Kent Moore Cabinets Ltd. reduced its VOC emissions by more than 80 percent — despite doubling its finishing capacity — through the use of a completely water-based flatline finishing system.

Kent Moore Cabinets specializes in custom cabinetry and furniture for single- and multi-family homes. The company uses strictly water-based materials in all its finishing operations.

Significant doesn’t come close to describing the achievement by Kent Moore Cabinets in reducing its VOC emissions in the finishing process. Astounding, perhaps, is the better word.

The Bryan, TX-based residential custom cabinet manufacturer lowered its VOC emissions from a high of 101 tons in 2003 down to 16 tons today — despite increasing production capacity — by switching to a 100-percent water-based flatline finishing system. In addition to the overall cost savings achieved, Kent Moore Cabinets has received numerous accolades, including just recently, Texas’ top award for environmental excellence.

 Road to Reduction

It was in 2002 that KMC began looking at ways to grow production without increasing its emissions. “We were already bumping up to our limits on the air permits, which forced us to find an alternative method for finishing,” says Casey Moore, president. In planning construction of a second plant, the company opted to use a completely water-based system for operating under the area’s permit by rule for air quality.

According to Moore, KMC purchased the Giardina MOS finishing system after seeing it on display at a woodworking show. The flatline system, which won an IWF Challengers Award in 2004, uses microwave technology to heat products in a jet-hot air drying tunnel, with or without UV.

Currently, KMC has four Giardina finishing lines: two for stain and one each for sealer and topcoat. The latter two lines, which are approximately 150 feet long, incorporate the microwave technology for drying the water-based finishes, which are supplied by Sherwin-Williams.

“As far as I know, we are still the only U.S. cabinet company with a completely water-based flatline system,” says John Trcalek Jr., vice president of production. In addition to the proprietary stains, sealers and topcoats, KMC also offers specialty finishes, including distressing and glazing.

Since installing the system, KMC has more than doubled its finishing capacity, while reducing emissions by more than 80 percent. The company also has been able to increase the mil thickness on parts and reduce overspray, say Giacomo “Jack” Marino Sr., vice president of operations. “Our finish operation used to be a [concern for us]. Now it’s an advantage.”

In addition to the increased durability and consistency achieved in the finishing operation, the environmental benefits of the system also “have helped us attract new customers and generate more business from the customers we have,” Moore says.

Since installing the lines, Moore says he has seen the amount of prefinished cabinets rise from 40 percent to 80 percent.

“Our customers have been very happy,” says Teresa Galliher, vice president of sales for the Western Division. She adds that interest in environmentally friendly products, as well as in green building practices, is growing, particularly in the Austin and Dallas residential sectors. The majority of KMC’s cabinetry is sold through large custom home builders across Texas.

Prior to finishing, parts are sanded and denibbed on QuickWood whitewood sanders to promote mechanical adhesion between coats.

Lean Manufacturing

Cabinet components are machined, finished and assembled on a just-in-time basis in the company’s combined 225,000 square feet of manufacturing space; an addition is underway that will add another 70,000 square feet at the finishing facility. Considered the state’s largest, privately owned custom cabinet manufacturer, KMC uses lean manufacturing techniques to produce more than 4,000 cabinets a week for single- and multi-family residences. “We’re as lean as we can get,” says Trcalek. “We were doing lean way before [it became a buzzword].”

KMC’s lean practices for mass customization incorporate the use of Theory of Constraints and buffer management. Under TOC, improvement comes by identifying and managing constraints, which often are based in the practices and policies of the people involved. Buffer management tracks and assesses the actual project in comparison to the original premise, for indication of when, and when not, to take corrective action.

Bar coding is used to help track parts flow throughout the plants. According to Moore, it is not unusual to scan 12,000 to 15,000 items in a day. However, KMC goes a step further by color-coding the packaging tape with regards to city/destination, thereby providing an easy, visual check for the driver that the correct order is on the truck for delivery.

Turnaround time on orders is typically seven to 10 working days, but can vary based on the complexity of the project, including the styles and finish required. The company offers more than 900 finish combinations, as well as options in box sizes, door styles, edge profiles and species. Available species include: oak, maple, poplar, cherry, alder, ash, rustic alder, rustic maple and rustic hickory, with black walnut and mahogany available upon request.

“Height, width, depth...it doesn’t matter,” says Marino.

“We are custom —­ we can make it any way,” adds Galliher.

Customization, along with customer service, begins with the sales staff, which meets with clients and takes measurements in the home, Galliher says. The proposed project is then drafted in AutoCAD. Once approved, it will be released into production.

KMC uses SCM single-, twin- and dual-table CNC routers with nesting capability to cut cabinet boxes and components.

Production starts with the router operation. KMC has six SCM CNC routers: two single-table, two twin-table and two dual-table machines. “[Founder Kent Moore] made a commitment to use routers to cut all our parts for cabinet boxes. He always embraced technology. The routers provide accuracy and with the nesting programs we get excellent yield,” Trcalek says, adding that the company has been doing nested-based machining for approximately 10 years.

Planit’s AlphaCAM software is among the programs used in the CNC machining process. From the router, shelves and other flat components are transferred to an SCM Olimpic single-sided edgebander, then to the setup area. As part of its environmentally sustainable initiative, KMC uses composite panels which have been certified under the Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Product Grademark Program.

As well as its environmental practices, quality control is of top importance at KMC, which has an inspector assigned to each department at critical control points, as well as employees on the line also aiding the effort. In an example of the extra effort KMC takes to ensure a quality finish, the company works with its veneer suppliers to add a fluorescent dye to the adhesive for the pressing operations. Then, when viewed under a black light, any squeezeout becomes visible for quick removal prior to finishing.

QuickWood whitewood sanders are used in the finishing plant, while DMC widebelt sanders from SCM Group are used in the production area. Also located in the production sector is a Wemhöner press, available from Stiles Machinery, for applying veneers on the panels for cabinet boxes.

The face-frame cabinet doors are of five-piece hardwood construction, cope and stick tenoned on an SCM Concept 1000. They are pocket bored, glued and screwed as one unit, then assembled using a new Carlson Systems door pinner. KMC also offers slab and paint-grade MDF style doors. Drawer boxes are constructed of 9mm baltic birch plywood or hardwood lumber, in standard or dovetail construction. The company uses Grass drawer guides and Salice hinges for assembly.

Other machines integral to the production process include: a Biesse Selco panel saw, a Glue-All high frequency edge gluer from L&L Machinery, Barberan wrappers for veneer wrapping of moulding, SCM moulders for S2S face frame stock and ripsaws. There also is a specials department containing Powermatic and Delta equipment for products not mass customized, such as mantles, angle cabinets and vent hoods.

“There’s not a part of a house that we’re not capable of providing for,” Moore says.

Not content to rest on its laurels, KMC already is planning for next year. Under consideration, Marino adds, are: new frameless and miter door designs, additional wrapping equipment and a new edgebander for applying moulding onto shelves.

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