OWD's High-Tech 'Rout' Achieves Success

This Dallas-based cabinet and stair maker increased its manufacturing capabilities by embracing CNC technology.

By Jo-Ann Kaiser
Original Wood Designs Inc.

Dallas, TX

Original Wood Designs Inc. specializes in the design and production of cabinetry, turnkey stairs, fireplace mantels and complete trim packages. The family business currently employs between 80 and 100 people at its facilities.

Three Keys:

  1. The addition of CNC equipment, including a new router, beam saw and point-to-point machining center, has helped increase production to eight cabinet jobs per day versus one per day.

  2. Automation also has enabled the company to expand and employ a full-time sales staff to help drive business.

  3. The new computer system aids in tracking and identifying parts as they move through the manufacturing process.

Just a few years ago, Original Wood Designs Inc. of Dallas, TX, had three computers - two for accounting and another for drafting. Today, the company is totally automated, from billing through design and machining.

"Before we made the big change, we were a small cabinet shop, outsourcing almost everything and basically doing assembly here," says Rick Hadley, company founder and CEO. "We knew we needed to manufacture our doors in-house, so we made the decision to automate all aspects of the business."

Original Wood Designs specializes in the design and production of cabinetry, turnkey stairs, fireplace mantels and complete trim packages. Clients include large volume accounts and builders and interior designers requiring high-end work.

The company employs between 80 and 100 people at its 32,000-square-foot facility. "We didn't let anyone go when we automated; we did shift some people around, changing what they do here," Hadley says, adding that the changes made "were crucial for job security and growth."

Two-Phase Transition

Hadley says he and his two brothers, Rodney, company president, and Russell, who is involved in sales and drafting, all consider change to be a natural part of a successful business. At Original Wood Designs, change meant implementing new technology to improve production, thereby saving time and money.

"We had hit a point where it didn't make sense to outsource the volume of doors we were

purchasing. Like a lot of companies, we had experienced a manufacturing bottleneck and we needed to make some changes to smooth out our operation and ensure quality control," Hadley says.

"We sat down and ran the numbers, factoring in the cost of the machinery versus buying doors, and knew it made more sense to do things in-house. It became very evident we could afford the machinery by doing doors on-site.

"We also felt we were in danger of losing customers and all that we had worked so hard to build over the years if we didn't embrace the new technology," he adds.

The company worked with Allen Heckert, president of Longhorn Machinery, on the transition. Heckert assisted in determining the optimal layout for production flow as well as equipment selection.

The conversion was done in two phases. "We thought we would be best able to manage our growth by doing the changes in stages. There is always a learning curve when you change direction and introduce new machinery, but we were very determined to make this part of our business," Hadley says.

The EcoMaster 7120K point-to-point machining center from Holz-Her (top left) allows workers to elevate the workpiece and perform edge machining operations. An Extrema Excess single-belt sander (top right) is one of several sanders used. Maple custom cabinetry and granite countertops are center stage in this high-end kitchen located in one of Dallas' premiere neighborhoods, Highland Park (left).

During phase one, the brothers purchased a CNC router with nesting capabilities from Holz-Her. The EcoMaster 7120 is used to make MDF and wood doors, mantel components and architectural trim, as well as radius stair parts.

During phase two, the company added a Holz-Her Cut 85 beam saw with stack-cutting capabilities and another EcoMaster, this time a 7120K, for doing point-to-point machining. The EcoMaster 7120K is primarily the same spindle and frame as the nested router, but instead of a vacuum table it has rails and pods, which allows workers at Original Wood Designs to elevate the workpiece and perform edge machining operations that are not possible on the nested machine.

The three machines are networked to Cabinet Solutions design software and all of the programming is done in the office.

"The point-to-point machine makes any final modifications, cutting toe kicks, dadoing and drilling for additional shelving," Rodney Hadley says.

Also linked to the design software program is a Razor Gage by Technical Services, which is used in conjunction with the company's cutoff saws. The software sends a cutlist to the machine and the Razor Gage automatically adjusts to the proper dimensions.

"The Razor Gage takes the operator skill factor out of the process because it allows everyone to make the same cut with the same accuracy each time," Rodney adds.

The company also has an assortment of equipment from Extrema Machinery, including a Performa triple-belt sander, Excess single-belt sander, double-sided planer and gang ripsaw. Also used at the shop is an Accu-Systems MMTJ for making miter joints, a Ritter line boring machine and a JLT Door Pro clamp for clamping cabinet doors. Aire Works, Jet and SECO dust collectors are used in the manufacturing area to collect the wood particulates.

With the new equipment in place, Original Wood Designs now has the capability to manufacture eight cabinet jobs per day as opposed to the one-job-per-day capability it had prior to installing

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