Equipment Opens New Doors for Ideal

With the expansion of its facility and addition of four key machines, Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood now offers two-plied veneer faces and has extended its Fast Track Program for all of its products.

By Bernadette Freund

     
Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood

New Albany, IN

Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood is a fifth generation manufacturer of five-ply architectural doors. The company also stocks 1.5 to 2 million square feet of raw veneers.

Three Keys:

1. From August of 2002 to early 2003, the company performed its largest expansion to date adding 5,000 square feet and reconfiguring walls, duct work and piping.

2. Four new machines totaling a $1.5 million investment were introduced to the company’s operations in the last year. The company added an automatic shuttle hot press, a veneer flexer, laser and a UV finishing system.

3. The company has expanded its Fast Track Program to include two-ply veneers and laser engraving work. Employees take two extra built-in work hours a day and Fridays to work exclusively on rush orders.

 
   
     

 Five generations and 117 years of woodworking experience finds Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood grounded firmly as a manufacturer of five-ply architectural doors.

The original family business, Bedard & Morency Millwork Co., began operations in 1886 in Oak Park, IL. Bob Morency, Steve Morency’s father and a past president of Architectural Woodwork Institute, bought Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood in 1977 in New Albany, IN, and ran both the millwork company and architectural door company. In 1986, he sold Bedard & Morency Millwork Co. and dedicated his efforts completely to Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood.

“My father saw an opportunity to provide doors and plywood to what were then his competitors in the millwork business,” says Steven Morency, president of Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood. “By the mid 1980s he had completely turned our focus over to this end of the business.”

Ideal produces and supplies AWI Premium Grade five-ply flush doors, stile and rail doors, door panels, plywood, blueprint-matched hardwood plywood, stock plywood, veneer inlays and two-plied veneer faces to architectural millwork firms. It produces from 4,000 to 5,000 doors a month depending on the mixture of projects.

Grabbing hold of opportunities has carried the company this far and Morency intends to carry on with this tradition. His great-grandfather responded proactively to the decline in business after the Pearl Harbor attacks by expanding operations and adding machinery. Morency has used the recession and post-September 11th drop as a time to expand operations and add $1.5 million in new machinery as well.

Morency says his company attended the 2002 International Woodworking Machinery & Supply Fair with plans for the company’s biggest expansion to date. A big part of the expansion project was geared toward extending the company’s Fast Track Program. As a result, all of Ideal’s products can now be delivered to customers in shorter lead times. The company also added equipment to produce its own two-plied veneer faces for custom laser work and for sale as sketch faces.

     
 
These doors to the Sheraton ballroom in downtown Chicago, IL, are quartered plain anigre with an ebony plug and a sketch face with a diamond match.  
     

 Putting Products on a Fast Track

In 1999, Ideal built a 20,000-square-foot warehouse for inventorying its 1.5 to 2 million feet of raw veneers to allow more room for production. This warehouse stores precut lumber, particleboard and laminated lumber for top and bottom rails, door core, crossband, lumber bead and fire door core.

“Our location in the Ohio Valley and proximity to the mills allows us to have virtually any veneer in stock or brought to us the next day,” Morency says. “This allows us to get the highest quality veneers that we need for matching millworkers’ veneers and facilitates very short lead times as well.”

The company prides itself on being able to work on short lead times through its Fast Track Program. Employees typically work 10 hours a day, four days a week. Two hours every day and Fridays are reserved for Fast Track work.

The company typically takes four weeks to complete the full cycle for a premachined, prefinished order of doors. However, a customer can have an order filled in two to three weeks if it pays for Fast Track. Ideal then uses the extra two hours every day and Fridays or even Saturdays, if needed, to leap frog the Fast Track order over other orders in the plant.

In the past, projects would run smoothly through the plant on Fast Track until it came to creating two-plied veneer faces for lasered work on the doors. Logos or any specialty inlay designs on the doors had to be subcontracted out to another company that had a veneer flexer and a laser to cut out the design.

“I was beholden to them for all of this type of work,” Morency says. “I had all of this veneer stock I could draw from to match any architect’s or millworker’s veneer, but I could not offer the Fast Track Program. I always had to wait a couple of weeks on those lasered items, or if I needed something in a hurry I had to pay a fortune to get it pushed through.

“I felt strongly about it being wrong to offer Fast Track on some items and not others. The fluctuations in quality became an issue for us as well.”

Simple Solution

The economical solution was to buy three machines that could work in conjunction to help bring the two-ply process and laser work in-house. The company bought a Savi veneer flexer, Preco Systems laser and replaced its old press with a Joos automatic shuttle hot press.

To bring the machines online, 5,000 square feet was added onto the building. Walls, ductwork and piping were moved to give the laser its own air-conditioned room. Then, the three machines were placed in close proximity to each other to ease the flow from one machine to another.

