Kendrick Inc. has not been afraid to tackle a new business if they see an opportunity in the market. The Edgewood, Iowa, sawmill expanded to operate five companies related to woodworking, and after marking 35 years in business, they continue to seek new opportunities. Tim and Rhonda Kendrick and their four adult children, Morgan, Andrea, Kirby and Kerra, are the center of an extended family of relatives and employees.
The company started in 1983 as a logging and sawmill company. Kendrick Forest Products produces green and dry lumber, railroad ties, veneer logs and has a mulch operation.
Kendrick purchased a small cabinet shop in 2001, and relocated it to Edgewood, using lumber from their own sawmill. In 2017, they relocated the cabinet shop to an empty building near the sawmill operation.
That same year, they started three companies. Kendrick Home, a maker of wooden signs, Shimlee, which prints customer-supplied photographs on wood, and The Markket, a retail store.
Forever Cabinets designs and builds custom cabinetry for every room including kitchens, bathrooms, entertainment centers, bars, laundry rooms, offices, and specialty furniture.
The face frames and most doors are made of solid hardwood grown in northeastern Iowa and milled in the sawmill, dried in the dry kilns powered by sawdust, and processed in the rear of the 36,000 square foot manufacturing building and store front. Cabinet sides and floors are primarily constructed of ¾-inch birch plywood.
Cabinet construction begins with the plywood sides and floors being cut on a Multicam CNC machine. Drawer sides are moulded and chopped prior to being dovetailed on the Omec CNC dovetailer and then constructed. Cabinet door parts are ripped, moulded and chopped to length on the RazorGage computerized chop saw, before being machined on one of the two door machines, which are pre-set to reduce changeover time. Door panels are chopped, glued, sanded, trimmed, and shaped before being inserted into the stile and rail. Cabinet frame parts are also chopped on the RazorGage saw, assembled on the Kreg Tool framing assembly table and then meet up with the plywood sides and floors for assembly.
Two Unique Machine door machines, and a Unique door framing table are used for cabinet doors. A Kreg pockethole machine, Mereen Johnson ripsaw, SawStop saws, a Weinig moulder, Whirlwind chop saws, Safety Speed Cut panel router, James L. Taylor clamp carrier, Powermatic shaper and downdraft sanding table are used in the cabinet operation.
Cabinets and their doors meet at the finishing area where they are stained, painted, glazed, dyed, or left natural before being sealed and top coated. A catalyzed conversion varnish is used. They are then completed with hardware installation including soft close hinges, drawer slides, handles, knobs, and other specialty hardware. From the time the first board is cut to the time the cabinet is assembled it is a six-day process, and the goal through lean manufacturing practices is to reduce that time to four days.
Signs in demand
Another company, Kendrick Home, designs and builds wooden signs for the retail market, also using lumber from the sawmill. Morgan Kendrick, human resources and marketing manager, said the business started in mid-2017 and has been very successful. They are working three shifts to produce wooden signs that are sold wholesale to small stores and a large retailer.
Kendrick purchased a printing machine, made prototypes and went to market in Atlanta, Georgia, where they were picked up by a big box store and several smaller stores. Other markets and more orders followed, and the company had to figure out how to mass produce quickly using a new printer and more efficient equipment.
To make the signs, Morgan Kendrick said that lumber is planed, ripped, and chopped in preparation for the build process. Signs are painted white or left natural, printed on the high speed flat-bed printer, and the frames are chopped on a miter saw from walnut lumber. A Kentwood horizontal band resaw is used to cut planks used to make the inside of the wood signs. After the sign is printed, it meets up with the walnut frame where it is inserted then pinned, tagged, and boxed for shipment.
Kendrick family: Andrea Harbaugh, administrative assistant; Kirby Kendrick, log salesman; Tim Kendrick, owner, log buyer and timber manager; Rhonda Kendrick, owner, special projects and efficiencies; Morgan Kendrick, human resources and marketing manager; Kerra Boriskey, sign production and sales manager.
