Lean manufacturing: it takes more than machines to drive the productivity increases achievable at woodworking plants of all sizes. It takes a dedicated and skilled workforce, a mindset for quality and continuous improvement, and the willingness remove waste from throughout the manufacturing process.
Huntwood Industries, Liberty Lake, WA – Located just outside Spokane, Huntwood is the largest cabinet manufacturer west of the Mississippi. A producer of high-end, mass-customized cabinetry and casegoods for the residential and commercial markets, Huntwood achieved 10% sales growth in 2010, due to a combination of product diversification, an aggressive move to increase market share, a corporate philosophy for sustainable manufacturing as well as the company’s commitment to continuous improvement, says Anthony Baycroft, director of corporate development.
Inside the company’s 567,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, Huntwood manufactures a diverse range of products certified under the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program. According to Resa Hunt, vice president, the wood in Huntwood’s solid wood exterior cabinet components are from managed forests and the interior components are from panels compliant with the Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Products program.
In addition to sustainable manufacturing, lean manufacturing is also part of the corporate culture at Huntwood, says Tim Hunt, president. The vertically integrated company is continuously looking for ways to further reduce waste in the manufacturing process, both in the rough mill and panel processing areas. One of the recent innovations is Huntwood’s panel retrieval and cut cell, a flexible and fully automated robotic system. The system also can queue stacks throughout the night, thereby eliminating any downtime the next morning at the panel saws, CNC machines and other designated drop-off points. In other areas of the plant, lean manufacturing has helped improve the production efficiency, including drawer box manufacturing, where the company has already modified and shortened the line to increase capacity, Tim Hunt says.
Advanced Cabinet Systems, Marion, IN
Contributing to its 120.1% growth, the laminate fixtures and millwork company revamped its casework line to dowelled construction, hired a new general manager and adopted a lean manufacturing policy. “The employees use lean thinking methods to solve problems themselves to move the company in a more positive direction,” says Marc Dunker, creative director.
Wood Specialists LLC, Mentor, OH
Owner Kenneth Demarchi attributes the store fixture company’s 25.4% growth to its ability to service customer. “We added 4,000 square feet of production space to our shop, and changed the pattern of the flow through our facility to be more productive and quicker to respond to our customers needs.”
RiverCity Cabinets Inc., Austin, TX
“In early 2010 we added additional space to become more efficient with our production processes,” says Duane Eller, president of the cabinet firm which grew 30%. “With the identical setup it eliminated the requirement to program to a particular machine and reduced training.” Adds owner Randy Hardin, “we can concentrate our milling processes for all the really custom pieces while not stopping the flow of cabinet panels, adjustable shelves, etc. This virtually eliminates any bottlenecks.”
Creative Laminates Inc., LaCrosse, WI
A focus on process improvements to increase its productivity and reduce waste helped the laminate caseworks firm grow 12.5%. “We continue to provide our customers the best service possible to ensure we are the first company they think to call when they need laminate casework,” says Jody Lyon, vice president.
Closet Factory, Waldorf, MD
“We have streamlined all of our processes and are daily concentrating on getting the most return on our efforts,” Jan Stotlemyer, president. “We have even started to digitally link our sales staff and our production floor.” The closet company grew 44.5% in 2010.
Reborn Cabinets Inc., Anaheim, CA
President Vince Nardo attributes the implementation of lean manufacturing and cross-training of employees for helping the kitchen and bath cabinetry manufacturer achieve a sales growth of 15.5% in 2010.
Elipticon Wood Products Inc., Little Chute, WI
An advocate of lean manufacturing, President John Wiley says the millwork manufacturer’s addition of machinery and process improvements helped it achieve 20.2% growth. “We are also building market share and carefully managing all our assets,” he says.
Closet.Tec, Sarasota, FL
Strategies undertaken by the closets company include: bring drawer box production in-house, a move to a JIT process and switch to a part-time installation team.
Crestwood Inc., Salina, KS
Annette Johnson, marketing director of the cabinet company, says “We are taking this opportunity to develop new products and have embraced lean manufacturing as well as investing in machinery advancements and equipment to widen our product offerings.“
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