An unwavering commitment to 99 percent on-time delivery, plus an emphasis on new technology and lean manufacturing, have led to Impressions Marketing Group being chosen as this year's Best of the WOOD 100.

While many companies merely give lip service to the term “customer service,” Impressions Marketing Group delivers on that promise. Literally.

Headquartered in Virginia, this store fixture manufacturer has become renowned for its ability to achieve an on-time delivery rate of 99 percent — or greater — to customers throughout the nation. Impressions Marketing's fixtures and decor products can be found in more than 10,000 retail stores, including a host of Fortune 500 companies such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, CVS Pharmacy, Longs Drugs Stores and Safeway.

With plants located in Lorton, VA, and Washington, NC, and a distribution facility in Stockton, CA, the company achieves these results by integrating a corporate-wide lean manufacturing philosophy and state-of-the-art equipment, with a systems planning software program that provides Impressions Marketing with realistic times and cost estimations for each job it bids.

“Our success has been built upon a number of things — our people, our equipment and the systems we have in place” says Boe Young, vice president of sales and marketing. It is a winning combination that has the company looking to achieve another year of sales growth. Impressions Marketing ranked No. 17 in the WOOD 100 Report, with a growth rate of 58 percent in 2005, and sales of $52.4 million. The privately heldcompany further expects to increase its sales in 2006 by an estimated 20 percent, to approximately $63 million.

“We were able to achieve that [2005] growth by having some new customers go on line. But if we hadn't had the system in place, and the people in place, then we wouldn't have been able to make that happen.

“If we keep doing a good job and the economy stays healthy, we should be able to continue to grow at 15-20 percent per year,” Young adds.

Winner of the 2005 Outstanding Merit Retail Design Award by the National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers, the Longs Drugs Stores in California have been redesigned to include a walk-in pharmacy counter integrating a circular information kiosk and community room, an illuminated cosmetics wall and new category signage.
Impressions Marketing Group

Lorton, VA

Founded in 1981 as a graphics designer and printer of retail signage, the company soon began manufacturing casegoods at the request of a customer. Today, approximately 65 percent of Impressions Marketing’s business is from woodworking. The company has production plants in Lorton, VA, and Washington, NC, and a distribution facility in Stockton, CA.

Three Keys

1. The company uses lean manufacturing techniques as well as ERP software to help it achieve 99 percent or greater on-time delivery to customers.

2. Impressions Marketing’s fixtures and decor products can be seen in more than 10,000 retail stores nationwide. The store

fixture company’s capabilities include: design, value-engineering, fabrication, delivery and installation.

3. Recent investments in new equipment include the purchase of CNC machining centers and CNC routers in the North Carolina plant, and direct digital printers in the Virginia facility.

Signs of Success

One of the reasons Impressions Marketing is successful is because it has the value-added capabilities for producing not only the fixtures themselves, but the signage as well. According to Young, the woodworking operations account for approximately 65 percent of Impressions Marketing's business, with signage holding steady at 35 percent.

That was not always the case, Young explains. Back in 1981, when President and CEO Eric Gerber first started the company, the primary focus was on the graphics business. However, requests by customers to also manufacture the fixtures soon led to Gerber's entry into the woodworking industry.

And enter it he has, with a vengeance. With graphics and specialty woodworking housed at the 110,000-square-foot Virginia facility, the company has dedicated the 400,000-square-foot North Carolina plant solely to high production panel processing, with 300 employees working two shifts to produce stock, semi-custom, custom and rollout fixtures on a continuous basis.

According to Randy Roark, plant manager, this is made possible by having melamine panels and composite boards delivered several times weekly, thereby enabling the company to maintain a one-month inventory on raw material. “This gives us the flexibility we need to be able to react to customers' [unexpected] needs,” Roark says.

“It's one of the reasons our on-time delivery is so high — because we're willing to invest in our raw material inventory,” Young adds.

Production in Process

On average, the turnaround time on projects is between two and four weeks, depending on the complexity of the job, Roark says. The company typically has 350 to 400 jobs in progress on a daily basis, with 200 to 250 of them being processed at the North Carolina facility. Impressions Marketing uses an ERP system from Global Shop Solutions to track inventory as well as obtain real-time data on the production process via bar code scanners on the shop floor.

“We can track projects at the SKU level, as well as the shipment level. This has galvanized us to become more lean and more efficient, especially in terms of manufacturing,” Young says.

Once a job is entered into the system, panels are pulled from inventory and the programs are downloaded to the CNC machines on the shop floor. The majority of the fixtures produced are laminated, made from melamine panels purchased by a variety of suppliers including Panolam, Funder and Pluswood, or from high-pressure Wilsonart or Pionite overlays which the company presses in-house on a Black Bros. cold press.

Panels are cut to size on one of two Holzma HPP11 panel saws. From there, the components are transferred by cart to one of three Homag single-sided edgebanders, an SE9800, an SE9300 or an Optimat KAL310. “Having the three edgebanders gives us a little more flexibility in scheduling,” Roark sa

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