customer to another, so for Brighton’s long-term growth, we see customer service as the key. Tie this service into our positive plant-wide, Can-Do attitude. Because we are totally custom, we will find a way to make it happen. We rarely say no,” said Creek.
Brighton’s goal this year is to continue their steady growth by adding a few new dealers, preferably close to their Midwest roots. New products are also a focus of growth. . One of the recent projects was making an outdoor kitchen using thermally infused wood. In this process, wood is steamed while introducing a derivative of vinegar. The process gives the wood a dark walnut look and greatly reduces the amount of swelling from moisture. It also makes the wood very resistant to rot and fungus. The wood looks dark and smells almost burnt, but accepts finish well. By tying the thermal wood in with an MDO interior, Brighton created a new outdoor kitchen line that handles the weather well.
Whether it is adding new dealers, creating new products or turning recycling into revenue, Brighton is focused on growth for 2012. As Tony Creek says; “ Customers keep coming back because of our attitude, not just in our customer service or management, but throughout our whole plant. They know they can count on us to find a way to make their vision happen.”