Secrets of a shop that just does it right
Brad and Lynn at Hunter Trim and Cabinets

Lynn Thomas, second from left, and Brad Cairns, third from right, joined the crew at Hunter Trim and Cabinets in Fort Worth, Texas.

Recently, my Quantum Lean business partner Lynn Thomas and I had the pleasure of going back to work with a long time customer for another week. The success of this company is staggering.  The company I’m talking about is Hunter Trim and Cabinet Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, and the man in charge is Dustin Hunter.

From the moment you walk in the door, you know this company is different. I’m not just talking about their brand new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that looks more like a Fortune 500 company building than a woodworking shop. If you hang around for the first hour of the day, all your suspicions about something being different will be confirmed.

For a company who is in such high demand with work, booked out into the foreseeable future, you will not see anyone running around with their hair on fire. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. As the day gets underway, there is a serene calmness throughout the whole building. A 7 o’clock buzzer rings, and everyone gathers in the sandbox (meeting area) for group stretches. Once everyone has limbered up the entire team gets 30 minutes of improvement time. They can work on anything that falls into the improvement trident of safety, quality, or simplicity. With one walk through the factory it’s obvious they’ve been doing this for a while. 

Next, the entire team gets together again for the morning meeting. I would say if you’re ever in the Fort Worth area, stop in and witness this morning meeting, but instead, I will tell you flat out, I don’t care where you are! It will be worth every penny to get on an airplane and witness this morning routine for yourself. It’s that good. 

Bilingual meeting
They conduct their meeting in both English and Spanish. They have 20 or so company fundamentals and they discuss one for an entire week at each morning meeting. While we were there, the fundamental being discussed was “Be positive.” The conversation and engagement around that simple fundamental was mind blowing. We were there for an entire week and there wasn’t one morning meeting that didn’t give me goosebumps. 

Everybody in the company seems to know the goal of the company, the goal of their department, the five S’s and the eight deadly wastes. They watched both inspirational videos and educational videos.  Then they broke off into two smaller groups, everyone who worked on the factory floor and the installation team. After about an hour, the buzzer would ring again, and everyone would finally go to work. I can’t emphasize enough the absence of stress.

Then the magic happens. 
Dustin‘s production is set up in a line with each cabinet started by the first person in the line and finished by the last person as the product flows down. All supporting components, face frames, drawers, and doors, are made in work cells right beside the line and those parts are ready just in time as the cabinet flows past. 

Right now you’re thinking, “Well, I can’t do that because I’m custom.” I hate to burst your bubble, but Hunter Trim & Cab. is a fully high-end custom cabinet shop. No two parts are the same. Head over to YouTube and you can check out our video and see this in action for yourself.

I think it’s safe to say most companies have a buzzer go off in the morning and everyone gets to work, then the buzzer goes off at the end of the day and everyone goes home. Generally speaking, inside of those eight hours we’re all doing our best, trying to do our jobs and improve the company. 

Consider two companies:
Company A, which gets to work right away for the full eight hours. 

Company B, which does not work for the first hour of every day.   

Would you not think that company “A” should outperform company “B”? Should they not get more work done? Logic would say yes. But I would challenge any of us to compare our statistics to that of Hunter Trim & Cabinet. Dustin has taken his company from $600,000 a year to $6 million with the same number of people on the shop floor. Yes, you just read that right. Of course, he has had to add some support staff along the way, but by any measurement, this is unbelievable.

If I didn’t see it myself, I probably wouldn’t believe it either. Dustin started his lean journey with our Quantum Lean founder Jim Lewis more than 12 years ago so we have had the pleasure of being on the sidelines watching Dustin take his company and his team to places no one could have imagined.

High-level basics
Of course, everyone wants the magic bullet. What’s that one thing that I can do? I asked Dustin what’s his secret? He simply replied, “We just do the basics at a really, really high level.”  

He has developed his team into some of the best lean thinkers we’ve ever seen, and were we brought in to do a module on advanced planning and scheduling? No. He put his entire team through our “Basics of Lean Manufacturing” training.
Next I asked, what advice would you give to someone wanting to go down this road? He said, “It’s a long game. Don’t give up, and no matter what, you can’t be in a hurry.”

No instant results
I think that we could all benefit from that advice. When we watch amazing factories in action, naturally, we want that for ourselves. We try to get our team from zero to hero in a month, but we forget that company has probably been at it for 10, 20, 30 or in the case of Toyota 100 years, so we should probably cut ourselves some slack. 

Having a wonderful lean company is analogous to getting our body in shape. If we diet or work out for only a month, probably nothing is going to happen. But, if every day you commit to eating well and some exercise, it is 100% guaranteed that you will get results. The part we struggle with is we just don’t know when. Could be a year could be five could be 10; everyone’s different, and so are our companies.

Put more emphasis on doing what you know is right, and let the results come when they come, and then as a byproduct the money should come, too. Oh yeah and don’t forget, nothing worth having comes easy. Nose to the grindstone, let’s change the world. 

Watch the video below of Lynn Thomas working with the install team.


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About the author
Brad Cairns | President/Owner/C-Level

Brad Cairns is the senior principal at Quantum Lean and is dedicated to improving the woodworking industry in North America using lean methods. He also owns Best Damn Doors, a cabinet door manufacturing business in St. Thomas, Ontario. You can reach Brad at 519-494-2883 or [email protected].