Adams Bros. Cabinetry Inc. reaps benefits of a booming commercial market.

Adams Bros. Cabinetry Inc.’s high-tech shop has the capacity to fabricate high-end custom pieces and high-volume production projects, giving it a niche market with local general contractors.

Punta Gorda, with its blue skies and lush vegetation, is a fast-growing city in West Florida, right off the Gulf of Mexico. Discovered by Ponce de Leon in the 1500s, its name means “Broad or Fat Point” in Spanish. For the past couple of years, it has ranked high on Inc. magazine’s list of “Boomtowns,” a list that ranks the top areas of the country in which to own a business. Also high on the list is Fort Myers, a neighboring city. All of this points to a strong demand for commercial architectural millwork and casework.

Ethan Adams, COO of Adams Bros. Cabinetry Inc. of Punta Gorda, agrees that the commercial market there is strong, but he also notes that, “There is much more competition now than there has been in the past five years.”

Adams says the more competitive market is largely due to the residential market slowing down. “A lot more [residential shops] are trying to get into the smaller commercial work,” he explains.

Despite the increasing competitiveness over the past two years, Adams says that there is still room for growth. One of the factors driving local commercial growth is the previous boom in the residential market, which created a need for more schools, restaurants and government facilities.

“You have to have schools and government to support people who are here,” Adams says. “You have to have places to eat and things to do. So there is still a lot of [growth] left. The commercial market always lags behind the residential boom.”

Another component in the commercial growth spurt is the rebuilding efforts taking place after Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 hurricane, which rocked the city with massive damages in 2004.

Currently, Adams Bros. is helping with the rebuilding of three local schools that were damaged by the storm.

Software Addition
Last November, Adams Bros. Cabinetry added Trakware to its list of software, which includes such design programs as Cabinetware and AutoCAD.



Trakware was chosen to integrate the company’s estimating, scheduling, labor tracking, inventory management, bill of materials and materials optimization. Right now, only the time-tracking component of the program is fully implemented.



But Ethan Adams, COO of Adams Bros., says that one aspect of the software that he likes is its ability to link with Xora, which allows his installers to clock in on their cell phones.



“They can change tasks and change jobs on their cell phone and it can go through the satellite and get downloaded to our server,” says Adams. “We’re the first company to use this type of system.”



Also, Adams says that Trakware has allowed the company to “make smart decisions on future projects.”

Building on Success

Adams points out that the company’s ability to build high-end custom pieces and to “crank out” high-volume production projects gives it a niche market with local and national general contractors.

“We’re good at producing boxes for education and healthcare. But we also have skilled craftsmen for doing [such projects as] judge’s benches and reception desks,” he adds.

To create efficient workflow in the shop for both large-scale and custom projects, Adams created a just-in-time ordering system with one of its suppliers, Chemclad, which provides the company with laid-up veneer and laminates. The system took four years to develop, and it allows Adams Bros. to reduce batch sizes.

“Say we have a $1 million job. We break that down into more manageable pack sizes through the shop,” Adams says. This results in more manageable pack sizes sent to the job site instead of the large volume that would have to be stored in trailers.

“We’ll send 30 cabinets at a time, and our installers will install 30 cabinets. Then we will be on schedule for the next 30 cabinets,” Adams says. Each work order is requested from Chemclad, and it is sent to Adams Bros. in the order they want to cut it in the shop.

The concept of just-in-time was prompted because the company is transitioning to lean manufacturing.

“About four years ago, I was introduced to the book, “The Goal,” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It sparked my interest in processes — the whole manufacturing process — and the value of the process,” says Adams.

He also credits the lean manufacturing workshops provided by the Architectural Woodwork Institute with continuing to stimulate that interest.

“We wanted to stay ahead of the curve, so we decided the way we needed to do that was to hire an outside consultant,” Adams says.

Not only has the company begun to incorporate some of these procedures by reducing batch size and tweaking its engineering process, but also separate departments were created for drafting and engineering.

“We were in a team structure where we had a project manager and three draftsmen/engineers,” Adams notes. “There would be a lot of times when one team was completely buried trying to get work to the shop and the other team was working on [projects] that were five months down the road. It was hard to get them together, so it would create ebbs and flows in the shop.”

Since the creation of the individual departments, Adams says he has already seen the workload become more even in drafting. He expects that similar results with the engineering department will produce the efficiency he is looking for in the shop.

Adams says he hopes to fully implement these initiatives by September. The front office already started taking lean manufacturing training. “That’s what we’re keying in on right now, and when we’re done with that, we will move on to the shop. There is a one-day class to go through to learn the techniques and then there will be a series of meetings — Kaizen Events — to map out workflow.”

