Custom millwork and store fixture manufacturer idX Corp. consolidates its eight facilities, using each plant’s capabilities and locations, to benefit its clients as well as the company as a whole.

idX is a leading provider of consumer environments, with a client list that includes such well-known retailers as Jos. A. Bank. Photo courtesy of Jos. A. Bank

With a workforce of more than 700, idX Corp. manufactures store fixtures and custom millwork for a client portfolio that reads like a “Who’s Who” of retail, including Levi’s, Guess, Microsoft, Marriott Corp., Starbucks, CitiGroup, Coach, Charles Schwab, Old Navy, Gap, JCPenney, T-Mobile, Williams Sonoma and more. The company has eight facilities and offices worldwide, housing more than 1,700,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing space, in Baltimore, MD; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; Louisville, KY; internationally in Shanghai, China and London, England; as well as offices and corporate headquarters in St. Louis, MO.

Each plant is linked to streamline manufacturing and offer the seamless integration of processes. “All manufacturing facilities are tied systemically, and production-leveling can be done across all idX manufacturing locations,” says Terry Schultz, CEO. “If it adds value to the customer, idX can easily move production to its sister facilities.”

“There are a couple of reasons idX’s locations work so well together,” says David Kilgore, general manager of the Louisville facility, visited by Wood & Wood Products. “The engineering platforms [at each location] are identical, so we can very easily share our engineering,” he says. “Our engineers talk monthly about common problems we have and differences in our plants. We talk about all the things that stand in the way of us using common engineering to make our fixtures. We also all use the same ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. We have visibility into our sister divisions, so we can see their data and they can see our data.”

Though each manufacturing facility could exist on its own, particular locations also do have specialties. The Toronto facility manufactures tubular metal fixtures for retail showcases, as well as woodworking for upscale, specialty and department stores; the Seattle plant specializes in laminates, melamine and natural woodwork for specialty stores, as well as metal and glass, high volume plastic, laminates and high-end wood products; the Baltimore plant does fabricating and finishing of wood and wood-based materials, laminate and veneers of all grades, acrylic and metal; and the Louisville operation is a full service production facility with the ability to handle large production runs of melamine, laminate, lacquered and veneer wood units and large scale, quality wood products that require finishing. Louisville also houses idX PanelWorks.

In addition to having these enhanced capabilities, a well-balanced portfolio of customers and expansion into retail-related markets to strategically build its business also has helped keep idX well-positioned in the current market.

idX works with a variety of retail clients, including The Body Shop (pictured above and below), Levi’s, Guess, Microsoft, Marriott Corp., Starbucks, CitiGroup, Jos. A. Bank, Charles Schwab, Old Navy, Gap, JCPenney, T-Mobile, Williams Sonoma and more. Photos courtesy of The Body Shop.
idx Launches PanelWorks

idX recently launched idX PanelWorks to produce melamine panels, high-tech milling and thermoforming. The new in-house capabilities, housed at the company’s Louisville facility, will provide shorter lead times, improved flexibility and competitive pricing, according to idX.

The company has invested more than $2.7 million in expanding its 420,000-square-foot Louisville facility to house the new PanelWorks division. In that investment are five state-of-the-art machines, including a five-axis CNC milling machine, and a melamine press line that produces two panels per minute.

“idX PanelWorks will support all idX facilities, with a particular focus on melamine and thermoforming,” says Mark Pritchard, executive vice president of business development. “While all idX facilities have milling capabilities, PanelWorks will triple current capacity, as well as produce more complex, three-dimensional pieces.”

The new line includes a membrane press that can handle vinyl films and Kydex thermoplastic sheet; a thermally-fused melamine press to heat and pressure bond paper impregnated with melamine resin to a core material; milling equipment such as an additional panel saw, CNC router, five-axis CNC router, edgebander and point-to-point machines; and a quality lab for testing board, melamine and RTF for moisture content, proper cure, opacity, stain, wear, scratch and crack resistance.

According to idX, the vertical integration of PanelWorks will allow the company to internally control melamine and RTF product, offering improved versatility in finishes and quality. The added control of the process, as well as additional mill capacity, also will benefit idX’s customers in high-velocity projects and overall.

The Role of An Employee

idX employs 148 workers at its 420,000-square-foot Louisville plant. Kilgore says employee levels can be seasonal.

