February 2005

JELD-WEN's Quality Starts at Millwork Plant

The company's wood component plant

sets the stage for assembly.

By Renee Stern
JELD-WEN's Aurora composite door, above, and the stunning window casements, below, showcase the company's custom wood capabilities.

JELD-WEN's oldest facility remains the lynchpin to its wood manufacturing operations.

JELD-WEN'S Millwork Manufacturing plant, located across the parking lot from the company's world headquarters in Klamath Falls, OR, machines nearly every component that goes into the company's domestic wood windows and doors.

Corporate restructuring over the past two years has not only changed the company's marketing focus to a single JELD-WEN brand, but also trimmed Millwork Manufacturing's customer list to company operations only and folded millwork into the windows division, says General Manager Kim Murillo.

About two-thirds of the output of the 310,000-square-foot millwork operation goes to window production; the rest is used in the assembly of interior and exterior doors. Tying Millwork Manufacturing more closely to the windows division adds efficiency through streamlined operations, says Production Manager Brett Calvin.

From Seed to Towering Tree

JELD-WEN grew from a single Klamath Falls millwork plant with 15 workers in 1960, to a global company today with more than 20,000 employees and more than 150 divisions. Vertical integration runs from timber holdings to window and door production; the corporate umbrella also covers resort properties and real estate services. The company sponsors the JELD-WEN Tradition, the final major on the PGA Champions Tour schedule.

"Reliability for real life" is part of JELD-WEN's new marketing focus, Murillo says. For Millwork Manufacturing, that means boosting reliability with investments in better equipment and expanding lean manufacturing and preventive maintenance programs.

The primary goal of all of these activities is customer service. Though Millwork Manufacturing's immediate customers are other branches of JELD-WEN's corporate family, Murillo says what his plant does has a big impact on consumer satisfaction.

"To be a world-class company you have to do everything very, very well," he says.

Some of the biggest changes - and ultimately the greatest efficiency improvements - stem from new technology, including a computerized lumber scanner that feeds into optimization saws, and an automated double-end tenoner and moulder work cell that takes on more tasks than originally imagined.

In addition to improving yields, productivity and quality, these moves have improved employee safety and ergonomics, Murillo says.

Optimizing Yields

Material optimization begins with a Coe Newnes/McGehee Addvantage chop saw optimizer. It replaces manual marking by crayons and fully optimizes fixed and random lengths of lumber. It tackles a job that can daunt even the most seasoned woodworker, Murillo says. Without a computerized lumber scanner, "you have to visually scan all four sides of a 16-foot board, identify (and mark) where the defects are and pick the best-value cut," Murillo says.

In contrast, lumber is fed, one piece after another, through the computerized scanning system, which is programmed with the desired specifications of each component. The scanner automatically inspects each piece of wood to pinpoint defects and instantly computes cuts to maximize yield. Upon exiting the scanner, each board is directly conveyed to the chop saws. Scrap pieces generated by the chop saws are shunted to one side for processing on a Grecon HS 120 fingerjointer. Even smaller pieces and rejects are shipped to JELD-WEN's fiber plant or, when it comes to extra-fine sawdust, trucked to the company's lumber plant to fuel boilers that generate process steam.

"From a yield and waste standpoint we've seen a lot of good results" from adding this equipment, Murillo says. He adds that most of the 20 or more employees on each of the two shifts that were required to process blanks before the optimization equipment was installed have been moved to new tasks; none of the 200 employees at the plant have been laid off. "It's reduced our labor costs and created better job opportunities," he says.

Dynamic Duo

Fighting the Elements

A new treatment process to ward off decay and insect damage is drawing attention to JELD-WEN's wood windows and exterior doors.

The company developed AuraLast wood, a proprietary vacuum-pressure process for solid pine, to meet consumer demand for the look and feel of real wood windows and doors. Like vinyl, it eliminates maintenance, says Ken Hart, JELD-WEN's marketing manager for product development.

AuraLast products come with a 20-year warranty against wood decay and insect damage, making them especially attractive to buyers in the Northwest, Southeast or wherever moisture, humidity and termites pose problems, Hart says.

Vacuum pressure forces the water-based preservative throughout the wood, producing nearly 100 percent penetration of the active ingredients compared to the surface coating of traditional dip methods, he says. Nails and screws will not compromise the integrity of AuraLast components, and treating the wood before it is machined creates better fits and finishes, Hart adds.

