When I first started in cabinets, about fifteen years ago, I had a very small shop. It was about 1,000-1,200 sq. feet.
Back then, our whole goal was to see how quickly we could get all the plywood for a job cut. We were only concerned about getting the plywood ready for building as quickly as possible. We did this for several months until we started noticing that it caused so much work on the backend of things when we actually started building.
After a few months, we changed gears. We completely changed the system to where our mantra became, "Prep, prep, prep, build." Our goal was to hold off the building process as long as possible because we noticed the more things we could get done before the building process, the better our jobs came out on the backend. This meant a whole lot less backtracking to fix any problem that came up.
It's human nature to want to be efficient and go fast but often our attempts are misguided. We attempt to be efficient or fast at the wrong point in the process. That was us.
So is there a way to do this at the right point in the process? Is there a way to assemble cabinets faster without adding time to the overall cabinets?
You bet there is.
It all starts with a process called ‘kitting’.
Kitting is essentially bundling everything that goes in a particular product together as soon as possible in the process. For us, that would be a cabinet or cabinet box and getting all the components of that it stacked together as soon as possible.
Kitting identifies any potential problems in quality or missing parts earlier in the process. If you remember from our earlier article, $1,$10,$100, the earlier you catch a mistake in the process, the cheaper the problem is to fix.
Line in the sand
Once you figure out how to kit a product, start looking at the product's assembly process from the very beginning to the end. Here you are going to decide where to draw a line in the sand. The line is a point at which the product cannot cross point until the unit is completely kitted up, ready to build. Draw a line in the sand and do not let that product go past that point if it is not complete.
Start there, and then make it your goal to move that line up farther and farther back in the process as you possibly can. Get it kitted as soon as possible in the process to identify any potential flaws or quality defects sooner rather than later.
After you figure out your line in the sand, figure out what else you can do to those kits to make them easier to build once it gets to the table. Make it your goal to make your cabinet assembler as efficient as possible. The fewest possible retrofitting, cut to fit, layout or anything on a box. Try to make it to where he or she can just assemble as quickly as possible straight from the stack of kitted up parts.
A great way to try this is to start with a small, easy, generic job. Start with a job that doesn't have a lot of additional hardware, pullouts, etc, and try to kit your parts up. Just see how it goes!
Start by playing with kitting by number and then start playing around with how you stack the parts so the assembler can grab them in the order he or she wants to grab them to build quicker. Work on making your stacks match your drawings or your assembly sheets to where they can work from the top of their assembly sheets to the bottom - 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.
Another great way to reduce your assembly time is to look into buying outsourced cabinet components using a Lockdowel construction method. Lockdowel provides very fast assembly times that are super strong. The value of buying components that are ready to assemble is that you are removing that kitting time and manufacturing time from in-house to outsourcing.
Essentially, you are buying components that are pre-kitted and ready to assemble so that you can focus on the most efficient part of the process which is box building. Then, you can really focus on how to build boxes faster, more reliable, and on a consistent basis.
Author Jeff Finney is the founder of Oklahoma-based Ultimate Cabinet Components and a 2018 40 Under 40 honoree.
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