Canyon Creek Cabinet Co.

Monroe, WA

Canyon Creek Cabinet Co., founded in 1982, placed No. 57 in the 15th Annual WOOD 100 Report, published by Wood & Wood Products in September. The company, specializing in residential cabinetry for kitchens, baths and other rooms, is on pace to finish 2004 with sales exceeding $70 million. Canyon Creek has 233,000 square feet of manufacturing space and employs 588 workers.

Three Keys

1. The company received numerous environmental awards, recognizing such efforts as recycling, reduction of finishing emissions and energy savings.

2. Cabinet Creek earned ISO 9001:2000 certification in September 2003; it's continuous improvement program aims to increase productivity and quality.

3. A new computerized enterprise resource planning system was recently implemented to improve communication and efficiency in all phases of the company's business, from order entry through delivery.

This dynamic cabinet manufacturer finds growth aspirations and respect for the environment go hand in hand.

Bill Weaver does not hesitate when asked about the secret behind Monroe, WA-based Canyon Creek Cabinet Co.'s success. What makes the company one of America's best, according to Weaver, president and CEO, is its people.

"What it always comes back to is people," he says. "We never give up. The sense of never being satisfied is what keeps us going."

Along the way Canyon Creek has posted steady and strong growth. This year, sales are up 15% to nearly $70 million, after increasing by 20% last year. Since 1999, Canyon Creek's sales have skyrocketed by 70%.

Weaver's five-year target is $150 million in sales - without relying on acquisitions.

Some of the recent growth comes from market expansion. While the company's focus remains primarily in the western United States, Canyon Creek has added East Coast distribution in the last two years. Sales in the high-end market also have expanded "tremendously," Weaver says.

Consumer demand spurred a growing product line which includes so many options, that Canyon Creek has essentially become a high-volume custom cabinet shop. That's part of the continuing challenge, Weaver says.

Highly Decorated

At the same time, Canyon Creek has racked up a long list of awards and other accomplishments for environmental stewardship and community involvement. The most recent awards were received in October. Canyon Creek beat out 30 other nominees to win the Governor's Council for Human Resources as "Washington's Large Private Employer of the Year." The award recognizes the company's record of hiring and promoting persons with disabilities. Canyon Creek also received a citation for continuous improvement in resource conservation from the Association of Washington Business. It was a follow-up to an earlier award for innovation in resource conservation.

Canyon Creek's "green" practices are long-standing; the company established a comprehensive recycling program long before it became fashionable for corporations to do so. Yet, Weaver resists the tree-hugger label. Instead, he says he takes the practical approach and focuses on what makes sense from both business and environmental standpoints.

The full-extent of Canyon Creek's capabilities are barely hinted at in these photos depicting a kitchen project and a home entertainment unit.

Canyon Creek's wood waste, for instance, is sent to a nearby co-generation plant, while a switch to water-based finishes eliminates solvents and reduces air pollutants. Revamping finishing processes allowed the company to take some gas ovens out of service, thereby reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds while also cutting energy costs.

"There are lots of green programs out there that companies can avail themselves of," Weaver says. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel."

For example, Weaver says his company's entire operation switched to energy-conserving lights last year. This move not only reduced electric bills, but earned Canyon Creek a rebate from the utility company.

In yet another example, Canyon Creek took advantage of the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Wise program, which helped the company pay for the addition of a variable-frequency drive to simplify fan-speed changes in its dust collection system. The change improved efficiency and reduced electricity usage by 38%.

Community-Minded

Organized community involvement is a relatively new effort for Canyon Creek, initiated within the last five years.

"It's a passage in discovery," Weaver says. "We're trying to figure out at what level we should be involved."

Efforts so far have focused on humane services, including becoming a major contributor to the local food bank and assisting the senior citizens' center and YMCA.

Joining the community emergency response program also fits that focus, and it grew out of seeing what services were already in place when designing the plant's emergency response plan. Canyon Creek employees participate in triage, first aid and search-and-rescue training. A 2001 Seattle earthquake provided a real-world test that not only aided Canyon Creek's neighbors, but also pinpointed areas for improvement.

