Showplace Cabinetry is dealing with the pandemic and other challenges, but its new CEO is optimistic both about the company and the cabinet industry in 2021.
Showplace president Bill Allen added chief executive officer to his title, following the recent retirement of Paul Sova, one of the founding partners of the cabinet manufacturing company, and Scott Korsten, director of marketing services. Allen had assumed the duties of president in early 2020, after serving as chief operating officer and long-time vice president of manufacturing. The company is ranked 90th in the FDMC 300 list of market leaders.
The pandemic has affected the Harrisburg, South Dakota, company as it has everywhere.
“Everyone in the world has been impacted personally and professionally in some way and we were not immune to it,” Allen said. “The first two or three months were especially difficult as the entire country shut down and our orders dropped significantly.”
“As time has gone on, we have seen orders become very steady. In the beginning, information on how to deal with this new virus was inconsistent and finding supplies like sanitizing equipment, cleaning products and masks was difficult. (We) have been following all CDC and state guidelines to keep everyone safe to fulfill our customer's demand.”
Other challenges for the company include continuing to find employees to support their growth. South Dakota is attractive to businesses and they continue to move there. The state’s unemployment rate is about 3 percent.
Raw material prices, for the most part, have been stable in their industry in recent years. However, Allen said that appears to be changing due to COVID and supply chain disruptions. If that continues it could become a challenge for the industry.
Showplace president Bill Allen discussed where the company is now and future plans.
Allen said that Showplace employee-owners are the strength of the company, and he pioneered a plan to maintain strong leadership in the plant through peer coaching and the Leader In Training program.
“Our management team is a perfect blend of experience and youth,” he said. “There are many of our senior people who are in their 30s and 40s but they have grown up in a cabinet factory.
“Listening to them collaborating and working together is invigorating to me. Our production floor supervisors and group leads are amazing at working with our production employees. They understand that their work every day sells cabinets, so they take such pride in what they do. It is their company, and they know that.”
Allen’s career started in 2002 and up until the last few years was primarily on the supply chain and manufacturing sides of the company.
“Over the years I was involved primarily in product management and development, and manufacturing process improvement,” he said. “In the last few years, I’ve become more involved in customer service, sales and marketing and as the CEO I will continue to get more involved there.”
“When Showplace was founded 21 years ago, the founders had an idea to start a company that was employee and customer-centric. Even with Paul Sova and Scott Korsten retiring, those same principles can be felt in this building today. There is really a formula that works here, and we plan to keep it that way.”
Showplace is in the semi-custom category of the cabinet industry, making its total offerings quite large. Its framed product line is offered in two overlays and inset. They also offer full-access frameless cabinetry available in plywood or particleboard construction.
“We have a wide variety of stain and solid paint selections, a custom paint program, and several premium finish packages,” Allen said. “Showplace boasts nine wood species and several alternative surfaces such as textures, foils, high gloss and decorative laminate veneer.
Jon Bour, V-P of sales and marketing, said that Showplace sees a lot of trends through their facilities because they are semi-custom. The largest segment is currently solid paint but gray and brown stains are once again gaining popularity.
“Alternative materials like high-gloss acrylics and textured melamine are a smaller percentage of what we produce, but their popularity has increased year over year,” he said. From a style standpoint, Transitional leads the pack with the Showplace customer.”
Since the pandemic began, Bour said that outside of regular cabinet spaces like kitchens and baths the company is seeing their cabinetry being designed into “other rooms” such as home offices and exercise spaces.
Showplace has also upgraded its manufacturing process. In their framed plant, Allen said they just completed the installation of a second lamination line which will double their production capacity in that area. The company is doing a lot of work on cutting and panel processing by adding a much larger panel saw, a new edgebander, and they have re-engineered the area’s layout for improved product flow.
“In 2018 we replaced our solid wood sanding line with a state-of-the-art Heesemann machine,” he said. “Over the last two years, we have invested substantial capital in our door plant, improving the quality of our doors. We have added automated profiling equipment for outside and center panel profiles, and we have also upgraded our door assembly area with constant-pressure clamp systems to improve the quality of painted door joinery.”
The ShowplaceEVO plant, a 65,000 square foot building filled with high-tech equipment, is built next door to the framed plant on the Harrisburg campus. Since opening the new building in 2016, they have doubled the capacity in cutting and edgebanding areas and have added three case clamps to boost assembly line production levels.
Allen’s outlook for Showplace and the cabinet market in 2021 is positive.
“We are optimistic as, I think, many in the cabinet industry are,” he said. “The economic indicators are positive for new housing and remodeling. A successful trade case against Chinese imports will help level the playing field for American manufacturing companies. All those things are positives for Showplace and the entire cabinet industry. The pandemic was a disruption for everyone but the effect it had on consumers has spurred investment in their homes and the best investment in your home is usually in the kitchen or bathrooms.”
Allen said Showplace is always asking themselves how they are doing today and how can they improve tomorrow.
“What I can tell you from a manufacturing and facilities standpoint is that we are planning to expand our Framed and EVO facilities in 2021,” he said. “This will be the seventh time in the last 15 years we’re expanding. The team is always looking at innovative ways to offer new products to our dealers and consumers. We’re excited and are investing in our company.”
Creating a safe workplace
Safety right now means protecting the Showplace team from COVID, said Bill Allen. Outside of COVID, safety is always a priority for the team. Here are a few of the high points.
-- Company invested, and continues to invest, in equipment, labor, and supplies to sanitize all the company facilities.
-- Procedures were implemented to check employee temperatures and provide masks to support an implemented mask mandate.
-- Social distancing is heavily encouraged and reinforced with signs, videos, texts and other communication methods.
-- Implemented new break and lunch schedules, added time clocks, and completely changed the way the cafeteria operated to minimize employees in common areas.
-- For the first three months Showplace provided boxed lunches at no charge to minimize close contact during lunch breaks.
-- All these changes helped the company keep positive cases low and employees working.
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