Baker Furniture has a commitment to quality furniture, and to making that furniture in North Carolina.
The company became part of Samson International recently, and plans to continue its reputation as a producer of high-end residential furniture. New CNC machining centers and an automated saw have helped the company boost efficiency.
Baker Interiors Group makes wood residential furniture and upholstery in Hildrebran and High Point, North Carolina. Casegoods are made in Hildebran, upholstery primarily in High Point. The company has 230 employees in these two operations. Also, two plants in Indonesia supply the North Carolina operations with wood components and hand-carved pieces. The furniture is marketed under the Baker, McGuire and Milling Road brands.
“We have a broad set of capabilities, both in whitewood and finishing,” said Baker engineer Victor Maya. “We can make almost anything in the Hildebran plant. We’ve developed diverse processes over the years, and we’ve developed expertise in solid wood and veneer.
“Our reputation is built on veneers in particular. It’s a luxury brand in the marketplace. We have standard processes, machining, and a fully capable veneering operation.”
Maya said that Baker’s manufacturing is not significantly different than most furniture manufacturers. “Ours is a higher-end product than many, so there are more operations and more expensive materials,” he said.
Baker has laid out the plant and divided it into “focused factories.” All of these units can operate independently of one another. This allows specialization in upholstery, dining tables and casegoods. One focused factory is named New Holland, reflecting the company’s former manufacturing in Holland, Michigan.
Cells and components
In Hildebran Baker also has organized work into cells within those focused factories.
They are making a furniture item from families of parts, and can group components in many different ways. Bacci CNC equipment is used within the cells and the focused factories. Maya said that the most efficient categories for them are: panels, rails, posts, and miscellaneous small parts.
Bacci's Sharp five-axis CNC machining center is used with a 24-tool changer.
“We can take almost any casegoods component and put it in one of those families,” Maya said. “The panel cell does panel processing and machining. The parts go to a sander, then a CNC machining center, then to assembly.”
Baker engineers discovered they can use the same process in making rails and posts, and the Bacci machines were selected for those parts. Maya and another Baker executive went to IWF in 2012, looking for five-axis router.
They came across Bacci’s chair machining technology, and determined that they could adapt that technology to making solid wood casegood parts. Today, Baker has a Bacci Jet-Large X2600, Sharp X2600, Master and MasterCut bandsaw machines.
Baker worked with Bacci to determine the most appropriate approach to make rails, which turned out to be the Jet five-axis machining center, with no tool changer.
“We could standardize the rails. One of the spindles has screw boring bit, another has a tenon cutter, one has a saw, another has notching,” Maya said.
A component is fixed in space by jigless fixtures, which essentially act as clamps. They can place a blank there from the moulder and rough mill, and then the finished part goes directly to assembly.
“That reduced lead time by 90 percent, and reduced setup time by 50 percent,” Maya said. “The machine paid for itself in 10 months. We were also impressed by programming software. Only one person is working in the rail cell.”
Baker then did the same thing in their post fabrication cell. They determined that a different Bacci machine, the Sharp five-axis CNC machining center with 24-tool-changer, would be the right fit. It uses arms that are vacuum-based fixtures, like steel bars that hold the work piece in place.
The Baker name is well known in residential furniture, and the company has continued its commitment ot manufacture in the U.S. under Samson International.
The part starts out between the centers and turning device. In the turning device the machine machines all four sides. The wood component can be any shape, cabriolet, fluted, or an infinite number of possibilities. That’s why tool changers were needed for this cell.
They can also machine the two ends of a single piece, if needed, and then send it to sanding and assembly. Payback time here was still less than two years. Baker can make almost all posts here.
They developed a chair flow line for dining chairs and upholstery frames. (They import all hand-carved parts). The Bacci Mastercut bandsaw and Bacci Master, a larger CNC center, work together in the work cell.
“While the operator loads and unloads on one side, the machine is running on the other side,” Maya said.
“It is set up to run a complete set of chair parts. We make one chair with each machining cycle, and have a two-stage machining cycle, on the top side, then on the back side.
“We can machine all left and right-hand side components in one machining cycle.”
They can also can nest into wood cores, and the bandsaw cuts blanks out of that core. The Mastercut bandsaw supplies the Master machining center.
The bandsaw cuts the leading edge, the router can machine the surface if needed, then the bandsaw cuts it free from the core, the router machines the lead side, and the bandsaw cuts it off again. So it’s bandsaw-rout-bandsaw-rout.
Maya said there is no other noteworthy equipment, except a Biesse Rover A CNC machining center. They bought the five-axis model to use for flat panels, involved machining on the edge, and lock and key sets. It uses additional axes to tilt the head around to do those jobs. Biesse is the heart of the panel cell.
Baker Furniture uses panels and solid wood. Most finishing is in Hildebran. They use several different types of finishing, also decorating and hand painting.
Samson divisions are independent, so the Baker group designation is part of that. Samson’s strategy was to increase its footprint in the United States. For Baker Furniture, the focus will remain on products made in North Carolina.
Maya said that Bacci’s willingness and ability to start on their basic model, and customize it to their customer’s specifications were important points for Baker.