“We rarely get below our core,” he says. “But the fixture business is a roller coaster. It’s like taking a drink from a fire hydrant when you get a sizeable project — it’s all at once. We have processes whereby we utilize temporary employees. It would have to get pretty ugly here before we got into our core. We try to keep the ratios right. But we also really ask these [core] guys to step up.”

One way the core group steps up is through a cost-savings program idX runs, in which employees bring ideas to the upper management and are rewarded bonuses for their implementation. “It really makes us work together differently and better than most because every week we force ourselves to look at these ideas — 35 to 40 ideas a week,” Kilgore says. “We do a luncheon every time we hit a significant goal as a business towards the annual cost savings to reward our people and keep them interested, and also take the opportunity to talk about the business.”

Kilgore says that idX keeps its employees involved in all aspects by cross-training. “As idX is a custom fixture manufacturer, we need to be prepared for any scenario, and cross-training is required to ensure a seamless manufacturing process,” he says. “In shops that don’t have a cross-training discipline, you find that you are less able to fully utilize people. So it gives us the ultimate flexibility. The other thing it does is add job enrichment to our employees. There is nothing worse than doing the same thing every day. We make a habit of rotating people around.”

idX Louisville employs five engineers on staff, and throughout idX, the company has 43 engineers total for all locations. The company does a significant amount of design in-house, but is versatile in how it is performed, depending on the project or client.

“idX can provide design capabilities and has a team of engineers at each of our facilities and offices worldwide,” says Mark Pritchard, executive vice president of business development. “On-staff designers/engineers provide material options, technical input and value engineering solutions to effectively design and develop fixturing that performs and functions in a demanding retail environment.”

“We have engineers on staff and we do work with some customers who have their own in-house design, so in some cases it is not necessarily needed on some projects,” says Lin Courtois, director of marketing. “Depending on the project scope, we have also outsourced some work as well.”

“There are several levels of the design function,” adds Kilgore. “Some clients want [more], some want [less].”

idX’s new Louisville facility was built in 2007. A 100,000 square foot expansion was added last year.


Lean and Green

According to Schultz, idX is a strong believer in lean manufacturing and its role in providing flow through the shop floor. “Each idX manufacturing division employs a fully-qualified industrial engineer and quality manager who facilitates and assures conformance to our Quality Management System,” he says. “We are always aware of opportunities, where applicable, to streamline project production flow through manufacturing. Productivity, safety and on-time shipments are a few key measurements that are tracked and monitored to drive continuous improvement.”

To aid production, the Louisville facility, including the PanelWorks line, utilizes a variety of high-tech equipment, including Holzma HPL 22 and 33 panel saws; a Shoda NCW-516 and Northwood 265 and 265c CNC routers; Busellato Jet 6000XL, Multiax E-215 and Morbidelli Author X5 Evo CNC point-to-point machining centers; Holz-Her Triatholon 1488v and Brandt KDF-980 edgebanders; a Wemhoner KT-F-1E short cycle thermally fused melamine press; a Wemhoner KT-M-13/28-200 membrane press; testing equipment from Taber; and a Rhodes pallet conveyer finishing line.

Being environmentally responsible is also important to idX, and Schultz says that the company is getting more requests for green projects every month. “idX is committed to develop, procure and offer sustainable solutions and practices that support global environmental responsibility,” he says. “We have adopted this policy, first, because it is the right thing to do, and second, because it’s good business.”

Both the Louisville and Seattle facilities are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. “We keep procurement records on FSC-certified products to meet FSC requirements, and all FSC wood products are kept separate from non-FSC wood products and tracked through invoices and Chain of Custody numbers,” Pritchard adds. “Also, idX is adopting the requirements of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for all sales involving composite wood products, and not just products to be delivered to California. Vendors and fabricators are also required to comply.

“This is not just good stewardship, but also a necessity to meet the emerging legislation in the United States and abroad,” says Pritchard. “We have acted fast in compliance to these new legislations, but have also adopted new audit and manufacturing controls to make us compliant to FSC, etc. We have also brought in a director of environmental development who has been with the company two years now, and she has been identifying products and other solutions that will help customers in their environmental needs themselves, to be more environmentally friendly.”

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