Conestoga Wood Specialties’ commitment to quality, service and product innovation is a driving force in the cabinet components manufacturer’s success.
“Everything we do is custom,” said Jeff Eichenseer, director of Marketing & Product Development. “If you tell us what you want we can generally do it.”
And do it fast. Standard turnaround on unfinished projects is 10 days, with a practically perfect (99.875 percent) on-time delivery rate.
It’s capabilities like these that keep the family-owned firm one of largest producers in the marketplace. Founded in 1964 and based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, Conestoga Wood Specialties has approximately 1,200 employees and 953,057 square feet of manufacturing space spread across five locations. 2016 sales are estimated at more than $140 million.
The East Earl plant is the largest, boasting 449,966 square feet of production space. Targeted for the custom kitchen segment, the primary products include cabinet doors, drawer fronts, front frames and mouldings, made with solid wood, MDF and thermally structured surfaces (TSS).
The new Strata and Argos lines of TSS products are offered in more than two dozen colors and multiple textures, including linear grain patterns and registered-embossed patterns that match the board’s grain patterns. Customer response to the TSS line has been overwhelmingly positive, Eichenseer said, and equipment has been added to keep up with demand.
Edging the competition
At the East Earl location, along with new Holzma HPP panel saws for cutting the large panels to size, Conestoga acquired a new Brandt edgebander with the dual purpose of applying both PUR and hot air edgebanding.
With the growing popularity for Strata, the Brandt has already become a workhorse at the plant. In the PUR mode, it applies banding to an average of 400 cabinet doors per shift, or the equivalent of 1,600 passes. “It’s capable of handling orders of just about any panel size,” Eichenseer said.
The hot air capability also will be critical when the company ramps up production on a new line of high gloss components, set to debut first quarter of 2017.
How a hot air edgebander works is a stream of hot, compressed air is forced through a slot nozzle and directed onto a reactive layer of specialized edgeband, activating the adhesive so the banding bonds to the panel edge. Benefits include the ability to produce a seamless edge, which can be critical with a high gloss finish.
The machine can be changed over to hot air “at the switch of a button,” said Daryl Cromwell, production manager. “The operators will be trained on both methods, and can flip back and forth as needed.”
High-tech finishing expansion
As it branches into textured and glossy finishes, Conestoga has not forgotten its roots. The company recently expanded and consolidated its finishing operation to meet the growing demand for painted wood kitchens.
Over the past five years, Conestoga’s painted finish volume has averaged more than 20 percent year over year growth. “We’ve been doing the math all along, knowing we had to grow our capacity to stay ahead of the curve,” said CEO Anthony Hahn. “This expansion has significantly increased our finishing capabilities, enabling Conestoga to meet our customers’ demands for the highest quality finishes and on-time delivery they’ve come to expect, for many years to come.”
The new 47,000-square-foot facility houses a state-of-the-art Venjakob automatic flatline UV finishing system for applying and drying coatings. Unique on the line is a “smart” material handling system that places parts on specified racks for staging before they’re dried in the UV oven, Eichenseer explained.
Also in the building are a freestanding spray booth and infrared oven for manual applications, and sanding rooms with Denray downdraft tables.
“The improved repeatability, shorter cycle times, and significantly larger workspace have provided us with the long-term growth solution we were shooting for,” said Jason Earhart, Finishing technical manager.
Added Hahn, “This expansion has significantly increased our finishing capabilities, enabling Conestoga to meet our customers’ demands for the highest quality finishes and on-time delivery they’ve come to expect for many years to come.”
An on-site finishing lab enables Conestoga to custom color match in addition to its thousands of paint, stain and glaze offerings. Becker and Sherwin Williams finishing materials are used in the shop.
A sustainable manufacturer, Conestoga has been certified under the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) Environmental Stewardship Program since 2008, and is a past winner of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence.
From start to finish, Conestoga puts a priority on quality and service, and its tagline of “absolute dependability” reflects this. At East Earl, for example, the company has an on-site deconstructive lab and climate chamber for testing glue joints and more on the components, while within the workcells checks for internal and external defects are conducted on a continuous basis, Eichenseer said. This is no mean feat considering more than 800 orders are processed daily.
At East Earl, it starts in the rough mill area, where Weinig CNC moulders machine several thousand feet of moulding each day. “We have literally thousands of profiles,” Eichenseer said. An on-site tooling department manufactures and maintains the carbide and high-speed steel cutting tools for the plant; diamond tooling is outsourced.
Other equipment at East Earl includes: saws equipped with TigerStop cutting automation, Routech and Thermwood CNC routers, Schmalz vacuum lifters, Accu-Systems boring, mortising and tenoning machines, Unique shape and sand, and a variety of sanders, including Sandingmaster, Timesavers, Costa and QuickWood.
Conestoga combines technology with handcraftsmanship to make its custom doors and drawer fronts, offered in a wide variety of styles including: five-piece, three-piece, slab, miter, mullion, radius, raised panel, recessed panel, mortise and tenon, applied moulding and beaded panel. “If you can draw it, we can figure out how to make it,” Eichenseer said. “There’s very little we won’t do.”
While more than half the products sold are of solid wood, hybrids – a combination of solid wood and MDF – are growing in popularity and now account for almost a third of sales. “We’re also seeing surge for MDF and painted products,” Eichenseer added.
In addition to production in East Earl, Conestoga operates four other plants. The 139,225-square-foot facility in Kenly, North Carolina, services the custom kitchen market, producing RTA cabinetry, dovetail drawer boxes and edgebanded slab products. Components for the OEM segment, including solid wood, MDF and plywood doors and drawer fronts, are made at the 71,521-square-foot Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania facility.
Dimension stock and glued up panels for the three facilities are supplied by Conestoga’s 243,545-square-foot dimension mill, located in Beavertown, Pennsylvania. The Beavertown plant also supplies cut-to-size plywood and MDF panels to the Beaver Springs facility.
And at its 48,800-square-foot location in Seattle, Washington, Conestoga produces doors, drawer fronts and dovetail drawers, as well as the Argos line of TSS cabinet components for custom kitchen manufacturers.
As an added service, Conestoga will supply specialty products, including legs and corbels, to coordinate with its cabinet components. “We don’t machine these products ourselves because we want to remain focused on what we do best,” while providing a one-stop shopping service to customers, Eichenseer said.