Fast-track construction for Onsite Woodwork materials handling expansion
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White oak interior of the Virginia Tech Moss Hall Center for the Arts in Blacksburg, Virginia. Designed by architectural firm Snøhetta, and built Holder Construction. 

Photo By Boyd Photography

Adding capital equipment can get complicated - especially when the new additions require new construction. For architectural millwork firm Onsite Woodwork Corporation, that's what happened after an equipment shopping excursion to the IWF 2016 in Atlanta resulted in an unexpected move into automated materials handling.
Originally intending to acquire a CNC machine and a beam saw, Onsite Woodworks production team was swayed by a compelling demonstration of a Winstore storage and retrieval system, and decided then and there to go in an entirely unexpected direction. The team moved out of the box - literally - adopting a materials management strategy that would require fast-track construction of an entirely new facility at its Loves Park, Illinois main plant.

Building Construction Roots

Luckily Onsite Woodwork is rooted in the building and construction industry and could draw on its own experience for the project. The Winstore system uses sophisticated robotics and inventory management to receive, store, track and retrieve panel supply. Moving speedily along its gantry, Winstore feeds inventory into production far more quickly and safely than even a team of individual workers. 
“Before we bought the Winstore we had about 50 different types, sizes and thicknesses of panels stored in channel racks,” according to Ralph Peterson, chairman of Onsite Woodwork.
“We had one guy whose day was consumed unloading delivered sheet goods and digging through the racks to arrange stacks of material to be fed into the panel saw. He might have a 5 by 12 ½-inch sheet followed by two 4 by 8 ¾-inch sheets. The production guys would tell him what they needed and he’d put it all together in the loader and roll it to the saw where panels would be cut one at a time. We’d been doing it that way forever.
“Then we saw the Winstore concept at IWF and we thought, ‘If we can get rid of the process of manually handling all of these sheets, we could find a more productive use for our personnel,’” Peterson said. “Plus, we realized that the Winstore would give us an inventory control system for managing our material.
"We visited all of the major panel processing companies at IWF. On the first afternoon, it became really apparent that the Winstore concept was something we really had to consider. We changed our gears and started to look at our purchase as a package. Because of all the interaction between the machines we realized it would have been a nightmare if we had several vendors and something went wrong."
The adoption of the Winstore panel storage and retrieval system - made by Biesse - also reflects Onsite Woodwork's market positioning, to combine advanced technology with strategic partnering to provide on time delivery of competitively priced, quality woodwork. Using modern, safe facilities, Onsite is a nationally recognized, innovative team of highly-trained individuals, working in a technologically-advanced, clean and safe environment, consistently producing quality woodwork on-time, resulting in profitable and enduring partnerships. 
"Our modern manufacturing facility continues to be at the forefront of our industry. We are constantly upgrading our equipment and systems to assure quality, efficiency, and safety. Our plant is well-lit and climate-controlled year-round to keep constant temperature and humidity," they company says. "Our dust collection and filtration systems add to our clean working environment and contribute to overall product quality."
Onsite Woodwork team members also participate in ongoing training, to better equip them to meet any challenges that projects present.
The company was founded in 1982 to meet the growing corporate need for quality woodwork. The corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Loves Park, is about an hour from Chicago. Regional offices are located in suburban Atlanta,  Houston, and in Charlotte, North Carolina, that include their own sales, estimating, project management, and installation teams. Although national in scale, having worked in more than 20 states, its main business focus has consistently been centered in the Midwest and Southeast regions of the United States.
The founders of Onsite Woodwork came from a construction background with years of experience building both luxury homes and commercial projects. In response to a growing need for qualified custom work, Onsite Woodwork began manufacturing custom architectural woodwork for commercial buildings. Peterson said its construction roots remain one of the company’s best competitive edges.
“We’ve sat on the other side of a construction project. We understand when we look at a wall that there’s more to the story than just our panels or casework or our doors or door jambs. We try to bring value to our estimates based on our construction experience that most woodworking companies can’t.”
Onsite Woodwork is also a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute and as such specializes in high-end architectural woodwork. Another of its competitive advantages is its in-house veneer expertise.
“We are extremely customized," Peterson says. "We don’t do much repetitive stuff because every project is new and every project has a designer who wants their flavor for a particular client’s needs. If you want standard laminate cabinets, we can do it. But if you want something that is way out there, very difficult, very expensive, very technical or elliptical, then we’re the people you want to talk to.”
Onsite employs 160 people including 60 in production. In addition to its Loves Park headquarters and production facility, Onsite has a trio of project management and warehouse centers in Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston. Depending on the size and location of a project, Onsite handles installation itself, hires installers through a staffing agency or outsources the installation to another company.
Onsite Woodwork Corp.'s production team left Atlanta not only having placed orders with Biesse America for a Selco WN 630  panel saw and Rover B nesting cell, as well as a Brema EKO 2.1 vertical machining center and the Winstore inventory and panel management System. That unanticipated Winstore purchase created the sudden need to build an 8,500-square-foot addition to house it.
“We believe in running a real tight, real lean space,” says Ralph Peterson, chairman of Onsite Woodwork. “We don’t have exorbitant amounts of space around our equipment. We just have the room we need to make it run effectively. We’re pretty much a shop where if something starts being made at the beginning of the week then it’s got to leave as a finished product by the end of the week.”
Four days after returning from IWF in August 2016, Peterson said Onsite began designing the addition, then filed for construction permits right after Labor Day. The new space was completed during the December 2016 holidays, increasing the facility’s total production and warehouse to 40,000 square feet. Equipment was rearranged to accommodate the new materials handling technology and to facilitate production flow.
The Biesse Winstore, which occupies a 30-foot by 80-foot space, is the anchor of the building addition, servicing a panel processing work cell. It automatically vacuum lifts a panel from one of about two dozen stacks of varying material and loads it either on the Selco WN630 panel saw or the Rover B CNC Router equipped with automatic part labeling on the outfeed.
Peterson added that the Winstore proved it has the muscle to handle the heaviest of materials Onsite uses, including dense, heavy Weyerhaeuser Timberstand LSL boards.
As for the Selco WN630 panel saw, Peterson said it cuts faster and quieter than the saw it replaced.  "It's got some nice features, including a control that's better than our old saw.  The guys love this saw."
While the Rover B falls into the class of CNC nesting routers, Peterson said it is used mainly for “finish sizing of our over-sized veneer panels.” Onsite also uses the Rover B to rout parts for specialty items like boat-shaped conference tables or curved furniture.
“It can square parts or handle both an inside radius or curve. It’s very versatile and gets used a lot,” Peterson said.
Thermally-fused laminate and other decorative laminated parts shaped and sized on the Rover B are often fed into the Brema EKO 2.1 vertical machining center, which fits with Onsite Woodwork’s space economizing philosophy. The EKO drills holes for assembly and hardware insertion and depending on the part can cut a toe kick, rabbet the back of a panel and perform many other cutting, routing and sawing tasks as needed.
“Onsite Woodwork was a long-time Biesse user, operating a Stream edgebander and a Rover 35L pod router.  
“We’re still adjusting to the work flow changes but everything is running OK,” Peterson added. “We believe that we should see a 20 to 30 percent increase in capacity which was one of our goals with changes we made.”

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About the author
Rich Christianson | President/Owner/C-Level

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his nearly 35-year career, Rich has toured more than 250 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. He has also directed and promoted dozens of woodworking trade shows, conferences and seminars including the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Canada’s largest woodworking show.