A Company in the Know
Interior Wood of San Diego Inc. brings its large knowledge base about materials, regulations and manufacturing techniques to all its projects.
By Sam Gazdziak
Last-minute changes or additions to a project are relatively normal occurances for architectural woodworkers. But the conference table that was added to the construction of the University of San Diego’s Joan Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice was anything but a minor change. The table is 42 feet long and 27 feet wide, and its ellptical shape is comprised of six matched pairs of sections, with each pair having a different radius.
Interior Wood of San Diego Inc. had been contracted to built all the custom cabinetry and millwork throughout the Institute, but it was given only four weeks to build and install the conference table. Fortunately, the company is prepared to handle such situations.
“We have a high level of expertise and a can-do approach, plus the ability to complete work at the very highest level,” says Alan Marshall. As president, he has seen the company grow from a one-man business working out of a garage in 1981 to a 32-employee company that does about $4 million in custom architectural millwork and cabinetry each year.
Interior Wood made the table out of burgundy-stained oak. It seats 36 people and features a state-of-the-art audio/visual system. The entire project was such a success that it won an award from the Woodwork Institute of California. (See sidebar)
Marshall says the company can provide the best value for the contractor when it is involved in a project from the start. “The sooner we’re brought into a project, the sooner we’re able to do value engineering, make recommendations of different types of materials and assist the project team meet schedules and budgets for a successful project,” he adds. “The pipeline in construction today is so reduced that in order for architects to take full advantage of the knowledge that subcontractors have, I suggest that they involve the significant players as early as possible.”
Marshall says his company has compensated by taking advantage of available technology. The company uses AutoCAD for drafting and uses high-tech machines instead of manual machining methods. “We organized work flow through the shop,” he adds. “We pay attention to theories of management techniques and manufacturing technologies. We take all the available information out there to produce the finest products in the most efficient manner.”
Marshall says that his machinery additions are part of an ongoing process. Last year, Interior Wood purchased a panel saw and a sander from SCM Group USA, along with upgrading to AutoCAD 2000. The company’s 10,000-square-foot shop is also equipped with a Morbidelli CNC machining center, and an SCMI jointer from SCM Group USA.
Marshall says that Interior Wood’s machinery nicely complements his employees’ skill level. “We take a craftsman’s approach to the work, but we use all the advanced technology to help us,” he adds. “We’ve found that even with all those advances, there’s still a demand for craftsmen in this industry to execute the work at the highest level.”
The combination of technology and skill was important to complete the Joan Kroc Institute conference table. Not only did the employees use the machining center and AutoCAD programming to make the 12 separate sections that would form a perfect oval when joined together, but they also made certain the color and grain was consistent from piece to piece.
Interior Wood’s offices and operations are located in several buildings and trailers on the property. There are separate trailers for office management, project management, engineering and estimating. There are storage buildings for raw materials and finished goods. Machining is done in one building, while finishing and assembly is handled in an adjoining building.
Marshall says that this setup leads to separation of work, so that one type of work is not blocking the progress of another. “The disadvantage, obviously, is that there is more movement, but we’re not a production shop, so it’s not a major disadvantage.”
An expanding choice of materials
One large contributor to this wave of new materials usage was high-tech companies. The Internet boom of several years ago led to an influx of new companies with money to burn. “One advantage in the boom of the high-tech companies was their willingness to experiment in new materials and cutting-edge designs,” says Marshall.
For example, Interior Wood fabricated the millwork for the offices of Peregrine Systems, a software company. The work included steel with a variety of finishes and different types of glass, anigre veneer, custom-dyed wheatboard and acrylics.
Peregrine is still around, but many other companies weren’t so lucky. Still, they left their mark on the woodworking industry. “The boom is over, but it’s created a new database of knowledge in new materials and their use. Designers are more willing to use them,” Marshall explains. “So there has been an upside to the technology boom and bust.”
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