CNC Capabilities Offer Great Market Opportunities for Texas Shop
Neal Seidner’s Dallas-area shop has evolved to meet different market needs, thanks in part to its state-of-the-art equipment.
By Lisa Whitcomb
Dallas cabinetmaker Neal Seidner’s success lies in his ability to continually change his woodworking business to fit the needs of today’s consumers. Since founding the company in 1982, Seidner’s shop name has changed periodically to reflect his focus at the time. He began as Eurotech Cabinets, eventually becoming Eurotech/Salient Design. Today, his shop is known as Salient Design/Living WÃÆÃÂ«rks, which Seidner assures is, “the same company, the same people, just a transition of name.”
Seidner calls himself an “extreme-custom” 32mm parts and case goods manufacturer and designer. When asked about annual sales he says, “Our profile of customers is very unique in an extreme high-end market.” About 10% of his annual business comes from commercial work , like schools and high-rise office buildings. However, 60% of his business is residential work, including kitchen and master baths. In recent years, he has won the Texas regional award from the Sub Zero kitchens design contest and two other awards for his residential work from the Parade of Homes-Grand Judges.
In addition, he has expanded into what has become a new and lucrative area–interior finish-outs for professional race car haulers, which makes up 30% of his shop’s current work. The custom trailers are finished out from the ground up at his facility. The trailer staging is done in an 18,000-square-foot section of the building, which is shared with metal fabricators.
It generally takes the shop about a month to work on a race trailer’s interior, Seidner says. Each driver has a different car and different needs, so each interior is unique. A typical trailer will house the race car, act as a pit shop, store equipment and tools, and offer the race car driver the comforts of home, including the kitchen sink, while at the track.
The shop is “always racing to be on top of the industry,” jokes Seidner. Even though everything is installed in-house, he subcontracts items like granite flooring, providing the templates for the fabricator.
In the last year, Seidner has re-vamped half of the machinery in the building’s 15,000-square-foot woodworking section. He says he generally “recycles” his equipment about every eight years to other shops, investing his profits in state-of-the-art machinery to obtain maximum output efficiency and measuring accuracy. “We believe in state-of-the-art equipment, [because] even if it sits idle half of the day, it is still worth the investment,” says Seidner. “Just having the new machinery makes my six-man shop as capable as a 25- or 30-man shop.”
He recently purchased an Altendorf Elmo 4 saw and a Homag CHO3+ panel saw for mass stack cutting from the Howard Twichell Co., his local Stiles machinery distributor. Being an early proponent of the 32mm system, Seidner’s initial predictions for the its growth have exceeded even his own expectations, he says. He has spent the last 20 years building his shop around pure European standards. In addition to his new equipment, his shop also houses a Brandt edgebander, a Biesse 321R CNC machining center, Kremlin gluing systems, a Morbidelli MF475 boring machine, and Evans postforming machinery and pinch rollers. He says, “The point to remember is that the new machinery would be useless without the integration of all the 32mm processing programs that we’ve implemented in this shop for almost 20 years now.”
With his high-tech equipment, Seidner takes subcontracted parts jobs from other local shops. He also has started what he calls his “New Building Division.” He works with select local builders on house design aspects, as well as finish-out pieces and even frame-outs. He says his machining capabilities enable him to provide builders with precision-cut pieces that would normally have to be cut by hand on site with a jigsaw, items like radial wall plates. Seidner’s shop cuts these pieces in-house with CNC machines and sends them to the site with the lumber packages.
“We can do things with wall appliques, ceilings and ceiling treatments, and fir downs that builders cannot normally do because they do not have access to [machines] like this,” Seidner says. “[This] not only saves the builder time, but it is making much higher quality parts going out to the job. They can be cut from MDF and other materials, instead of sheet rock and rough framing, thus yielding a higher quality in the final output. This service provides builders with the opportunity to install ceiling treatments, like soft mediterranean or hard contemporary styles, that are finished wood products with perfect edges, instead of using traditional crude sheetrock and rough framing techniques that require a lot of patch time.”
Seidner says he plans to increase the shop’s concentration in the New Building Division because of its growth potential. He works with builders whose “quality of home has to exemplify a home that we would put our product in,” he says. “We are going into it with the attitude that we are going to take this shop and use its capabilities to do things on the construction site that builders just can’t do.”
Seidner advises other custom woodworkers to invest in state-of-the-art machinery because, “by giving this kind of machining power to a shop, and then not making it run in production two shifts a day, you can do creative things that you just can’t do with simple [equipment]. There is a wake-up call to custom shops across the United States–sometimes you have to bite the bullet and buy machinery like this to be able to bid the kinds of jobs [you want, instead of having to bid against] everybody who owns a radial arm saw [who is] trying to bid against you.”
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