Manufacturers are using both internal manufacturing and outsourcing to meet the challenges of today’s cabinet market.

According to Wood Component Manufacturers Assn. Executive Director Steve Lawser, 2007 should be a challenging year for woodworkers in general, including component manufacturers, due to a projected decline in housing starts. “The remodeling industry will buffer the housing downturn somewhat, but the decline in new and existing home sales also will cause the remodeling market to slow,” he says. Dimension and component sales also are projected to be flat.

There are positives, however. “Component manufacturers are improving their competitiveness by reducing costs through lean manufacturing, better training, increasing worker productivity, adopting new technology and improving their supply chain management,” Lawser adds. “They also are partnering with customers who are highly innovative in offering more customized products and services.”

The growth of imported components and finished wood products coming into the United States from foreign suppliers also will remain a major challenge for North American component producers, according to Lawser. “To meet the challenge of globalization, many producers are moving to more unique and customized products as a way to compete with the mass-produced, commodity-type products that are being imported,” he says.

Lawser says more companies are outsourcing components and products from both domestic and offshore suppliers. A recent WCMA outsourcing trend study indicated that 62 percent of those surveyed outsource components. According to Lawser, there are numerous benefits to outsourcing, including consistent quality, better control over costs, reduced inventory, shorter lead times, wider available species of wood, reduced waste and a greater return on investment. “Also, there are a large number of small- and medium-sized cabinetmakers who do not have the ability to produce all of their components in-house,” he adds.

On the other hand, Lawser says that in-house manufacturing has benefits of its own, such as more control over production, the ability to meet delivery schedules, and the ability to manufacture parts cheaper and parts not available from outside suppliers.

American Woodmark

The WCMA began its annual plant tour this year with a company that not only manufactures internally, but also outsources. American Woodmark, one of the three largest cabinet manufacturers in the United States, was the first stop. The company’s Monticello, KY, facility processes green lumber through to white wood frames and doors and is essentially two plants: dimension and component.

Lawser says that American Woodmark does not usually allow groups to tour its plants, but made an exception in this case. “An American Woodmark plant member in Monticello was formerly employed by a WCMA member,” he says. “Because he enjoyed the tours and recognized their value, he obtained permission for the WCMA to tour the plant. Also, the WCMA members are suppliers to American Woodmark and do not compete with them.”

American Woodmark, which was started in 1980, coordinates 15 manufacturing facilities and employs approximately 6,500 workers across the United States. Cary Dunston, senior vice president of manufacturing, says the company’s manufacturing process is divided into four functions, with each plant playing an important role: dimension facilities, which cut and dry raw lumber for processing by the company’s component and assembly locations; component facilities, which manufacture and finish cabinet component parts such as doors, frames and other parts for use by the company’s assembly plants; flat stock facilities, which print and cut particleboard, plywood and MDF and turn it into finished cabinet returns, tops, bottoms, shelves and backs for delivery to the company’s assembly plants; and assembly facilities, which receive finished parts and flat stock materials for final assembly and finishing, and ship the completed cabinets to customers located throughout the United States.

Being vertically integrated has proven successful for American Woodmark. “Vertical integration allows for consistency during the entire process, from green lumber through delivery,” Dunston says. “Managing our supply chain provides a greater opportunity to meet customer’s needs with regards to quality, lead time and service. The only challenge would be associated with managing the higher fixed overhead during periods of low demand.”

The company also currently purchases a range of products from its vendor partners to enhance and supplement its internal production, according to Dunston. “We are constantly evaluating the sourcing of materials and products to enhance our total offering and meet the needs of our customers,” he says.

American Woodmark sells cabinets on a just-in-time manufacturing basis through a network of independent distributors, as well as directly to home centers and high-volume builders.
WCMA Fall Plant Tour Hits Kentucky
Kentucky: home of the Derby, Colonel Sanders, bluegrass and — the 2006 Wood Component Manufacturers Assn. Plant Tour Event.

London, KY, played host to the annual tour and conference, which attracted 191 WCMA members, included seven area plant tours, a Wood Technology Expo with roundtable discussions and educational sessions, and a conference featuring presentations from Reed Felton, COO/President of TJ Hale (“Hiring and Retaining the Passionate Employee”) and Dr. Al Schuler, research economist with the USDA Forest Service (“How to Survive in a Sea of Change”).

WCMA Executive Director Steve Lawser says the turnout for the 2006 tour increased over 2005 figures, and that for the first time the tour did not include any WCMA member companies. He adds that the roundtable discussions were especially popular.

“The roundtables were a big hit with our members and technology partners as they gave them the opportunity to discuss several topics of mutual interest,” he says. “Our members were able to share their manufacturing challenges and our technology partners shared solutions to these challenges.”

In addition to American Woodmark, W&W Hardwoods, Monticello Flooring & Lumber Co., Fantasy Yachts, Lake Cumberland Woodworks, Sumerset Houseboats and Begley Lumber Co. were also visited on the tour. For information on the WCMA and its plant tours, contact Lawser at (770) 565-6660, or by e-mail at [email protected]

W & W Hardwoods

W & W Hardwoods, based in Monticello, KY, manufactures interior doors, cabinet doors and parts, drawer fronts, frame stock, door jambs and pantry doors using solid, veneered and membrane-pressed materials. The company, founded in 1987, employs 200 people.

Monticello Flooring

Monticello Flooring & Lumber specializes in 2-1/4-in. strip and 3-in., 4-in. and 5-in. plank flooring in red oak, white oak, ash and hard maple. The plant also manufactures 3-in., 4-in. and 5-in. plank flooring in yellow pine. The company recently added pre-finished flooring to its product line.

Fantasy Yachts

Fantasy Yachts, based in Monticello, KY, is a manufacturer of luxury custom houseboats, producing an average of 36 boats a year in its 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

Lake Cumberland Woodworks

Lake Cumberland Woodworks manufactures mouldings and millwork, finished interior doors, edge-glued panels, cabinet parts, face-frame material, stair treads and finger-jointed products in its Bronston, KY, plant.

Sumerset Houseboats

Sumerset Houseboats, a manufacturer of aluminum-hull houseboats, employs nearly 200 people in its 200,000-square-foot facility in Somerset, KY. The plant houses dual production lines alongside its full-service warehouse and in-water testing pond.

Begley Lumber Co. Inc.

Begley Lumber began as a family-owned sawmill in 1971, and is now one of the largest hardwood producers in North America. The London, KY-based company procures its raw materials from the region, including: red oak, white oak, poplar, basswood, cherry, walnut, ash, hickory, and hard and soft maple. Begley’s annual sawmill production has grown to more than 60 million board feet with a 750,000-board-foot kiln capacity.


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