Sustainable manufacturing. That philosophy is at the heart of Huntwood Industries’ operation, which produces high-end, mass-customized cabinetry and casegoods for the residential and commercial markets.

Located in Liberty Lake, WA, just outside of Spokane, Huntwood is one of the nation’s largest cabinet manufacturing plants. At the 567,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, Huntwood manufactures a diverse range of products which are certified under the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program. In addition, the solid wood exterior cabinet components are obtained from managed forests, says Resa Hunt, vice president, and the composite panels used for interior components are compliant with the Composite Panel Assn.’s Environmentally Preferable Products program. The company also has been recognized by the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency for its low VOC emissions.

Sustainability in Manufacturing
It has been nearly five years since Huntwood moved its operations from five buildings in Spokane Valley to a single facility located on an 80-acre site in nearby Liberty Lake. According to Tim Hunt, company president, Huntwood invested approximately $70 million in the new factory and equipment.

In designing the building, Huntwood incorporated many energy-saving features to help the company achieve its smallest possible carbon footprint, such as skylights and efficient lighting to reduce power consumption. Huntwood’s investment in environmentally friendly technology was comprehensive, and included an Adwest Retox regenerative thermal oxidizer system, which burns VOC fumes at 1,800F, two Dantherm dust collection systems located in the machining area and finishing area, an Ecogate blast gate system, a Flamex spark detection system and six Vecoplan grinders to grind wood waste, which the company then collects and sells to others.

Another investment Huntwood made as part of its green initiatives was a state-of-the-art Cattinair finishing system that includes a material reclamation system that minimizes waste and allows for 66 percent of the material to be reused for future applications. The line also includes two stain lines with articulated spray guns and an oven-baked sealer and topcoat line. “It gives us a baked on, hard finish that is second to none,” Tim says.

Currently, the company runs approximately 700 cabinets through the Cattinair automated finishing line daily; the system has a capacity for 2,500 cabinets per day. For oversized parts, Huntwood also has available a tow cart line, which uses Prime Heat ovens for drying.

The finishing area comprises almost 15 percent of the plant floor, and includes an in-house color lab. The company has 30 standard colors, with custom colors available. As part of its quality control measures, “We check for color consistency every day, paying special attention to controlling the color,” Tim says.

Lean Manufacturing
Quality control is paramount to Huntwood’s 440 employees and 150 subcontractors. Equally important to the company is its commitment to lean manufacturing and continuous improvement.

“Lean manufacturing has become a culture here,” Tim says. “Our employees do it instinctively. We’ve improved hundreds of things over the years.”
One of the highlights of the plant is its panel retrieval and cut cell. The flexible, fully automated system incorporates a four-axis robot to pick up single boards as well as stacks of panels from rows of shelves and brings them to automated conveyors. Data transmitted to the AGV laser-guided vehicle directs it to take the veneered and laminated panels from the conveyor to one of 15 drop-off points in the production process. The automated panel retrieval system also can queue the stacks throughout the night, thereby eliminating any morning downtime at the large panel saws, CNC machines and other designated drop-off points.

Incorporated in 1988, Huntwood is a vertically integrated company. The main panel saw cell area includes two Giben horizontal saws for cutting to size the boards, and which incorporate sorting and stacking systems.

Also for panel processing, Huntwood’s list of equipment includes: Homag edgebanders, a Homag CNC double-end tenoner for cutting dadoes and grooves, a Weeke machining center and a Holzma panel saw.

“When we had the panel cell at the old facility, we had 29 working on the shift. We have been able to reduce that number to 15 by making it a more efficient cell, and moving them to other departments,” Tim says.

Additional machinery in the plant includes a Hendrick vertical saw and Costa and Timesavers sanders. For solid wood machining, Huntwood utilizes a number of machines, including: Weinig moulders, a Progressive door machine, Voorwood shapers, Taylor clamps, Mereen-Johnson machines and a Dimter crosscut and optimizing system.

Safety is important to the company. It is for that reason that Huntwood became the first national cabinet company to fully use SawStop technology on the plant floor, Tim says.

It is in the rough mill area that the company produces the glued up panels for cabinet doors, face frames, mouldings and specialty items such as backsplashes. “We buy curved doors and specialty mouldings, but everything else we make here,” Tim says.

As part of its lean journey, Huntwood continues to find ways to improve its production efficiency. “With our drawer box manufacturing, we’ve already modified the line three or four times. We’ve shortened the line and increased our capacity — the longer we’re in this plant, the more our efficiency goes up,” Tim says.

Wide Range of Styles
The majority of Huntwood’s cabinets are face frame, though Resa notes a growing popularity for frameless cabinetry in some areas. Huntwood offers seven different cabinet styles: Traditional, Contemporary, Craftsman, Farmhouse, Americana, Rustic Lodge and Classical. Common species include: maple, hickory, cherry, oak, beech and alder, with other species available upon request.

“With mass customization, we can quickly adapt to making cabinets any size. Because we are vertically integrated, we also can turn parts quickly,” Tim says.

Although kitchen and bath cabinets comprise 85 percent of sales, “We manufacture cabinets for every part of the home as well as commercial cabinetry,” Resa says. “We also offer specialty cabinets, plus additional services and products to customers.”

Huntwood sells its cabinets across North America through a network of authorized dealers. In addition, the company boasts a large showroom on its premises, with approximately 40 vignettes showcasing the wide range of cabinetry, species and colors offered by Huntwood. Television commercials are another way in which the company has promoted its products. (Click on link to view the videos)

Resa says she is optimistic about the opportunities for Huntwood in 2011.

“With God’s help, this will be our best year ever,” Tim adds. “We’re going to be positive and move forward with a lot of initiatives.”

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