From left: Larry Combs, VP, Brown-Forman; George Hagel, president,Leedo Cabinetry; and Glenn Ripley, CEO, Mission Bell.
From left: Larry Combs, VP, Brown-Forman; George Hagel, president,Leedo Cabinetry; and Glenn Ripley, CEO, Mission Bell.

SAN JUAN, PR - Wood manufacturing execs want more than machine specifications in supplier equipment proposals, execs say. "Suppliers can distinguish themselves by offering a more wholistic approach," said George Hagle, president of giant Leedo Cabinetry, East Bernard, TX.

Hagle was one of three wood manufacturing execs addressing WIC 2014, the Wood Industry Conference in San Juan this morning. Joining him was Glenn Ripley, president of $40 million California-based architectural millwork company, Mission Bell; and Larry Combs, VP of Brown-Forman, whose oak barrel cooperage is the largest in the U.S. yesterday Combs received a Wooden Globe Award for Innovation.

Leedo Cabinetry, which targets the multi-unit residence, produces 3,000 cabinets daily and sells them by the truckload for single projects.

Hagle, a Yale business grad, described Leedo Cabinetry's specialty: handling large scale projects from production through installation. This often involves translating 60-page architectural drawings into production and installation of hundreds of kitchen cabinet suites, at apartment and condo complexes around the U.S.

Glenn Ripley, whose background was personnel management before his current position began in 2012, said Mission Bell's architectural millwork clients include technology giants such as Twitter and Google. The firm is now at work on a sizable project for Kaiser Medical. 

"The carpenters of the future will be as adept with a mouse as with a saw," Ripley said. "Our mantra is 'The factory is the machine.' Integral with that is compatibility of machinery with software."

Ripley told the assembled wood machinery makers that the equipment operated by 185 personnel his 80,000 square foot plant, is adequate to curent volume, but in order to grow they must automate the movement of jobs and material through the plant.

"We want to grow with the headcount we have," Ripley said. "We are very interested in conveyance." Recently Mission Bell added a Bargstedt Intellistore materials handling system.Mission Bell is looking at expanded use of RFID chips to track work pieces, and at "The Internet of Things" where "intelligent machines" that can track materials and relate to job status communicated by other machines.

Conveyance of work-in-progress through the plant becomes more critical as delivery schedules are compressed. 

"Almost every job we do has an unreasonable delivery date," Ripley said, a fact that he has accepted. "The ability to go from architectural design plans and into the shop is key to us." 

Ripley's background in personnel management allowed him to ponder aloud on another technology related matter: personnel. "Do we do with the technology savvy employees and teach them about woodwork? I think the jury is still out on that among our peers, and we are straddling the issue - doing a little of both." 

Brown-Forman's Larry Combs is a VP managing 26 of the distillery's 35 production sites, in 11 countries, with part of his responsiblities including the operations of barrel making in the company's Jack Daniel's coooperage.

During the downturn, "We decided to double-down on innovation," he explained. "We are spending millions building a new cooperage."  Jack Daniels Cooperage reinvented its barrel manufacturing process at its new Alabama facilities utilizing two Weinig CNC stave jointers as well some Weinig P2400 planers.

The stave jointers have exceeded output expectations and produced geometrically correct staves which greatly contribute to the ease of raising a barrel. Jack Daniels expects to achieve further downstream benefits with the consistent quality of the finished product.

Previously the manufacture of staves had been an archaic process where yields have been unreliable and manual shaping was the norm. The Weinig stave jointers have brought manufacturing to new level of automation as well as increasing safety and yields.