Nested-based manufacturing and a diversified product offering are helping Showcase Kitchens to thrive.

 

For a smaller-sized company to be competitive, it needs something that makes it special. For Green Bay, WI-based Showcase Kitchens Inc., that something is diversification.



“Our manufacturing process crosses multiple plains of cabinetry,” says purchasing manager Rob Apfel. “We can do a true European cabinet. We can do a custom cabinet. We also do a lot of remodeling. And now we are into the laminating and commercial end of it as well.”

Originating as a kitchen remodeling company in 1976, Showcase now designs, builds and installs kitchen cabinets, countertops and custom furniture and moulding, in addition to remodeling with Renew-A-Kitchen, another facet of its business. The company also has taken on commercial clients, which make up close to 20 percent of its total current business.



Covering All the Bases



With its range of products offered, Showcase is a “one-stop shop” for cabinets. The company designs, manufactures and installs all of its products, with the exception of countertops, which are brought in, cut and installed by Showcase. “We process all the cabinets, the doors, trim packages, interior house doors and all the trim for the windows and doors,” says Apfel. “If a builder wants everything to match his cabinets, he’ll send it to us and we will finish it for him.”



All the cabinets also go through a unique finishing process. “We have a very high-quality, ‘baked-on’ finish,” Apfel says. “The cabinets undergo a process of baking on and curing the finish.”



With the housing market in a downturn and the seasons changing, Apfel says that Renew-A-Kitchen, the company’s remodeling sector, is still thriving. “Our Renew and remodeling line is going gangbusters for us,” he says. “We have discussed rotating one of our custom crews to the remodeling department to help take care of the overflow. It keeps us busy. Obviously you cannot build a new home in the middle of winter around here. Our remodeling line keeps us productive right through winter.”



The company places importance on cross-training many of its 60 employees as well. “They can move wherever we need them,” Apfel says. “These new finishes can take more time in the spray room. We cross-train our employees so that the job moves through here with an even flow.”

Showcase recently purchased a Weeke Optimat nested-based CNC machining center to replace the pod-and-rail system and panel saw it used previously.

The Right Setting



In 1999, Showcase moved into a new 40,000-square-foot facility. Apfel says that prior to moving in, the company designed the shop layout so it would flow smoothly. “The majority of the manufacturing processes are completed in a work cell,” he says. “We have an individual department manufacturing doors, we have an individual department making face frames, and they are all working in their own work cell. They have their own support equipment right there. Each department is self-contained. And all materials are ordered on a just-in-time basis; it comes in the door per job, gets processed through the shop per job and sent out the back door.”



The new facility features a humidity control system, which helps to prevent the wood from becoming too dry and cracking, or from becoming overly humid and warping or twisting. “It’s easier on our tooling,” Apfel says. “We manufacture a better product in the long run. We’re not throwing as much away as in the past.”



A public showroom also is housed in the new facility, with product displays and examples of design and finish choices. “We update the showroom frequently,” says Apfel. “Every so often, we put one of the displays up for sale. Once it sells, we build something new. Each time we do that, we incorporate current trends into the display. We also display old cabinets that we have resurfaced to promote Renew-A-Kitchen and the remodeling aspect of the business.”

This vanity in Showcase’s showroom features a “baked-on” finish, where the product is run through an oven and the finish is cured.

Staying Well-Equipped



Showcase was interested in buying a nested-based machine, but not quite ready to take the plunge. Necessity, it turns out, ended up giving the

company the final push into making the purchase.



“We had our old pod-and-rail machine and a panel saw,” says Apfel. “We were cutting our parts and machining our parts in two separate operations. The panel saw permanently broke, so it was either take care of that and buy a new panel saw and live with our old machining center, or buy a bigger, nested-based machine to run everything.”



The company chose the nested-based machine, a Weeke BHP 200 CNC machining center from Stiles Machinery. “We felt that was the route to go,” Apfel says. “We’ve sent three gentlemen now to training to operate that machine. We updated our computer systems upstairs to be able to handle it, put it on the floor and never looked back. It’s been an awesome move for us. We’re very happy we did it.”



Showcase runs Cabnetware software from Planit Solutions. “They (Planit) actually came in and set up all our Web-based software for our machining center,” says Apfel. “And we use the WoodWOP right off the Weeke. So between the Planit Solutions and the WoodWOP, we can plan upstairs, download it into our machining center and cut straight off the list on the screen.”



The company also is looking to upgrade its door department in order to comfortably keep up with the rest of the shop and avoid bottlenecks. “The way we are doing it now, every shaper is dedicated to an operation out there,” says Apfel. “We are looking to have one machine that does it all, instead of five or six that support each other.”

Other equipment Showcase uses include an SCM overhead sander, a Gorbel lift, an edgebander from Brandt, a Weinig moulder and a Raymond ripsaw, as well as equipment from Ritter, Powermatic, TigerStop and more. Its finishing room uses equipment from Binks and Graco, as well as a track system from Rhodes.

An Eye Toward the Future



Showcase is expecting to see growth in 2008, and has already hired another designer to help deal with the increased workload. The company hopes to add to its already diversified product offering in the future, by promoting more trim packages for the entire house, and possibly introducing a garage cabinet line and closet line.



“We are looking into all those different angles right now,” Apfel says. “It is something different that we can expand into and offer as a one-stop cabinet shop.”



In the end, Apfel says that quality and service are what ultimately makes Showcase successful. “We take pride in that,” he says. “We take things to the next level and also try to provide products at an affordable price. And we do feel we can sell it. We’re doing well in all those aspects.”

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