Five years ago a fire completely destroyed Cornerstone Architectural Concepts in Morton, Ill. President Jeff Kuykendall was in the office at the cabinet manufacturer the night that the fire happened on July 10, 2008. He called 911, bringing a response from a number of nearby communities. The fire burned much of the night, rekindling later the next day. Cornerstone lost a job that was in progress, but the company’s reputation was such that other customers waited on their jobs until the woodworking operation was up and running.

After the fire, the company didn’t lay anyone off, and planned for a new location. “We had a full set of scale drawings of the shop,” Kuykendall says. “We made little scale carts and machinery, and we were able to do a total layout. We had a couple of months there where we could spend quite a bit of time on where we were going to lay things out. We weren’t rushed into something where we suffered the consequences later. We had quite a bit of planning time.”

One thing they didn’t know is where the fire started. “If we had known what caused the fire, we would have fixed that, but we didn’t,” he says. Fire investigators were unable to pinpoint the cause of the blaze.
“To start the layout of the new shop, we didn’t know what was broken. So we had to look at each individual area and come up with improvements for every area. It gave us an opportunity to look at each area of the shop, (and look for) ways to improve.”

The new plant in Morton is 21,000 square feet, about twice the size of the old location. “It allowed us to strategically place machinery so workflow and carts and jobs can flow around them,” Kuykendall says. “We found we were more productive. We’re not handling our materials as much because we have more space. We have a storage area for raw lumber storage, and for finished products waiting to be shipped. In our old shop we had to ship the same day.”

The new location also has land available to again double the size of the building. The company has 10 employees, which Kuykendall says is the optimum number for efficient and fluid operation.


Residential emphasis

About three-quarters of work for the company consists of residential cabinets and kitchens, with some commercial. After the economic “downfall” and the fire, Kuykendall developed a semi-custom line to reach lower-price markets.

“That way we were able to control how many options the customer has, so we can control our costs and compete with a semi-custom market line.”

A lot of their business is this area is tied to Caterpillar, which is headquartered in nearby Peoria and has many plants nearby. They are a major factor in the local economy.

The company has done other projects from mahogany funeral urns to Frank Lloyd Wright design chairs to match a similar interior, and recently completed a large-scale trade show display.


AWFS trade show display

Cornerstone made the walls, cubes and enclosures for SCM Group’s large display used at the recent AWFS Fair in Las Vegas. “We made three dust collection enclosures (that were) 16 feet tall, so they can do their advertising of the SCM and Busellato name,” Kuykendall says.

The company is also producing welcome desks, areas for software demonstrations, and reception areas. Another part of the project is 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 foot maple cubes that are the same size but stacked at different heights to offer a more interesting appearance than a straight wall. The cube display will also have an acrylic top.
Most material is MDF that Cornerstone has machined and put a chamfer around. Everything was painted and could easily be touched up on site.

Cornerstone also sent a team to the Las Vegas Convention Center to set up the display.

“Our employees understand our products, and we feel we do a better job if we install our own products,” Kuykendall says. “You put so much pride in making them in the first place. We feel if we can put on that final touch, we’re doing the customer a service.”

All signs for the SCM display were made from two-inch thick foam to help hold the overall weight down. These were cut on the CNC machine and painted in Cornerstone’s shop. The design was a joint effort between SCM and Cornerstone, and required 15 pallets and three large containers to be shipped by truck to Las Vegas.


Long relationship

The work for SCM Group is appropriate, since Kuykendall has a long relationship with the company, especially with Rob Howell and John Gangone, and has been on several tech tours of Europe, beginning in 2005. “They’ve taken good care of us,” he says. “The level of service and technical assistance has been far superior.
“Nowadays customer service is everything. As cabinet companies we need to know, if that company is going to be there for us. Will they have parts? SCM doesn’t make it difficult at all.”

In the new plant, newer SCM equipment has allowed more repeatable processes, and better control of jobs. “Most of our jobs start with the CNC, then go out from there to another machine or to assembly or finishing,” Kuykendall says. “We do as much as we can on the CNC. “The more you can let the machine do, the more accuracy you have, (and better) repeatability.”

The Morbidelli Author X5 55 Evo five-axis CNC has a three-axis head, six-tool rapid tool changer, and another 24-tool changer, and can carry 32 tools on board. (Each head can be used one at a time.) The company is using Planit Cabinet Vision and Alphacam for this machine.

A SCMI T160 shaper uses the same tooling at the CNC machines, and may be used when certain small parts may be quicker to make on a shaper.

An SCMI Superset Class is used to run Cornerstone’s own mouldings, with a Doucet return table. The company makes all its own cabinet parts and all doors in house. (They outsource only drawers, from CCF.) They also keep an inventory of mouldings on site, and have their own knife grinder and 2,900 different profiles available.

An Opti-Sand sander is used with the moulder to sand moulded pieces or scuff sand after priming or finishing. A DMC Mastersand widebelt sander is also in the shop, along with a SCMI Olimpic K203 edgebander.

A U.S. Concepts arch moulder is used for arch mouldings, a company specialty, and they do the bending here. Customers and people outside come to them for radius mouldings.

In the finishing booth lacquer-based finish is normally used. (Water-based finish was used on the SCM booth so it could be touched up on the show floor.)

A Dantherm (now Nederman) large duct collection system that blows directly into a truck.

An attractive showroom displays a selection of kitchens, with distressed examples and different countertop options: Corian, Wilsonart and Hanex. A special island featured a walnut four-inch thick top with maple and cherry on the sides. Kuykendall also designed a mahogany sink with a zebrawood cabinet.

For the future, Kuykendall wants to get into more closet projects. With He is seeing more smaller closet projects rather than large-scale remodels. He also is exploring working with dealers farther afield from the company’s home base.

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