Discher Millwork finds CNC machinery easier to implement the second time around.

 When Oshkosh, WI-based Discher Architectural Millwork decided to upgrade machinery, owner and President Bruce Discher found integrating the new CNC equipment a lot easier the second time around.

This wood ceiling features raised mahogany panels with matching wainscotting.  

The company first started using CNC machinery nearly a decade ago, making it one of the first millwork firms to use the technology, Discher says. The success it had back then made CNC equipment a natural choice for the upgrade.

“We wanted to upgrade key pieces of equipment, such as our panel saw and point-to-point machine, which were 10 years old,” Discher says. “The technology has changed so much in that time. We also wanted to gain productivity by adding bar coding along with other changes, such as installing upgraded Pattern Systems software for the entire plant.”

The changeover required learning new machinery and computer programs, which linked the software to the machinery. “There were a lot of changes in a short space of time,” says Discher. “We were learning to use the new Holzma panel saw and Weeke point to point machine, but we found that two weeks after installation, our people were comfortable with the equipment.” Both pieces of equipment were purchased from Stiles Machinery Inc.

Discher says he feels that the transition may have been smoother because “we knew what to look for and how to be prepared. Because it was our second experience, we anticipated potential pitfalls. We organized what we needed to do to make the transition to the new machinery go smoothly.”

Discher says careful coordination of ancillary systems, such as scheduling for a software consultant to be on-site the day after the new machinery was installed, helped the company get up and running with a minimum of delay.

“We are thrilled with the productivity of the new system. When we bought the CNC machines the first time around, bar coding was very new. Now, it’s standard for most companies and we wanted to be take advantage of the time savings it offered.”

Discher estimates that the new equipment and bar coding saves him 30 to 40 percent in machining time. “With the old system, the drilling patterns had to be manually entered. With our upgrade, they are done automatically. We scan a bar code and it automatically enters the program for machining the part. The operator can check the screen to make sure the program is entirely correct before running it. Errors are virtually eliminated.”

Discher says his company has just scratched the surface of what the machines are capable of doing. “In addition to increased productivity, the machinery gives us a new freedom to do custom touches we didn’t attempt before and we feel there is great potential to do even more. We just completed a library that featured curved tops with four veneer inlays in the end panels. We were able to radius the top and all corners and cut the inlay on the point to point machine.” Discher says labor savings is the real bonus here. Jobs, such as a cancer care center, were done in half the time it once took when it was necessary to build jigs and fixtures to accomplish the same task.

Changing Focus

Discher Architectural Millwork was founded in 1945 by brothers Melvin (Bruce’s father) and Gilbert Discher. The duo did carpentry of all types, although cabinetry was a specialty. During a transportation shortage, the owners delivered cabinets by bicycle.

By the late ’70s the company decided to focus on architectural millwork, dropping the general construction work. Today, the company employs 25 people in the production area and seven in the office. Discher says the work is exclusively commercial, with roughly 60 percent of the business manufactured for health care facilities. “We also do a lot of niche work,” says Discher. “In the last five or six years we have done the millwork for 10 county courthouses. We also do corporate offices and educational facilities but no residential work.”

Blue and green laminate was used in this office area of a cancer care center. The laminate casework was trimmed with radiused and bullnosed solid wood trim.  

Materials used for the jobs vary due to the custom nature of the business. But Discher says they routinely work with plastic laminates, solid surfaces, hardwood lumber and veneer. Woods popular with clients include red oak, maple, cherry and exotics like anigre.

Recently, they have seen an increased use of metals as accent material. “For a police station reception area we used various metals such as aluminum. Since we got the new Weeke point-to-point machine, we find we are doing more custom work on the machine because it is so easy to program.”

Ease of Programming

Discher says one of the biggest differences in using the machinery today is the ease of programming plus the ability to link systems and organize and control jobs being done.

“Bar coding is a much faster way of doing business. We have a great deal more flexibility now in what we do and when we do it. We can change jobs quickly or shift to a different piece in a matter or minutes. The ability to store patterns and other information in the controller is a great asset. Anyone doing custom work appreciates a system that offers flexibility and ease of programming because you might only do one or two of a part,” Discher says.

Sometimes, Discher adds, the timesavings is amazing. For a credit union job that featured teller lines built on a radius, he programmed the machinery to cut the needed arcs. Discher estimates the machines cut the total time of the job by 200 to 300 percent. “In this type of work you routinely run into unusual shapes and we think our machinery line affords us the expertise needed to do the work correctly.”

Pattern Systems software is used in programming the Weeke BP 100 to cut cabinet parts for a hospital installation. Windows-controlled programming increases the flexibility of the machine. Another feature of the machine is its off-site diagnostics capability.  

Discher says the production area is composed of a custom shop, casework department, and a millwork department covering a 30,000-square-foot area.

In addition to the Holzma panel saw and the Weeke BP100 point-to-point machine, machinery in the production area includes a straight line ripsaw, AEM widebelt sander, Delta 14-inch table saw, Delta shaper and radial arm saw, Powermatic planer, Delta joiners, and Powermatic joiner.

An Altendorf F45 sliding table saw is described as the backbone of the custom department. Also in the lineup is a Black Bros. glue spreader and pod press press, a Holzma HPP82 panel saw, an IMA edgebander, two Ritter case clamps and several Gannomat dowel inserters.

Discher says one of the features he likes about the newest Holzma panel saw and Weeke BP100 point-to-point machine is their off-site diagnostics. “If there is a problem, the technical staff can help us find the problem online. They can go right into the controller, find the problem and make the correction from their computer. They virtually take over the screen at their site. This saves a great deal of time.”

Discher says the latest machinery additions cost approximately $250,000, but they have seen some payback already. “The system has totally eliminated the bottlenecks in our production area. The machinery fits in with our needs for custom casework, where there can be subtle changes to various pieces and no standardization. The new panel saw cuts 12-foot panels instead of 11-foot panels, like the older machine. But the real change is that we have Windows-controlled programming, again increasing the flexibility of the machine.”

Discher says his company enjoys a backlog of work despite the slow economy. He adds that he is happy with the changes at his shop and with how easily he was able to integrate the technology and flexibility into his operation.

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