When Ramsey Yousif started his cabinetry business in a one-stall garage, he had nothing but a hand saw and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit.
“I wanted to make entertainment centers and home theaters,” he said, harkening back to the days before flat-screen televisions replaced the 50-pound clunkers of yesteryear. “I built half a dozen entertainment centers in the first couple of months — and then I had to reevaluate.”
Today, the vice president of Lincoln, Nebraska-based Ramco Enterprises LLC owns one of the largest cabinetry shops in his region and is so busy that work for new customers must be scheduled as many as seven months in advance. Ramco designs and builds semi-custom and custom frameless cabinetry and casegoods for residential and commercial projects.
Yousif was 19 when he made the fateful decision to leave college and start his business in 2005. “I’ve never been afraid — which is good and bad. I was either really smart, or too stupid to give up,” Yousif said. “Even when I bite off more than I can chew —which has been a lot — I do whatever it takes to meet the deadline. If we get the job, we do it and deliver it exactly the way that we say we will.”
Commitment to excellence and to superior customer service has helped Yousif to grow his cabinetry company through word of mouth. He hired his first employees three years after opening, and today boasts a tight-knit, crew of eight in the 10,000 square-foot shop that’s “packed full.” Although the cabinetry company merged with Yousif's father's home building business in 2011, the two are run as separate units.
The majority of the cabinet team’s workload is comprised of high-end residential and commercial cabinetry and casework, for which Yousif deals primarily with contractors. “Our style is very modern and contemporary,” he said. “We’re doing high-gloss acrylic panels, a lot of high-end work with features.” Among those features are acrylic shelving, as well as cabinet rollouts, trash-can pullouts, and spice racks.
To manufacture the custom products, Yousif acquired the Cabinet Vision Screen-to-Machine™ design-to-manufacturing solution in 2009. Though he didn’t purchase his first piece of CNC machinery — a Selco beam saw — until 2012, he used Cabinet Vision to bid on, design, and organize projects.
“Prior to Cabinet Vision, we would manually write all the parts lists and we had limited software with low-quality renderings,” he said. “When we started doing commercial casework, we needed higher-quality submittals. Initially, materials and cutlists were my entire justification for getting the software. Now, I couldn’t live without it.”
Yousif said the software also helps to significantly reduce error on the shop floor. “When we first got Cabinet Vision, we saw an immense return and it freed up my time from figuring it all out with a calculator and a notepad,” he added. “If I had a kitchen, [before] it would take me a full day to generate a cutlist. Now I can do it in minutes.”
Along with the investments in software, Yousif has invested almost a quarter of a million dollars in CNC machinery over the past two years. The combined technology has enabled the company to steadily expand its capacity, without adding employees.
“Quite honestly, without Cabinet Vision and without automation to produce our current volume, we’d need to be a 13-man shop,” Yousif says. “We do a lot more volume than companies with more people."
Once Ramco is awarded a job, Yousif’s team draws the dimensions of the space in which the project will be installed; from there it can determine the materials needed and get them ready to cut.
“It’s not uncommon that we start cutting a job Monday for a Wednesday delivery,” said Yousif, who uses just-in-time inventory. By the time the materials arrive, the job has been output to the router and all of the associated information and drawings printed out and placed into a shop book. The CNC operator is given a sheet with all of the vital details, in addition to a barcode — generated in Cabinet Vision — for scanning the job.
When the barcode is scanned by the operator, the program is called up on the router, and the cutting can begin. Barcode labels are then affixed to each color-coded cut piece and sent to the edgebander. Once edgebanded, the parts are sent to the dowel and borer, also barcoded, and finished.
Yousif said he also takes advantage of User Created Standards, or UCS, within the software program that allow users to create cutting rules that can be repeatedly applied. UCS are a form of automation, as they provide a platform for users to automatically implement cutting preferences and best practices. For Yousif, UCS come in handy for his toe-pick assembly, which he prefers to have cut to a specified company standard.
In addition to improved quality control, the software and CNC technology have also reduced the turnaround time. Whereas before it took 1.5 hours per cabinet, “right now, we average about 20 minutes for a completed cabinet — and that’s wrapped and ready to go out the door,” he said.
The technology investment has also had an impact outside the work environment, Yousif added. “What is your time worth? What are you worth? A lot of guys pay expensive overhead, but don’t pay themselves,” he said. “My hobbies are fishing and golf; my work is not my hobby. I love what I do, and with the help of automation and great employees, I can watch my son grow up.”
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