The recent residential boom in the Punta Gorda, FL, area gave rise to the need for more institutional buildings, such as schools, libraries, banks and government facilities. According to Ethan Adams of Adams Bros. Cabinetry Inc., fulfilling this need has created a strong commercial market.

Commerical Market Trends

For high-end cabinetry, the look is trending toward incorporating a variety of materials, such as metals and plastics, into the millwork. “It seems like there is a drive to do something totally different,” Adams laughs. “So, we’ve learned how to work with metals and how to work with plastics and different new design materials that they continue to come up with.” Most of this look can be seen in retail, hotel and condo lobbies and restaurants, as well as amenity-type areas like spas and resorts. Cherry and maple are the main woods used, Adams says.

According to Adams, another trend in the market is the request by owners and general contractors for accelerated project schedules. “This is another area where our smaller batch sizes work well because we can build flexibility into our production schedule to meet those demands,” he says.

Most work is done in-house, except for stainless steel and stone countertops. Adams says that he tries to keep most things in-house to create better turnaround times and to control quality. However, veneer and laminate come laid up and mouldings are shopped out, he says.

About four months ago, Adams Bros. started doing solid surface in-house. “We brought it in-house to help cash flow and to create better turnaround from template to install. Typically, turnaround time was about two weeks and we’re [now] doing it in a week or less,” Adams says.

The company leased a 3,000-square-foot building down the street from its current location to house the solid surface department; total shop capacity for Adams Bros. is now 33,000 square feet.

Three new employees were hired for this department — one of whom was sent to the Corian training program for certification.

 High-Tech Machinery

 

Above, a shop employee works on the Holzma HPP 82 beam saw.

To better facilitate the just-in-time manufacturing processes being implemented, Adams Bros. has purchased new cutting-edge technology: the Weeke BHX 500 CNC machining center and the Holzma HPP 380 panel saw.

“We’re pretty excited about the new pieces of equipment,” Adams says. “The (Holzma HPP 380) is one of the first saws in the United States with this new technology. The new saw has two clamping systems that draw the board in and can cut it at different depths. So, I can cut two different-sized boards at the same time.” He expects the new saw to bring about a significant time savings.

“The Weeke BHX 500 is one of the first in the United States of that piece of equipment, as well. Our current Weeke does both panel processing and specialty part processing. Basically, with the new equipment purchase, we’re splitting our specialty off onto our new Homag Vantage 12L CNC router and the panel processing onto the BHX 500,” says Adams. Currently, the company’s Weeke BHC 550 processes one typical bulkhead per cabinet in 37 seconds. The BHX 500 will process two bulkheads in 23 seconds, Adams explains.

Other shop equipment includes a Holzma HPP 82 beam saw, a Homag KAL 310 edgebander and a Holzma Opti-Lift.

A History with Family Ties

Adams Bros. was started by two brothers, Joel and Dan Adams, approximately 29 years ago in Dayton, OH — in a hog barn. In 1981, the company moved to Punta Gorda.

“When we originally moved, my grandfather had a construction company and a truss company here,” Adams says. As the company expanded, a couple of buildings were erected to accommodate the need for more space.

“[Recently], we purchased 8-1/2 acres of property down the street,” says Adams. We’re going to put a building there in the near future and consolidate all of our operations under one roof.”

Adams expects to have the move completed within the next two to three years.

Day-to-day operations at the company still include a number of family members. “We have 11 family members who work here — cousins, in-laws and uncles,” Adams says. Dan, who left the company briefly, is now vice president of sales; Adams’ father Joel is CEO.

Overall, Adams Bros. has 85 full-time employees, with 30 in the shop, 28 in the installation department, 15 to 17 in drafting and engineering and the remainder in the office.

Projects and Future Plans

Currently, Adams Bros. is working on a big project, an 11-story courthouse in Fort Myers, FL. The Lee County Justice Center Courthouse is a $3 million project, which will be completed in 2008, Adams says.

Last year, Adams Bros. did a complete rehaul of the first two floors and amenity areas of the Naples Grand resort in Naples, FL.

“It was our largest project to-date,” Adams says. “We actually had people living at the hotel for about three months and they would basically work from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Deliveries were tough, because it was an existing resort and you’re trying to do a complete rehaul.” Adams says the resort spent approximately $30 million in remodeling, which included using expensive material, such as Kinon, a solid caste resin, for fabricating bars and reception desks.

“That stuff is extremely expensive,” says Adams. “For a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet, we were spending in the neighborhood of $30 to $40 per square foot. So we obviously didn’t want to screw up on it.”

Adams credits his scheduling and just-in-time ordering systems with allowing the company to have the capability to manage these large projects.

As for future plans, Adams says that he wants the company to continue to be a “great” employer and to “expand what we have locally into more of a regional [operation].”

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