Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. was among the first companies in its area to invest in CNC technology, and it uses that technology to rise above the competition.

Brothers Chris and Mike Wilmot of Norwalk, CT-based Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. LLC, say technology is the key to streamlining operations and staying ahead of the competition. Additionally, they say technology helps them maintain quality and productivity as the pool of skilled craftsmen dwindles more and more every year.

Quality is an important factor when the majority of the company's jobs are for high-end residential applications. The company employs approximately 42 people and utilizes 15,000 square feet of manufacturing space to produce libraries, wine cellars, entertainment centers, kitchens and baths. From the design phase to manufacturing, technology plays an important role in the entire process.

The Tech Factor

“If it wasn't for the technology, we wouldn't be where we are today,” remarks Chris, co-owner and manager of design.

“We were one of the first shops in the area to start investing in CNC equipment,” says Mike, co-owner and manager of operations. “We always have to stay on top of the game and keep investing money into the equipment and technology.”

In 1997 the company began its foray into technology with the purchase of Cabinet Vision software by Planit Solutions. The software allowed the company to complete architectural drawings and specifications in-house, Chris says.

In 1998 the company purchased its first CNC machine, a Biesse Rover. In 2000 the company bought a Selco panel saw, followed by a Weinig moulder and Raimann gang ripsaw in 2002, a Brandt edgebander in 2003 and an Optimat sander in 2004. Additionally, the company utilizes an Omga chopsaw with a Tigerstop optimizer, a Mikron overhead shaper/multi-moulder, a Dodd's dovetailing machine for drawer boxes, and Kremlin and Binks spray guns in the finishing department.

“From the days of Cabinet Vision and purchasing our first piece of CNC equipment, we were able to take control of the drawings, the cutlists and all of the production equipment, take it out of the shop and bring it into the office,” says Chris.

“We try to invest in the technology more than the skilled labor because it's a dying breed,” adds Mike. “There's fewer and fewer skilled carpenters out there each year. You can get a lot more done with the technology now.”

Technology has allowed Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. to be flexible enough to complete a wide range of projects that come its way. Still, the Wilmot brothers are always on the lookout for new machines or software that will help improve productivity or open the door for new products to offer their clients. To learn about new technology, Chris and Mike turn to trade shows and trade magazines, such as Wood & Wood Products. Currently, Chris says he is looking into software for designing carvings and letters for wood signs.

For a manufacturer of high-end architectural millwork and cabinetry, each job is different, and by utilizing the available technology, Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. is able to meet the challenge.

“We don't have anything standard,” says Mike. “We don't have any standard box sizes. We go out and field measure, we design and then we put it into production.”

“We fabricate everything in-house,” Chris adds. “We don't outsource anything except accessories, metal products and turnings.”

Manufacturing Millwork

“When we moved into this building we hired a Lean Manufacturing engineer to come in here and help us design a layout that would work with this building,” Chris explains. “We had a lot of stipulations with the building and where we could and couldn't place things.”

“The shop is split in two as far as hardwood and lumber production, and panel production and box

assembly,” Mike adds.

Jobs start in the drafting department where three employees use the Cabinet Vision software to prepare full sets of architectural drawings for clients to review and approve before the job goes into production. The drawings detail everything, down to the individual pieces of moulding to be used. Chris says that few competitors provide a full set of drawings to their clients.

The company has between three and five jobs in progress at any given time, and can fabricate a kitchen like the one above in about two weeks.
Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. LLC

Norwalk, CT

The Wilmot brothers use their years of expertise in construction and millwork to complete a variety of architectural millwork projects, such as libraries, wine cellars, entertainment centers, kitchens and bathrooms.

Three Keys

1. According to Chris Wilmot, co-owner and manager of design, Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. was one of the first companies in the area to utilize CNC equipment in the manufacturing process.

2. With the exception of accessories, hardware and turnings, the company manufactures and finishes all components to ensure its

quality standards are met.

3. With most new business coming from word-of-mouth, customer satisfaction is a top priority for the company.

After the drawings are approved by the proper parties, including builders, architects and homeowners, production begins on the shop floor. To increase efficiency, the company uses an on-demand labeling system that generates barcodes to program the machines.

On the panel processing side, jobs start out on the Biesse Selco EB-90 beam saw. Next, the pieces move to a Biesse Rover 30 point-to-point machine. The parts then go through a Brandt KD-69 edgebander, before they are sanded with a Bütfering Optimat 54-inch widebelt sander, both offered by Stiles Machinery. Parts are finished using Kremlin and Binks spray guns. Most customers request a paint finish instead of stain, Mike says.

The hardwood and lumber products are cut on an Omga chopsaw with a Tigerstop optimizer or a (Weinig) Raimann gang ripsaw. A Weinig Unimat Gold moulder and Mikron overhead shaper/multi-moulder are used to shape the pieces. After that, they move on to sanding and finishing.

Throughout the manufacturing process, a pair of foremen monitor the quality of the pieces, with a final quality check done in the assembly area before the products are loaded for delivery.

Products are generally installed by teams of two dedicated installers, with more installers sent out if extra help is needed, says Mike. The job sites are usually within a short driving distance of the factory. If there are issues, Chris or Mike will drive out to the job site to fix the problem, thereby maintaining strong ties with their customers.

Customer Care

With much of its business coming from word-of-mouth, Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. strives to make its customers happy in order to build business. Chris and Mike say they take a hands-on approach with their clients, with one-on-one meetings, visits to the shop and job site, and by standing behind their product.

Clients are encouraged to visit the shop to see their job in production, says Chris. It helps assure them that everything is going according to plan.

“We take care of our customers,” Mike remarks. “I get customers that call me up and tell me they have a problem after six months. We'll go out there and fix it for them. We back up our work.

“People are paying a lot of money for this stuff and we don't want to give them something they're not satisfied with.”

At times, the company has tried to farm out the installation aspect of jobs to local contractors. However, Chris says such an arrangement has never worked out satisfactorily.

“Once someone else's hands touch our product, the care is lost,” says Chris. “We've tried subcontracting the installation many times, and no matter how many times we've tried using an outside contractor or something of that nature, it never works.”

The Wilmot brothers' emphasis on customer satisfaction is helping the business grow says Chris. He projects $3 million to $4 million worth of jobs in 2007.

“The houses that we do, the people aren't coming to us and then going over to their local hardware store and getting prices,” he adds.

“A lot of the jobs we bid, we get. That's the kind of relationship we have with our clients.”

Each job Kitchen & Bath by C.A.M. completes, such as this two-story library, is custom built. “We don't have anything standard,” says Mike Wilmot, co-owner and manager of operations. According to Chris (left), he and his brother have been involved in the construction business since they could drive. They started out hanging drywall and installing acoustical ceilings for their father’s business. Later, they bought out the retiring owner of a cabinet manufacturing shop they were working for.

After doing some small kitchenettes and woodworking projects for offices, they saw the benefits of architectural woodwork versus the drywall business, Chris explains. “It was twice as much money for more rewarding work. It was just unbelievable.”

From there, the company expanded its millwork operations, bringing the entire manufacturing process in-house. The emphasis on technology enabled the company to finish more millwork jobs and also cut back on the need for master craftsmen.

“We'll fabricate virtually anything our customers ask for out of wood and we'll use the technology as much as possible to get it done. Technology is key, that’s all I can say,” Chris adds.
This bar and all of the cabinets in this space were made to follow the room’s curvature, including bowed glass that was specially ordered for the cabinet doors.

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