Peoria's City Hall was voted most beautiful in the U.S. Its council chambers were restored in 2014 by Rothan Millwork. The company billed $18,000 for the original millwork when it installed in the late 1890s.
Peoria's City Hall was voted most beautiful in the U.S. Its council chambers were restored in 2014 by Rothan Millwork. The company billed $18,000 for the original millwork when it installed in the late 1890s.
The George J. Rothan Millwork Company is among those lucky few woodworking firms that have both built architectural interior jewels, and then been contracted to restore them after a hundred years. 
 
This 143-year-old fine architectural woodworking business has made a reputation in its region for projects that are built to last, and worthy, decades later, in some cases, of the investment to restore them - the case recently for the Peoria City Hall. Rothan did interior millwork in the 1890s (billing $18,000), then restored the same project in late 2014. 
 
Founded in 1873 by George J. Rothan, the son of German immigrants, the company has performed jobs in and around Peoria, and all over the Midwest. It’s also completed work as far East as Boston, as far west as California, and has shipped its products to Hawaii.
A Rothan Millwork project and its CAD-CAM rendering
 
“There’s a great sense of pride in working around the region and seeing some of the things we’ve done,” says Vice President Chris Rothan, a member of the family’s fifth generation in the business. 
 
Rothan has served as the company’s vice president for 12 years and works alongside his brother, J.J. Rothan, who fills the role of president. Together, the brothers manage a workload that is roughly 90 percent commercial and 10 percent residential.
 
“We attract a lot of business from word-of-mouth,” Rothan says. “I think it’s our experience, along with our ability to work with technology and manage projects effectively, that really sets us apart from our competition.”
 
Maintaining craftsmanship inherent to the family’s woodworking legacy while staying competitive by embracing technology is Chris Rothan’s specialty. A self-proclaimed child of the computer age, Rothan is adept at using technology to the company’s benefit while continuing to deliver the old-world workmanship that customers expect. 
 
“We really worked to implement technology in our office,” he explains. “With the amount of information that you have to process, you have to be as efficient as you can be.”
 
While the company once employed a staff of 30, the team was whittled down to 16 after the economic downturn in roughly 2008. Since then, the reigning plan is to “stay the same size and be more efficient.”
 
“The more personnel you have, the more there is to keep track of,” says Rothan, who studied computer business management at Bradley University in Peoria.
 
“We knew that we needed to use computers more, so we enhanced the way we used the software we were using and implemented new systems, too,” he says.
 
One of the systems implemented early on by Rothan was the Cabnetware computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) solution. In 2012, the company added Cabinet Vision, a design-to-manufacturing application - both made by Vero Software. 
 
“With Cabnetware, it was harder to visualize and get an overall picture. What I love most about Cabinet Vision are the design capabilities, especially being a computer-oriented person,” Rothan says. “Cabinet Vision is built on 3D modeling theory, so you can see what you’re making.”
 
In Cabinet Vision, programmers start by entering the dimensions of the room in which they plan to build. Once that virtual room has been created, cabinets are drawn to scale and placed. 
 
“Presentation-wise, Cabinet Vision is very helpful,” Rothan says. “We use it to do all of our drawings for commercial work."
 
Before adopting it, projects were rendered twice - a not uncommon situation in achitectural woodworking.
 
"We were drawing our projects in a two-dimensional CAD (computer-aided design) software, and then we would have to essentially redraw them in Cabnetware," says Rotha. "That was costing more time and energy because it was daunting to draw a job knowing you were just going to have to redraw it.”
 
The ability to view projects in 3D to see if all of the elements are coming together properly is another advantage, says Rothan, who uses the software to design jobs, manage materials and create cutlists.
 
“Being able to see the parts coming together in the software provides a strong overall view of the project.”
 
The company pairs Cabinet Vision with a nested-based router to make the most of its materials, save time, and eliminate error, Rothan and his team are able to generate nests that can be readily edited as needed.
 
“Letting the computer put all the parts on a sheet and put the materials together is much more optimal, and a huge, huge benefit for us,” Rothan says. For a mid-sized company like his, "You’re seeing at least a 25 percent time savings compared to a company that doesn’t,” Rothan says. “I don’t know what my life would be like if I had to hand cutlist and hand cut everything. That would be a nightmare.”
 
Rothan Millwork's team also participates in Cabinet Vision’s User Created Standards, or UCSs, which allow programmers to use basic “if/then” programming statements to implement their best practices time and again. Participants save time by creating standards that don’t have to be reprogrammed for each job.
 
The practice automates choices such as adding an extra inch to a particular cabinet layout under specific conditions, or using a certain material only under specified conditions. Rothan maintains a library of roughly 70 UCSs for Rothan Millwork. “They give you the ability to use the software to the fullest.”
 
Source: Vero Software