The Cabinet Makers Association has been hosting high-value events since 1998 as a means of connecting similar-sized shops around North America with the purpose of sharing best practices and business acumen, while learning how other businesses do what they do. The regional events typically involve plant tours, educational seminars, networking, and simply a chance to talk shop and share issues, solutions and even projects. Although they are dubbed “regional,” these events typically draw attendees from across the country as well as Canada.

Here’s a quick look at a few of CMA’s recent regional events held in Minnesota, Texas and New Jersey.

 

 

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Five plant tours in two days

Held May 18-19, the Minneapolis/St. Paul regional event was jam-packed with activities starting early in morning and going until late in the evening.

The first day began at Anderson Corp. in Bayport. Equipped with headsets and safety glasses, we walked in two groups through the 66-acre facility. It was most certainly a lot of walking, but well worth it. One take-away was Anderson’s impressive reuse of its waste, scrap material and dust.

We then moved on to 3M, starting at its corporate Innovation Center. After a brief history lesson, we entered the exclusive World of Innovation, which is essentially a museum for 3M products. They are grouped by type of product (i.e., abrasives, advanced materials) and each display focuses on the science behind the technology. After some demonstrations and sufficient hands-on time, we transitioned to the CAM Center, which is the abrasives lab and wood shop, followed by a presentation on coated abrasives and the factors affecting finishing. A tour of the wood shop included a demonstration of profile sanders and the impact of proper dust collection on the finish quality. The visit concluded with seeing 3M’s robot in action.

Speaking of robots, our final stop of the day was Navy Island. The owner, Jeff Stone, has transformed his business from a plywood shop to a full-scale manufacturer of innovative acoustic panels. Jeff’s unique approach to manufacturing has resulted in tremendous growth for the company.  The use of robots for material handling throughout the plant, combined with the fact that he makes his own proprietary machinery, made for a very interesting plant tour.

The day concluded with a group dinner back at the hotel, followed by a presentation from Jack West of Federated Insurance about Distracted Driving. Attendees were then invited to the parking lot for a look at Jeff Schrock’s trailer for his BenchWorx program that teaches woodworking skills to students in grades K-8.

Thursday began with an early start to Lacrosse, WI, to visit WalzCraft. There, Dick Walz discussed the company’s history and gave an overview about the production process. WalzCraft operates 24 hours a day, six days a week – including an office staff that works third shift to cue orders for the next day’s production. Every job is custom made, and the only inventory is raw materials. The company uniquely refers to lead times as “wait time” instead, because that’s what the customer has to do. The plant tour of WalzCraft highlighted an extremely interesting and impressive operation. 

Prior to the tour were two additional and informative presentations. The first was given by Jeff Lewis of Allmoxy software, which focused on people, processes and profit. The second speaker was Darin Johnson of Lockdowel, who demonstrated the company’s fasteners by quickly and efficiently assembling a cabinet.

The return trip to Minneapolis included a plant tour and BBQ dinner at Northland Woodworks in Blaine, MN.

The CMA would like to recognize the sponsors of this event, as they make it affordable for attendees to participate. Aetna Plywood, along with Timber Products, Knape & Vogt and Arauco, sponsored the transportation for both days. Richelieu sponsored the dinner on Wednesday evening at the hotel, Brown Wood took care of the pasta buffet lunch at WalzCraft on Thursday, and the SCM Group contributed to the BBQ dinner at Northland Woodworks.

Because the CMA hit its limit of 30 attendees, it has decided to hold another event in the area next year.

Everything’s bigger in Texas

The CMA’s March 15-16 regional event in the Dallas, Texas, area was BIG – of course. 

The first day of the event, the group toured local woodworking shops which were big compared to what CMA members are used to.  But the size of the shop doesn’t affect how much you can learn from it; big or small, you can always learn something.

The first visit was to Lone Star Cabinet & Millwork in Greenville. The business, which began in a garage in 1992, now employs 32 workers to produce 80 cabinets a day. Lone Star recently bought a CNC machine to increase its production capacity, and gained quality as an added benefit.

The second visit was to Advanced Fixtures (AFI) in Farmersville. Although AFI was significantly larger and more automated, the company also started in a garage. One takeaway from this tour was that each workstation was stocked with only the materials, hardware and tools needed for that day’s production requirements.

The last visit of the day was to H. H. Ruseau in Dallas. H. H. Ruseau produces the Holly Hunt line of high-end furniture and has design showrooms in major cities across the country, as well as London. Its production process was primarily handcrafted and it realizes the need for lean and automation.

The second day of the event was spent in Stiles Machinery’s regional showroom, participating in educational seminars as well as seeing its big machinery in action. The seminars covered topics such as: cabinet door manufacturing and equipment justification, the dos and don’ts of edgebanding from a maintenance standpoint, an introduction to zero-edge banding, an overview of Industry 4.0, and the proper ways to prepare product prior to finishing.

The majority of the attendees were from Texas, with the exception of one who made the trip all the way from Ontario, Canada. These frequently held regional events continue to draw visitors from across the country and continent, regardless of the physical location.

Networking in New Jersey

Although it was a billed as regional, the CMA’s three-day event October 14-16, 2015, in the Northeast attracted members from as far away as Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri.

Hosted by former CMA President Sean Benetin at his shop, Millwork and More, in Riverdale, New Jersey, the sessions began with an in-depth discussion of pricing and estimating presented by Benetin. The presentation was followed by a talk titled “Be Profitable in a Rapidly Changing Market,” presented by Eric Lehman, a long-time CMA shop owner from Long Island. Lehman emphasized the value of outsourcing and how many little things can add up to big costs. “Every step costs you a dollar,” he said.

After Lehman’s talk, participants boarded a van to visit Hall’s Edge, a CNC shop in Stamford, Connecticut, operated by Dave Hall, a long-time CMA member. Hall and his crew do no assembly work, simply cutting and edgebanding parts, strapping them to pallets and shipping them out the door.

On Thursday, CMA members returned to Benetin’s shop for an all-day intensive introduction to the Sandler System of sales training. Presented by Frank Morales, the workshop delved into tools for qualifying customers and making sales closings easier.
Friday was devoted to a trip to New York City and visits to two showrooms: transFORM, a manufacturer of high-end closet systems and other built-ins; and Hafele showroom to view the hardware offerings.

For more details and registration information on upcoming events, please visit Cabinetmakers.org/events.