With some of the largest retailers in the United States as clients, Bolingbrook, IL-based POWERS leverages a positive business philosophy, state-of-the-art facility and green initiatives to be a panel processing powerhouse.

Visitors to POWERS are privy to a direct view of the company’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility upon entering the lobby.

Upon entering Bolingbrook, IL-based POWERS, the first thing one sees is a large window that looks out onto the shop floor, where hundreds of panels are processed into finished goods every day.

POWERS understands the ins and outs of processing panels. The company manufacturers store fixtures for some of the biggest names in retail, including Walgreen’s, the TJX companies, Harley-Davidson, Stop & Shop Supermarkets and more.

“Our primary core business now is casegoods manufacturing,” says Dan Powers, CEO and founder of POWERS. “But that’s not how it started. Originally, it was more of a complementary product.”

In 1991, Dan Powers started the company as a manufacturer’s representative for store fixtures. Later, the company began manufacturing increasing amounts of fixtures for its clients, until POWERS had shifted to its current mix of approximately 75 percent manufacturing and 25 percent distribution.

“Supported by our on-site, quick ship distribution center, logistics and installation services, POWERS provides one-stop shopping for our customers,” Powers says.

In addition to manufacturing store fixtures, POWERS also manufactures casegoods for restaurants and information kiosks.

Panel Processing the POWERS Way

At many woodworking shops, the suggested method for processing panels is to cut, edgeband, panel process and point-to-point. However, POWERS has developed its own system to boost productivity and make for a more streamlined workflow.

Instead of the workflow recommended by most machinery manufacturers, POWERS cuts, CNC machines the panel and then edgebands. According to Jerry Grigsby, director of manufacturing, thanks to the addition of a front milling edgebander, the company has increased efficiency through the line.

The panels are cut and processed so that when the edgebanding is applied, no matter the thickness, the panel will be its intended dimension.

“If the engineers want a 24-by-24 panel it’s very simple. We will cut it, process it and when it comes out of the edgebanding, it’s back to 24-by-24,” Grigsby adds.

“That front milling edgebander has given me the luxury to increase my efficiencies and creates less back travel through the line,” Grigsby says. “Ninety-eight percent of the product will go straight through panel processing and edging and right to assembly.”

The panels are cut on one of three Holzma CNC panel saws and then processed on one of three Weeke CNC machining centers or one of the company’s two Homag CNC routers. The panels are then edgebanded on one of two Homag front milling edgebanders. All machinery is from Stiles Machinery Inc.

Additionally, the company has recently placed an order for a new production line consisting of a Gannomat horizontal drilling, automatic dowel insertion and gluing machine and a Gannomat electronic case clamping system, from Tritec Associates. The new line is scheduled to be in production by mid July, and it will speed up production and assembly while creating more capacity on the existing lines.

Currently, POWERS utilizes five production lines, with some machines being used on more than one line.

With its range of clients and the short lead times that can happen with retail clients, POWERS has to be ready to produce large orders quickly.

POWERS is not a just-in-time manufacturer, and it will keep an inventory of in-progress and finished goods for certain clients based on historical and forecasted future needs.

“You will see approximately 120 styles of panels on the floor that we inventory for our quick ship programs for our existing clients,” says Grigsby.

The company goes through approximately seven semi loads of materials per week, Grigsby adds.

According to Jerry Grigsby, director of manufacturing, POWERS stocks approximately 120 styles of panels for the quick ship program for existing clients.

‘Best of Breed’

In business, Powers follows the philosophy of being the “best of breed.”

“This means we search for the very best companies to do business with,” Powers explains. “We seek to be associated with the best companies, to have the best vendors. And then, finally, you take the commitment from our plant.”

This is demonstrated by the company’s list of well-known clients, its dedication to state-of-the-art technology, the company’s approach to quality and the shop’s work environment. As part of its dedication to being the “best of breed” and remaining on the cutting edge, POWERS does not have any machines that are more than five years old in its shop.

Powers says he takes pride in the Bolingbrook facility. “We want customers to come and say this is a fine institution. We want people to know that this is a high-quality shop,” he says.

“We have a formal quality check and balance system,” says Grigsby. “It is a five-step program.”

Parts cut at the saw are re-measured prior to machining and CNC operators check every tenth part and perform a final sign off at the end of each job, Grigsby explains. The foreman checks all assembly for each particular job. The packaging department performs a final quality check and attaches the POWERS label. Finally, the distribution supervisor checks all loads onto the truck and signs off on the job being “free of defects.”

“We’re a stickler on quality control checks, from the minute that the files are downloaded,” agrees Powers. “We’re watching from the first stage of the product being produced to the ending stage.”

The level of quality also stands out in the way the company’s products are constructed. “We’re not a staple and glue shop,” Powers says. “We’re using dowels and miter fold construction.”

Another benchmark of POWERS’ dedication to being the “best of breed” is its commitment to going green.

Getting Gold From Green

“We want to be able to offer green products to our clients. Not only that, but our clients are starting to demand it,” Powers says. “It’s ramping up fast.”

In recent months, POWERS has been working to become more environmentally friendly. This includes using panels from Roseburg Forest Products that are Forest Stewardship Council certified, “green” laminates from WilsonArt, polycarbonate versus PVC edging and switching to solvent-free

adhesives.

“The good thing about our industry is the supply chains already recognize [the need for green products],” Powers remarks.

POWERS recognizes the need too and has been licensed under the Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Product Downstream Program. According to the CPA, its EPP Downstream Program makes it easier for consumers to identify environmentally responsible products. A product carrying the EPP Downstream logo signifies it was manufactured by a company that demonstrated its commitment to green by purchasing at least 50 percent CPA EPP-certified composite wood products.

Part of being licensed in this program means POWERS must complete monthly audits that are required to verify recycled content, formaldehyde emissions and adherence to quality control procedures that meet American Society for Testing and Materials Intl protocol. The company must also submit samples for large chamber testing by an accredited third party on a quarterly basis.

“If we have to build you a green product today, we can build you a green product,” Powers says.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.