First the veneer is pressed onto a paper back to create a two-ply material. Otherwise, the process on the veneer flexer could shred the veneer.

Morency looked for a basic press that his employees could adjust the temperature on to do a run of five-ply doors and then switch to do two-plied veneer faces. He also needed a small footprint size.

     
 
The company’s Preco laser system uses a pulse to cut graphics and images into two-plied veneer faces.  
     

 â€œBefore this new press we had an antique boiler-driven press which became too inefficient and labor intensive to use,” Morency says. “With bringing the two-ply in-house for the laser work, we got the Joos press because we can run it at 210 degrees and 28 pounds of pressure for our five-ply doors and then bring it up to 345 degrees and 45 pounds of pressure for our two-ply stuff. It was custom built for our special pressure and temperature requirements. We then built a mezzanine out of steel to move the heat control unit up above the press.”

Applying the Laser

Once the veneer is pressed to create a two-plied sheet, an employee runs it through the Savi veneer flexer to eliminate waves in the veneer. Ideal uses a flexer with 12-foot-wide rollers to accommodate the width of the doors. As the two-plied veneer sheet runs under the roller and then out of the top of the machine, it crushes the fibers of the veneer to make it more supple.

“We take the most common veneers we use, two-ply them, flex them and then we stock them in the storage space we built in before entering the laser room,” Morency says. “Then our employee who runs the laser does not have to wait to have veneers two-plied unless it is a less common veneer. Then he will have to pull some from stock and run it on the press and through the flexer.”

Two of Morency’s employees received training to learn the specific CAD program that is used to create the template for the laser. The operators have to run two different programs one for the outline of the inlay and another for the inside which is a bit bigger and created out of a different species. The laser creates both of these via pulse.

“When we had to subcontract this type of work, the company we turned to had a beam laser,” Morency says. “We had quality issues with this because the beam laser would burn the edges on the cut of a logo or any shape. The pulse laser does not maintain that same high level of heat and we get a better quality cut. We can also burn in or emblazen an image.”

After the 5-foot by 10-foot vacuum table is done moving under the laser to create the image, the veneer is taped up. Depending on the size of the graphics or letters, it can take two or more hours to assemble. The initial programming also takes a considerable amount of time.

Other Benefits

Morency says he believes the time is worth it. Ideal not only benefits from the ability to run any of its projects on Fast Track, but also from its ability to offer more to its architectural millwork customers.

While the company does not press contours, with the use of the press and flexer, it can offer the flexible two-plied material to its customers that need sketch faces.

     
 
The DuBois flatline UV finishing system has eliminated some of the labor intensive sanding work for Ideal employees and brought recovery up to 100 percent.    
       

 â€œThey (architectural millworkers) will wrap and contour wrap two-plied material, for say columns and a reception desk,” Morency says. “Now we can provide them with that material. In addition, if we are doing doors for a project and they are making a desk that has several odd contours we can give them two-plied material made from the same flitch stock so everything matches.”

As an added bonus, the company’s production capabilities have been boosted by 20 percent. Employees can now focus more on making the company’s product even better, but according to Morency that always has been number one for his employees.

“We realized we have a knack with the specialized equipment and for tweaking our equipment to get it to do what we want,” Morency says. “Part of our expansion and realizing what machinery we needed to add came about by simply talking with our employees. If they have a suggestion on how to make things better, I listen and try to implement it because nine times out of 10 they are right.”


On the Finishing Front

In early 2002, Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood realized it had been producing finishes the old-fashioned way for too long. The company still sprayed on all of its finishes and then used vibrating sanders to sand the sealer coats. As part of the company’s recent expansion, it added a DuBois flatline UV finishing system.

Before adding the 135-foot-long flatline UV finishing system, the company used purely spray booths. Now they use only two booths in applying specialty finishes and coats.

The automated UV finishing system puts a single coat of finish on a door in a single pass. Then the door is run through the line again to finish the opposite side.

“The UV system has reduced my emissions by 90 percent, which from an environmental standpoint was a concern to me.” says Steven Morency, president of Ideal Architectural Doors & Plywood. “My hazardous waste removal has gone down by 75 percent. In addition, about 40 percent of what we used to spray went up the chute. Recovery on the flatline is 100 percent.”

The company had to demolish a side wall and redo the piping and duct work to prepare for the UV system’s arrival. However, Morency believes all of the extra work and time has paid off because the system eliminates some of the labor-intensive work for his employees.

“Dollar for dollar it costs me about the same,” Morency says. “However, I get better work out of my people for the day. They load and unload the machine rather than sand all day long. We get a harder base finish that is easy to build on.”

— Bernadette Freund

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