The AuraLast process maximizes raw materials by incorporating fingerjointed wood in engineered products where it might otherwise not be feasible, Hart says. Cut stock is trucked to a company facility in central Oregon for treatment, but a 40,000-square-foot AuraLast plant is under construction next to Millwork Manufacturing's Klamath Falls' operation. It should be up and running later this year.

Hart says the water-based treatment has cut VOCs by more than 96 percent, reducing JELD-WEN's environmental impact and improving worker safety. AuraLast adds to manufacturing costs, but though he declined to cite specific figures, Hart says the treated products are competitively priced.

One of Millwork Manufacturing's most recent additions is the pairing of a Weinig Unimat 3000 moulder and a Progressive Systems double-end tenoner, installed at the end of 2003, to profile and tenon parts in one pass without human intervention.

The Unimat 3000, recently rechristened by Weinig as the Powermat 3000, won a Challengers Award at the 2000 International Woodworking Machinery & Furniture Supply Fair. Its LogoCom control system helps expedite machine setup by organizing all profiles, optimizing production orders and transferring tooling and profile data online. In addition, the operator can automatically position all spindles, fences, plates and pressure elements using the LogoCom control.

The time it takes to change tools is reduced by the unit's Powerlock automatic clamping system; the push-button system quickly allows an operator to remove and replace cutterheads.

The moulder/tenoner system originally was intended strictly for producing patio door stiles and rails. Over the months since installation, more and more capabilities and functions were discovered, including the production of window sash and flush-door components.

Murillo says the company has been so pleased with the versatility of the moulder/tenoner system that it plans to install a second system by the end of the year. "It will help propel us to the next level," he says, adding that the addition of the second unit will allow Millwork Manufacturing to retire several older, less productive moulders.

According to Murillo, the biggest benefit of the paired units results from the speedy changeovers when switching from one part type to the next. He says a changeover that takes 60 to 90 minutes on conventional moulders and tenoners can be accomplished in 15 to 20 minutes. "There's no value to our customers in setting up the machine," he says. "There's a lot of value to our customers in running the machine."

The computerized equipment also saves time and material by matching specs exactly on the first piece after each changeover. On older moulders, operators would set up the machines based on their best estimate, run a test piece, then tweak the settings and run another test piece until all stations were in sync to produce the desired part.

Murillo says reducing downtime for changeover is vital in light of today's emphasis on lower inventory levels and shorter lead times. "We don't want to carry massive inventories," Murillo says. "We want to produce by the order. Material costs are the biggest cost in the plant. If it takes five pieces of wood to set up the machine and you make 10 setups a day, that's 50 pieces of wood you're throwing away."

Calvin notes that fast changeover improves Manufacturing Millwork's ability to handle last-minute orders.

Murillo adds that the gains in time, yield and quality did not show up instantly. "There is a learning curve with technology," Murillo says. "Once you work through it, the gains continue to increase."

With the productivity gains have come the exposure of inefficiencies in other parts of Manufacturing Millwork's production process. "You can literally be starving this new machine until you go upstream to fix" newly uncovered bottlenecks, Murillo says.

Other Benefits

The system's user-friendly technology simplifies employee training. Now, nearly any employee with basic training can run the automated equipment and get consistent results every time, Murillo says.

"You can't really put a dollar figure on these things, but they're huge," Calvin adds.

Improved information flow is another area benefiting from technology improvements. From order entry to final shipping, every part of the process is integrated, allowing instant access to inventory figures and order status, Calvin says.

Murillo says the information is beneficial in tightening inventories, a goal of the plant's lean manufacturing program.

During Millwork Manufacturing's typical three-week cycle to fill orders, the plant rips lumber, treats it with JELD-WEN's proprietary vacuum-pressure preservative process (see sidebar, page 42), machines the components, packs orders and ships them to other JELD-WEN facilities for assembly.

"It's a big challenge," Murillo says. "It's not an impossible task, but it's a very challenging one."

The pace of change is growing ever more rapid, Murillo adds. "When I think of all the changes in the last five years, it's hard to fathom where we'll be in the next five years. Some of them we may not even see coming, especially in information systems."


Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.