A High-End Product Line Supported by High Technology
Coastal Millworks gained efficiencies by adding a CNC machining center to help it produce top-quality architectural woodwork.
By Ann Gurly Rogers
Coastal Millworks, located in Riviera Beach, FL, was founded in 1990 by John and Mary Maffett for the purpose of designing, manufacturing and selling high-quality architectural millwork products. Today, most of its work is for residences valued at $5 million and up in Palm Beach and Martin counties.
The company's product line includes mahogany impact-rated exterior doors and windows that, in general, are engineered so the frame and glazing work together for protection from the elements, such as the significant pressure changes that occur during a hurricane. There are only a handful of companies worldwide that manufacture mahogany impact-rated doors and windows, according to John Maffett, who adds that it is a product and service of critical importance in Florida, where four devastating hurricanes struck in 2004 and where the hurricane season promises to be active again in 2005.
In addition to resisting terrible weather, the doors are constructed with a solid bronze and PVC sill system that make them insect- and rot-resistant. The company uses all wood, no particleboard or MDF. It all makes for a product line of which both Maffetts are very proud.
The company employs 30 workers, and most customers come from repeat business and referrals, which earned the company gross revenues of $3.8 million in 2004. Coastal Millworks has enjoyed working on some unique projects over the years, such as a current project, which is a house with a Moorish theme, designed by a prominent New York architect. The extensive architectural woodwork package for this residence will be in excess of $1 million, Maffett says.
At this price-point in the market place, quality is everything, he says. "We are not so likely to hear the question, 'How much will this cost?' but, 'Can you do what we want?'" he adds.
To this end, Maffett places a great deal of importance on being well informed about the architectural millwork industry and equipment that will best assist his company. Both John and Mary are active in the Architectural Woodwork Institute and also make a regular practice of attending trade shows. Their itinerary for 2005 includes attending Ligna (held in May in Hanover, Germany), and the upcoming AWFS Vegas fair, scheduled for July. The Maffetts also plan to attend next year's IWF, scheduled for August in Atlanta.
In fact, it was a fact-finding tour to Germany sponsored by Stiles Machinery in May 2004 that led the Maffetts to one of their most significant machinery purchases. On this trip, John visited a stair manufacturing factory, five window and door manufacturing companies and the Homag factory. Subsequently, the Maffetts ordered a Homag Profiline BOF 311 CNC machining center from Stiles. The order was placed in June 2004 and delivered in December 2004. The order included a 72-position tool changer with a five-axis head.
Maffett says he chose this piece of machinery for its flexibility, adding that it has enabled him to eliminate 18 pieces of equipment. "I anticipate that it also will eliminate mistakes, and it will save time moving parts from machine to machine," he adds. "We are just beginning to scratch the surface with regard to the machine's capabilities. It is now possible to do difficult things really fast. Last week, we made a door in 12 minutes."
Most recently, Coastal Millworks added an Italpresse Falcon 2000 sash and door press to clamp up parts coming off the Homag. Maffett expects this press to improve assembly times and quality.
Other machinery includes: a Diehl SL 60 straight line rip saw, Weinig Hydromat 23 6-head moulder and Rondamat 934 grinder, Timesavers three-head 52-in. widebelt sander, Martin T-26 tilting arbor shaper with tenoning setup, SCMI Hydro 3200 sliding bed table saw, and two Donaldson Torit Downflo Oval cartridge filter dust collectors.
High-tech Cameras for Security and Training
A more unusual type of high-tech equipment recently purchased is a camera system from Mace Security Products (the company is known for its pepper spray brand). Cameras are strategically placed throughout the shop so Maffett can see from his office what is going on at any given place. He also uses the cameras as a training tool. In the cabinet shop, he uses the time-lapse feature so his employees can see a cabinet being put together.
"When they can see the process, it is easier for them to understand when I suggest an alternative approach," he says. He anticipates this system will encourage higher productivity as well as provide added security.
In contrast to all of its high-tech equipment, Coastal Millworks has an excellent production asset of a different sort - Plamen Vassilov, the company's Bulgarian artist hand carver. He has a studio loft in the shop, and he is currently working on a $250,000 hand-carved library project as well as a $100,000 entry door for a house in Palm Beach.
Coastal Millworks' current shop size is 13,200 square feet. But even with that much room, Maffett says the layout and size of the workspace has always been one of his biggest challenges. The company plans to move to a new location in about five years, where it will have a total of 45,000 square feet, including 10,000 square feet for raw materials storage. The new facility also will serve as a storm shelter for all employees, their families and pets. Maffett's vision is to eventually have four to six Homags running on two shifts.
The Maffetts have two college-aged children, a son and a daughter who work periodically in the business. Their son, Rick, has proven to be an excellent salesman and project manager, the proud Maffetts say, adding that he plans to join Coastal Millworks after his graduation.
Also in the company's future is implementation of lean manufacturing methods over the next few years, Maffett says. It is working toward that goal and will continue to try to become more efficient, looking for improved technology and automation to produce higher levels of quality and grow its profit margin.
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