Schrocks of Walnut Creek manufactures kitchen cabinetry using a unique blend of high-tech equipment and hand-crafted techniques.
|The showroom at Schrocks of Walnut Creek displays a variety color and finish options so potential clients can see some of the options available to them. Additionally, the company has several dealers nationwide, some of whom have showrooms of their own.|
Located within Amish country in eastern Ohio, Schrocks of Walnut Creek began as a single-man shop in 1918. It has since grown to become a renowned name within the cabinet industry, with approximately 200 employees, 125,000 square feet of production space and dealers across the country.
From its beginnings in furniture, the company has adjusted and thrived to become an amalgam of technology and hand craftsmanship that combines efficiency and quality in a way that neither method of manufacturing can achieve on its own.
The company has since branched out in a number of ways, which has kept it going strong, despite difficulties that the woodworking industry currently faces on a national scale. In addition to designing and manufacturing custom cabinets, the company also has a rough mill operation, produces Shaker- and Mission-style furniture, makes grandfather clocks and manufactures drawer boxes for sale to other companies.
âWe made a decision not to put all of our eggs in one basket â we didnât know at the time how important this was,â explains Ivan Schrock, owner. âNow we look back and see that we were very fortunate that we made this decision.â
Bryan Schrock, Ivanâs son and president of the company, admits that the furniture might be a small part of the business, but the variety helps to offset the cabinetry business and adds another avenue of opportunity.
âItâs something we started and it grew a little,â Bryan says about the furniture. âRight now itâs a small percentage, but itâs something we stay with.â
The company has expanded in other ways too. Instead of targeting one sales segment for its cabinets, the company markets its cabinets in three main ways. This tactic has helped the company overcome the burst of the new housing bubble that has so dramatically affected the woodworking industry.
âCurrently, we work with walk-in customers, where we go out and measure and build the cabinets, and then we have crews that go out and install,â explains Bryan. âWe have builders that we work with. We measure and install that as well. Then, we have dealers where they send in their plans, we build it and have it delivered or arrange for that.â
âOur biggest growth has been working with dealers outside of this area and [it] just seemed that was ramping up as the other was slowing down. Naturally we wanted to take care of that business and we put a lot of effort into in and it helped offset that,â says Bryan.
âOne advantage that we have, especially in the cabinet business, is we work directly with the homeowner and that eliminates the middle man,â explains Ivan. âThose people want to be involved in the planning of it, and deciding what they want.â
In addition to their marketing strategy, both say they owe the success of their products to the unique combination of high-tech and hand-crafted production.
|The company strives to remain on the cutting edge of technology in its 125,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. This includes traveling to Europe to see the latest innovations there and having equipment customized to meet the needs of the shop.|
Man and Machine
Within the production component of its business, Schrocks of Walnut Creek has created a fusion of machine and hand work that achieves a high level of productivity while maintaining a standard of quality that is oftentimes difficult to achieve through machining alone.
âWe have a combination of very high-tech equipment, but we also do hand work,â explains Ivan. âWith that combination, you can get the best possible results.â
Among the machines the company utilizes is a Raimann ripsaw, a Scanalizer Scanner, an Opti-Match from Cameron Automation, three Weinig Unimat moulders, one HydroMat moulder, a Martin shaper, Denray downdraft tables, an Accu-Systems miter frame machine and a Holzma panel saw.
âWe use technology to the best of our abilities,â adds Bryan.
While the company utilizes its CNC equipment to fabricate its products efficiently, it also relies on its craftsmen to maintain the level of quality and detail customers have come to expect.
âIf you try to do it all by hand, itâs not feasible,â says Ivan. âBut if you try to do it all by machine, you donât get the [consistent] quality that you are trying to achieve.â
âWe have some tremendous craftsmen out there who do some amazing things with wood,â remarks Ron Border, personnel director. âTheyâre very excellent craftsmen. Theyâve been working for years in that field and they do the hard stuff that other people wouldnât attempt.â
This includes hand sanding of all the pieces after the initial machine sanding, the use of manual spray guns for finishing as opposed to automated finishing machines and special finishing touches, like antiquing.
According to Border, the company is known by the quality of its finishes, and that is a reputation the company wants to maintain.
|Schrocks of Walnut Creek produces high-quality kitchen cabinets in a variety of styles and finishes. The company will work with its customers to add unique touches that make the cabinets stand out.|
Paying Attention to Details
âAn attention to detail is important for any business,â remarks Bryan.
One place of prime importance to Schrocks is in the quality of the products that go out of the shop.
At every step in the manufacturing process, each employee is responsible for a quality check of each piece he or she passes on to the next stage of production, Bryan explains. If there is a problem with something, it goes back to the person responsible for it. This serves as a learning tool for the employees to see where they might improve their skills.
âWe tend to work on the idea that if it wasnât done right, it needs to go back to the person that is responsible for it,â Bryan says. âIt helps him get a feel for what he might be doing wrong, and it improves his work.
âYou can just fix things and keep going, but that doesnât help the overall picture. Doing it right the first time is an efficient way of working,â he adds. In addition, the team leaders in each department will work with the employees to improve their skills and help them identify where they need improvement.
A Place for Everything
At Schrocks, the processes in place on the shop floor are under constant scrutiny, with management continuously looking for ways to increase efficiency.
âIt seems like you always have a bottleneck somewhere. When you improve things in one area of course the bottleneck just moves,â says Bryan. âOne of the things that Dad enjoys the most is working on processes and efficiencies, having the equipment placed right and having the worker set up with the right things within reach.â
Ivan says he will continually review the optimal placement of everything in the shop so the employees âdonât have to make a lot of extra moves.â Achieving increased efficiency means working with the employees to ensure everyone is positioned in the best place, while also being crosstrained to help in other areas.
âThe employees have helped us a lot in being willing to do what needs to be done and being willing to shift into other areas,â Bryan adds.
In addition to reducing bottlenecks and increasing shop efficiency, such an attention to processes and procedures enables Schrocks to be flexible in the sizes of jobs it takes.
âWhether the order is large or small, we can adjust to it very quickly,â says Border.
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