How and Why Canyon Creek Was Chosen 'America's Best'

Canyon Creek Cabinet Co. is proof positive that a manufacturing corporation need not forsake lofty sales objectives to be an outstanding member of the community and a friend to the environment.

As the accompanying article points out, the Seattle-based firm's sales increased 70% to $70 million, since 1999, and its aspirations are to more than double to $150 million in the next five years. To make this happen, the company not only invested in new equipment and software technology, but it also earned ISO 9001:2000 certification and embarked on the never-ending journey of continuous improvement.

Canyon Creek Cabinet also strives to be "green" in a variety of measurable ways. Its recycling program covers not only wood waste, but also discarded cardboard packaging of incoming supplies. The company also modified plant operations to be more energy efficient and has converted part of its finishing operation to more environmentally neutral UV finishes. For all of this, and more, the company has received numerous environmental awards from a variety of national, state and local agencies.

Its uncanny ability to strike a balance between growing the business and reducing its impact on the environment led Wood & Wood Products editors to salute Canyon Creek Cabinet and its 588 employees as America's Best for 2004.

This selection was made after carefully considering the merits of each of the companies featured in the September WOOD 100 Report. While there were many others among this elite group that caught our eye for adopting best practices in manufacturing, quality control, design, environmental commitment and more, when all was said and done, none stood out more than Canyon Creek Cabinet.

Not every company initiative has borne success. For example, Weaver says he had hoped to expand the community focus on education with a WoodLINKS program to help train high school students in woodworking operations. He had to abandon that plan in the face of federal regulators who balked at allowing underage workers to operate nearly all of the company's equipment.

"We couldn't make it work," he laments. "We just dropped it so we wouldn't put other (similar) programs in the state in jeopardy."

The Human Element

Canyon Creek's success all comes back to people: customers, community and, most of all, employees, Weaver says. "At the end of the day, it's people who run machines and implement processes. That's No. 1," he adds.

"I don't know how we [maintain so dependable a workforce]," he says. "We don't have any edge on hiring. Our turnover is the same as anyone's."

Weaver does credit his company's work environment for helping shape a winning mindset. The tone of that environment is set in Canyon Creek's mission statement, which lists the following eight corporate core values:

1. Honesty with our owners, customers, vendors and our fellow employees.

2. Do what we say we will do.

3. Provide a safe and progressive work environment.

4. Treat our fellow employees, vendors and customers with fairness and respect.

5. Provide an environment of open communication, growth, opportunity, participation and information for our employees.

6. Continually improve, with appropriate speed, our products, processes, technology and services to meet changing market demands.

7. Be a good community citizen.

8. Be ecologically responsible.

"We take this seriously," Weaver says. "This is who we are."

Great effort is taken to give employees "a sense of belonging and being in it together instead of putting themselves first." Instilling pride and getting employees to work as a team affects how they treat each other and what they expect of each other, he adds.

"We've tried to create an atmosphere of accountability that's not threatening. It's a fine line to walk," he says. "I don't know how to translate it to anyone else, but this is how it works for us."

Canyon Creek has restructured its operations and management team to increase efficiency and prepare for future growth. Plant operations are now broken into four specialty areas:

* Wood milling, including doors, face frames and panel parts;

* Finishing;

* Assembly; and

* Packaging, warehousing and shipping.

A different manager oversees each area. These four department managers report to the manufacturing director, who synthesizes all of the information for smoother operations.

The new arrangement replaces having a single person responsible for overall plant operations, a system that became more arduous as the company grew in leaps and bounds. "Now we have specialists instead of generalists," Weaver says.

Quality control is at the forefront of the company's reorganization. In addition to having its products certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn., Canyon Creek has been ISO certified since early 2002. In September 2003, the company was accepted into the ISO 9001:2000 quality management system. The goal of ISO 9001:2000 is to help achieve customer satisfaction and to have a system to monitor continual improvement.

