One of Western Canada’s leading cabinet manufacturers, Superior Cabinets has faced its share of bumps on the road to success.
Founded in 1980 by Charles Larre, the cabinet shop grew in size and scope until 2004 when a combination of events — the sudden death of Larre and the economic recession — led to a 29 percent drop in sales in a matter of months, says Shahan Fancy, marketing development manager.
It wasn’t until 2008, when a new executive team was hired, that the cabinetmaker would begin implementing a series of strategic steps that would lead it on a path of renewed growth.
The results are clearly evident. Sales have grown more than 50 percent, from $28 million in 2009 to $44 million in 2014, with 2015 sales expected to be as good or better, says President and CEO Scott Hodson.
In recognition of its comeback efforts, the Business Development Bank of Canada named Superior Cabinets the winner of the first BDC Entrepreneurial Resiliency Award in October 2014.
Manufacturing a Comeback
Superior Cabinets produced 80,000 cabinets last year. As part of its turnaround, the Saskatoon, SK-based company shifted from a manufacturing to a “client-services” mentality with an emphasis on communication, customization, support, service and speed. The implementation of lean manufacturing also has eliminated waste and significantly reduced production time at the 57,000-square-foot facility.
A dramatic transformation to improve productivity continues to spur sales at Superior Cabinets, which marks 35 years in business this year.
The difference has been startling. In 2008, for example, it took 400 people to produce and install 25 kitchens a day, with a 16-week turnaround. “Today it takes 300 people and we install it in six weeks, guaranteed,” says Hodson.
“It’s a competitive advantage.” And, he stresses, “Even when we get busy, we don’t extend the lead time.”
Investing for the Future
According to Hodson, Superior Cabinets has a rolling three-year capital expenditure program, with money also available if an idea generated through a Kaizen event, for example, warrants immediate implementation. The high-end cabinet manufacturer has a monthly target of 55 Kaizen events, with a goal of 660 for 2015.
Along with lean processes, approximately $2 million has been invested in new technology and procedures within the past couple of years alone to improve productivity and profitability.
2014 investments include a Homag panel saw, Kremlin Cyclomix finishing system and a barrel drum crusher. More technology has been added this year, including a Homag ABD-60 drill and dowel machine and a Homag MDE 120 continuous case clamp which works operator-free and enables Superior Cabinets to “build directly on the powered infeed conveyor of the clamp, eliminating one transition [and] reducing some of the minor damage we see happening due to the rough transitions and steel rollers on the old line,” Fancy explains.
Components are manufactured in-house except for cabinet doors, which are outsourced from suppliers including Schenk, Elias Woodwork and Multiwood. According to Hodson, outsourcing enables Superior Cabinets to focus on core capabilities such as finishing and assembly, two areas where it excels.
To further enhance its finishing quality and efficiency, this year Superior Cabinets replaced an older system with a Cefla Mito K finishing line. Along with a reduction in VOCs, the Mito K uses a paper belt versus the previous system’s wet belt and cleaning trolley. This has gained 1.5 man-hours of “cleaning” time at the end of shifts, along with 30 minutes of run time each day, Fancy says.
Efficiency also improved when Superior Cabinets regrouped several pieces of equipment into production cells. The incorporation this year of a major logistics project involving scanning, palletizing and shrink wrapping also significantly reduced load and unload times at the plant, from 20 hours to two.
Hodson adds, “We also have several KPIs visible to our entire company in real time. If we achieve these measures we are certain the experience our customer receives will be ‘Superior.’”
Streamlining the Software Process
Also integral to Superior Cabinets’ improved performance has been its relationship with software applications and enterprise solutions provider 2020. Superior Cabinets uses 2020 software to streamline its manufacturing processes and focus on customer needs.
Since implementing 2020 software in 2012, Superior Cabinets says it has reduced costs by 25 percent and order processing resources by more than 80 percent. The company also opened three new retail locations, bringing the total to six, and increased its product portfolio — without increasing the order processing resources or lead-time.
According to Hodson, 2020’s solutions also enabled Superior Cabinets to reduce the number of programming systems from 18 to two, and automate manual processes that bogged down the workflow.
“2020 played a role in building the scalability of Superior Cabinets so we could grow without adding non value-added cost. Our processes are better and our technology is leading edge,” Hodson says.
“We add resources closer to the customer to create a better experience for them,” he adds. “And because we don’t have to add cost to process work, we have controlled cost and sped up our processes to hit our commitments.”
Superior Cabinets is not done yet. Noting that it’s an ongoing process, Fancy says, “Superior’s [overall] transformation is an example of how Canadian manufacturers are changing to become more customer driven and dynamic in the face of increasing competition at home and abroad.”
Moving forward, the company says it will continue to redefine its customer experience, with a mandate to make a difference in the community and for its clients.
“It’s always hard to measure intangible things, such as experience. Customer confidence, retail sales growth, builder account capture, maintaining our profit margins, the steady flow of positive customer reviews/testimonials are what we are focused on,” adds Hodson.
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