For almost 60 years, Koetter Woodworking has manufactured wood products ranging from architectural and custom millwork to mouldings, doors, stair parts, and other wood components. Started in 1959 by Tom and Mary Frances Koetter, and located in Borden, Indiana – just north of Louisville – the family-owned manufacturer began as a weekend/after-hours enterprise.
Now the company manages 1.2 million square feet of space and has more than 300 employees. It also holds the distinction for being a winner of two WMIA Wooden Globe Awards – one in 2013 as Innovator of the Year, and just this year, the 2016 award for Commitment to Excellence through Technology.
From struggle to growth
Beginning in 2008, at the start of the hard-hitting economic recession, Koetter had to lay off employees for the first time in company history – forcing fewer people to do more work. Koetter also lost a third of its wealth. When the economy began turning around, Koetter decided to invest in technology and machinery.
“When the recession hit, like most in the woodworking industry, we faced tough times,” said Brian Koetter, VP of sales and marketing. “We made key investments in technology and developed new programs that helped us survive the recession and prepare for the future. It’s a strategy that has served us well.”
Koetter said the woodworking company has invested $7 million in new technology since 2008. Incoming technology additions include a Weinig Acu-Chop saw, three Weinig moulders, a Raimann 650 ripsaw with scanner, a Holtec saw, a Nortec finish planer, a Full House door hanging machine, and a 16-foot glue line. The company’s full product line boasts 16 Weinig moulders, Timesavers sanders, along with internally engineered moulding and millwork production lines, and EnvisionIT.
The EnvisionIT application includes a digital library of thousands of knife profiles that allows Koetter customers, architects and designers to easily incorporate profile drawings into their plans. Once produced, a fleet of 12 trucks delivers products through its dealers, some of which eventually end up incorporated in projects for national retailers such as Victoria’s Secret, Ann Taylor, and J.C. Penney.
“With EnvisionIT, you may utilize a variety of features to assist with the creation of unique architectural designs for residential or commercial millwork projects. EnvisionIT also provides you with the ability to access the complete Koetter Woodworking library of over 8,000 stock and custom profiles,” said Brian.
“Users can meet with a homeowner or contractor and through a series of filters, see what fits best with a particular type of home,” added Jerry Koetter, COO. “Craftsman, English Tudor, Colonial or whatever the home’s style, users can see what is compatible. It also allows us to execute an order seamlessly. It is extremely exciting to do that sort of thing.” Along with investment, Koetter began supporting its dealers, who were also suffering.
Around 16 million board feet of material gets processed through the company facility annually. A vertically integrated company, Koetter Woodworking owns a 3,500-acre forest in addition to species purchased locally. The company also dries its own lumber in custom kilns, which hold a capacity of 1 million board feet.
Koetter has also proclaimed a commitment to sustainability and to continuous improvement.
“As users of hardwoods we know the future must involve sustainability. We constantly push for best practices and sustainable harvesting methods including harvesting only mature timber, and have a history of education programs for the public and schools,” Jerry said.
“We are willing to reinvest in our business. We are not absentee owners — we’ve made our careers in the industry. We value our reputation for quality and sustainability and we value our customers and our team members.”
WMIA: Wooden Globe Awards
Investment pays off
In order to combat the recession, Koetter Woodworking implemented a new business strategy. The company cut inventories and reduced labor, while shortening lead times on orders.
This was done by reorganizing order processing from the time orders were received, manufacturing products more efficiently, and making sure orders were shipped correctly. A series of new, quick-change, automated moulders were purchased – which required less labor and featured an automated scan/chop system to enhance the fingerjoint poplar production line. Koetter also committed money for capital investments, and time (training and re-educating team members).
Not only did its actions win the moulding and millwork firm two Wooden Globe awards from the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA) – one in 2016 for a Commitment to Excellence through Technology and one in 2013 for Innovator of the Year – but also the company was able to fully recover from the recession and grow.
Koetter receiving its 2016 Wooden Globe. Left to right: Jerry Koetter, COO, Koetter nominator Jason Neafus of Hoosier Woodworking, and Jason Howell, chairman of the WMIA Education Committee.
Investments made by Koetter since 2008 total $7 million and include a Weinig Acu-Chop saw, three Weinig moulders, a Raimann 650 ripsaw with scanner, a Holtec saw, a Nortec finish planer, a Full House door hanging machine, and a 16-foot glue line. Manufacturing is done at the main facility in Borden, Indiana.
Koetter is a one-stop source for mouldings, doors, stair parts, custom millwork, and other wood components.
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