Plant Improvements

After four years of planning, Canyon Creek earlier this year implemented a company-wide computer upgrade, also to help handle anticipated growth. The new Frontier Enterprise Resource Program from Friedman Corp. integrates all operations from order entry to shipment. It will also allow Canyon Creek's dealers to update their catalogs and place their orders through a secure interface.

"We're almost two companies here because we build framed and frameless cabinets," Weaver says. The new ERP system should not only help the company better manage production, it will help boost production, currently at 940 cabinets a day.

It typically takes six days to manufacture an order, from the time it hits the production floor to shipping. Most of the three-week lead-time on orders goes to planning and office operations. Weaver says he hopes the new computer system and other changes will tighten that schedule.

To raise production efficiency even higher, the company has changed how material flows through the plant and how it processes orders. Where a production order once ran through as a single unit, whether for one cabinet or 100, Canyon Creek now builds a single cabinet at a time.

Canyon Creek's 233,000-square-foot plant was accepted into the ISO 9001:2000 quality management system in September 2003. The plant currently produces about 940 cabinets a day.

"The downside is we wind up with more open orders at the end of assembly than before," Weaver says, but the trade-off is removing order "bulges" on the production floor. Smoothing out the flow of orders far outweighs the need for warehouse space to hold orders while all components are produced, he adds.

Three "orphan bins" along the production route - at door and frame construction, the finishing department and the assembly area - push efficiency higher by setting aside specific places for cabinets to wait for missing pieces to catch up. Other recent productivity-enhancing additions include a Biesse Rover CNC machining center, a Dodds CNC dovetail machine and the addition of several automated sanding machines, including a Quickwood sander from Sand-Tech and a DMC orbital sander from SCM Group USA. The conversion of some finishing operations to UV coatings is also relatively new.

Greener Finishing System

The new UV system purchased from Superfici/Delle Vedove is 32 feet long. The company uses Chemcraft UV coatings, which Weaver says provide a tougher, more scuff-resistant finish. The material produces miniscule amounts of VOCs and HAPs, and the application process allows most of the over-sprayed material to be collected and reused.

Because UV finishes cure immediately after they are applied, their use helps speed production. "You feed it through and when it comes out the other end, you can handle it right away," Weaver says.

Canyon Creek is currently running UV materials on flat-panel stock, recently added vacuum coating equipment to extend UV coatings to mouldings and other lineal components. Plans call for an eventual expansion into doors and frames.

"There are some things it's not appropriate for, such as glazes," Weaver says. UV coatings will become an increasingly larger segment of the company's product line, he adds.

Looking Forward

With all of the recent changes and initiatives, it is obvious that Canyon Creek is not resting on its laurels.

"I feel we could still double our volume in our markets and it would still only be a drop in the bucket," Weaver says. "The economy is just plain good. If you're in the building trades and your business is not doing well now, you're in the wrong trade."

Momentum also plays a role. One new customer leads to another, and soon "the market starts coming to you," Weaver says.

"But at the same time," Weaver says, "you can never take that for granted."

That is where internal momentum steps in to continuously improve quality and productivity.

"We're driven to keep doing better, which keeps us looking forward to explore new opportunities," he says.


On Being Green

Monroe-based Canyon Creek Cabinet Co.'s commitment to the environment is supported by the numerous awards it has received from federal, state and local agencies. They include:

1999 - Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence

2000 - EPA Evergreen Award for Environmental Excellence

2000 - Clark Country Home Builders Assn. Excellence Award for Exceptional Contribution to Environmental Building

2001 - Association of Washington Businesses Environmental Excellence for Air Quality Award

2001 - Pacific Northwest International Section of the Air and Waste Management Assn. Environmental Achievement Award

2002 - Recognized by the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) for energy efficiency improvement in its dust collection system

2002 - Recognized by the Snohomish County PUD for energy efficiency improvement by replacing spray guns and fluid pumps for more efficient equipment

2002 - Recognized by Snohomish County PUD for energy efficiency improvement and reduction of greenhouse gases by replacing high-bay lights with flourescent fixtures

2004 - Association of Washington Businesses' Award for Continuous Improvement Resource Conservation

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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