Inter Ocean Cabinet will open its doors for plant tour in April
January 27, 2017 | 4:38 pm CST
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Chris Farrell, president, Inter Ocean Cabinet Company, Elmhurst, Illinois.

Photo By Carroll Henning

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An Autodesk Inventor system creates fully realized isometric models of projects, that can be rotated in all dimensions. 

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Traditional craftsmanship in sanding and finishing is a big part of Inter Ocean Cabinet's appeal to architectural clients. 

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An operator pulls a project from the Weeke Vantech 510 nested CNC, added in February 2016, runs non-stop. 

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An interior signage project for client Meed-Johnson gets a high gloss finish in the print room. 

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Chris Farrell is hands-on with the Global Shop Solutions Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Employees enter activities and it tracks production in real time. 

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A stadium project in production uses Columbia Forest Products PureBond plywood. 

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Bill Esler (left) and Chris Farrell (right) get a demo of the Autodesk Inventor design capabilities during planning for the April 11 plant tour. 

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Chris Farrell says Inter Ocean Cabinet Company is succeeding in bring young apprentices into its shop, working with the painters union for finishers, millwork union, and finish carpenters union for installers. 

Photo By Bill Esler

The energetic management style of Chris Farrell, president of Inter Ocean Cabinet Company, has made this architectural millwork firm 120 years young. By revitalizing computer management systems and tweaking materials handling and installation, the 48-employee shop in suburban Chicago is a model of efficiency.

To give a quick snapshot of its latest additions, Inter Ocean uses a Weeke Vantech nested CNC router purchased in 2016, and which runs non-stop. An Autodesk Inventor applications provide fully-developed project renderings for client okays before exporting files to drive the shop equipment. A Global Shop Solutions Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tracks activity and job status continuously.

Farrell joined his family business in 2011, working through marketing, oeprations, estimating and project management to establish his footing. Farrell’s great grandfather, Bartholomew Farrell, was among the founders of the architectural woodwork company. Bartholomew’s son, John J. Farrell, ran the company from 1945 to 1995. His son (and Chris’s father), John P. Farrell, led Inter Ocean Cabinet beginning in 1995.Then in 2015, Chris Farrell succeeded his father as president, and rapidly put his own stamp on operations.

"We're very collaborative, both internally and externally," Farrell says. "We treat each other with respect, and talk through the pros and cons of approaches to problems. 'Collaborative' is really a word that I link to."

Inter Ocean Cabinet is a union shop with locals for finishers (Painters Union), finish joiners (Carpenters Union), and machinists (Millman's Union) representing many of its workers. At the same time, employees are a healthy mix of seasoned craftsmen, and new workers who have been learning from them.

"We've been lucky to recruit some younger workers -  those in apprenticeships or who have recently completed their apprentice program," says Farrell. 

He is very active in the local chapter of the Architectural Woodwork Institute, but also connects to his peers in general business management industry groups like Vistage International and the Architectural Woodwork Institute Best Practices Group.

more than 21,000 members meet in small groups to help each other gain new perspectives and achieve excellent results. From Singapore to South Africa, our members are living proof of the power of peer advisory groups.

By connecting with local peers, Farrell has also, perhaps surprisingly, been able to draw on his comrade companies to help handle peak periods of production. 

Inter Ocean Cabinet Company will be the site of a plant tour on April 11, 2017, during Cabinets & Closets Conference and Expo in nearby Schaumburg, Illinois. The tour is sponsored by Stiles Machinery. Learn more and register here>>

 

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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.