Custom photos on wood
Shimlee is an internet-based company that allows customers to upload their own photographs to be printed as a custom wood sign.
The idea for Shimlee came from the family children who felt if the company could print signs they could also print photos. This is a web-based company and orders are taken online and shipped directly to the customer at www.shimlee.com. Instead of predetermined designs, there are templates available for the users to customize their own prints to include their own information such as a quote, their last name and size.
The medium is made out of hard maple lumber. The center parts are planed, ripped, chopped, and surrounded by mitered pieces of hard maple to create a frame. They are then placed on flat-bed printers, which can print multiple images at one time. Kendrick uses Eco-UV inks that are cured with UV lights that run alongside the print heads so the prints are dry the second the ink hits the wood. White is not printed so the woodgrain comes through.
Back to the sawmill, Kendrick made efficiencies to the milling operation by eliminating the pre-positioner position at the line bar resaw and installing a tie stacker in the back of the mill. Earlier, they added a new linebar resaw, computerized headsaw and computerized edger. The mill staff was heavily involved in the decision making of the equipment purchases, improved layout, and improved flow of product. Start to finish from a log going through the debarker to heading to the lumber inspector is about 1 hour 20 minutes.
“Changing the flow of product coming in and out of the mill has improved our efficiency without added cost,” Morgan Kendrick said. “(We) maintain a queue of 10-15 logs in front of the saw. Because the logs are returned automatically to the operator, the time lost between cutting is not dependent on the carriage traveling back to its original position.”
A new Cleerman carriage was installed in November 2017 with a hydraulic drive. They also made improvements to the kiln drying operation, converting kiln dry packs from 42 inches to 72 inches to allow them to dry more lumber in a kiln charge. This allowed them to dry almost 18 percent more lumber the following year.
Reaching out with retail
The Markket is a 6,700-square-foot retail store that serves as the Forever Cabinets showroom in Edgewood. It also carries a wide variety of products including lighting, rugs, furnishings, kitchenware and women’s clothing.
The showrooms within The Markket and Just For You in nearby Dyersville offer the opportunity to look at the cabinetry in a real room setting, completely decorated.
“As we began filling our showroom store, we began drawing more customers so we started carrying more product types,” Morgan Kendrick said. “While this was also a great addition for our current cabinet customers who would be in the market for products The Markket carries such as lighting, rugs, and barstools, the purpose was to provide product that wasn’t necessarily in our community and would be able to draw customers from an hour and a half away.”
Morgan Kendrick said that this is still very much a family business with her parents and three siblings, along with spouses and significant others, and a great team that has grown to 115 people.
She thinks the company excels at finding good people and empowering them to be strong leaders
“I feel that we have key staff that is not only knowledgeable, but have a sense of ownership when it comes to our company,” she said. “They are close, they are like family, they care about each other, and they care about our company.
“Our staff has put in long hours, worked on constantly improving our processes which means constantly changing, and our community has been very supportive. I suspect, if our success can be measured by our determination, we are a success.”
Making room for lean
In the fall of 2016, Morgan Kendrick said that Kendrick did a 14-week, company-wide lean journey where they looked at every department and focused on different aspects of lean manufacturing. Each week, employees would look for two-second time-savers and other ways to eliminate waste, then have the opportunity to show it off to the rest of the people in their department.
During this time, the cabinet shop staff was able to double production. While production was going up, they knew they could produce more but due to the building that they were in and structural obstacles, they were very limited in how to lay out their flow through the shop.
“If we had a more open floor plan, we would be able to produce more because of the reduction of waste in motion,” Morgan said. “There just happened to be a 36,000 square foot industrial building sitting empty a couple blocks down the road.”
The company purchased this building on January 1, 2017 and immediately began remodeling. They moved the cabinet shop into that facility on April 6, 2017, launched Shimlee in May 2017, opened The Markket in June 2017, and took Kendrick Home to Market in Atlanta in July 2017. All of these businesses would operate out of the new location.
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