Cabinet manufacturer improves high-volume flow
March 8, 2015 | 7:00 pm CDT

A new panel handlingand retrieval system helped recreate the flow ofwork for Contemporary Cabinets Inc.

“Prior to the new equipment we didn’t refer to flow in a good way,” saidDon Wiggins, Contemporary Cabinets plant manager. “When we purchased a newpiece of machinery it was placed where it fit and not necessarily where itactually worked well. Parts crisscrossed the shop in a way that certainly madeno logical sense. There was a plan to create an actual flow with theimplementation of the new equipment so now everything works in a “U” patternthrough the shop.

“It starts in the back with the Winstore 3D loading the Selco WNT610 beamsaw and Skill 1537 NBC router and on to the Akron 855 edgebander. From there,door and door parts cross the shop to be prepared to install after the cabinetsare built and the cabinet parts go to be edge banded,dowelled, hardware installed and put on preassembly carts.

“Cabinets are assembled and put on the conveyer for the feed-through caseclamp, the backs are stapled in to hold it square until the glue sets up, whileon the outfeed conveyor the doors and drawers are installed and then thecabinet is wrapped in stretch wrap and the loaded on a truck.

Thecompany’s 100 employees work in five buildings with 100,000square feet of space in Edmond, Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City. One building isdedicated to the retrieval system and panel processing equipment. Otherbuildings contain custom work, finishing, countertop/solid surface work, and awarehouse.

“We primarily make cabinets for commercial projects.We do have a custom shop that builds items like teller lines and receptiondesks, conference tables and other more intricate pieces that don’t flow wellthrough our production shop. In the custom shop there is an area that makeshardwood mouldings and solid wood products. Another building makes solidsurface and plastic laminate countertops.

ContemporaryCabinets makes mostly European fulloverlay plastic laminate with tight reveals, some wood veneer of the same styleand occasionally face frame cabinets with the traditional wider reveals orinset doors.

Wigginssaid that the company can make large quantities of production cabinets in atimely manner. “We have had the goodfortune to have a particular client that has had us make tens of thousands ofan open melamine upper cabinet with a 2mm PVC edge that we can really crankout, but any wood or laminate cabinet we can build well. Probably our weakpoint is plastic laminate with plastic laminate door and drawer edges, since westick the front last by hand. It just takes a lot of labor.

Cabinets are dowelled and glued and run through a case clamp so they areassembled square. Each run of cabinets is measured and built to fit the spacerather than built to modular sizes with fillers to make them fit.

    Wiggins said that a lot of the company’s work is for energy companies,hospitals and banks, but they also do retail and store fixtures, medical anddental, schools, churches and a little residential. Recent projects have included a large hospital, a jewelry store, a fitnesscenter for an oil and gas company, and several trendy retail stores.


    Winstore system

    The Winstore 3D is an overhead crane system that storesinformation on the characteristics and location of every piece of material thatis inside of it. It can hold about 2,000 sheets of material.

    “We put a bundle of material in the docking station and tell it whichmaterial is there and how many sheets there are. It picks them up and placesthem inside the cage. If it is a new material that the system has no historywith, it registers the weight of the sheet so that it will know later if itpicks up more than one sheet that it needs to turn loose of one by eitherblowing air back through the board or raising a corner to break the seal. Thepieces are picked up by vacuum so more porous materials like MDF orparticleboard sometimes draw enough vacuum through one sheet to pick up the onebelow. Veneered sheets, melamine and plastic laminate don’t typically have thathappen.”

    What does the systemdo for Contemporary Cabinets? “Thesimple answer is it saves us time and space. We have five buildings, and thematerial for any given job could be stored somewhere else,” Wiggins said.

    A previous issue occurred when the machine operators would realize thatthe material that they needed was not in their building so they would have tocall a material handler to retrieve that material and take it their machine.Sometimes that person was busy moving other material or unloading incomingmaterial from our suppliers. The machine could wait 20 or 30 minutes for thematerial to arrive.

    Now most everything is stored in the Winstore so there is no waiting.Also, because it is basically an overhead crane, the bundles of material can bestacked just a few inches apart, there is no need to have large forkliftcorridors between the stacks of material.

    ContemporaryCabinets is mostly working with 4 x 8,three-quarter inch thick material. The Winstoresystem has determined the stack configuration from its own use. It also keepstrack of material in inventory and how many sheets go through both the panelsaw and CNC machine. 

    TheWinstore has been in operation since last March and the flow of the plant hasbeen rerouted to work around the system.

    “Our Selco beam saw and Skill router both protrude into the cage of theWinstore and so it loads both of these machines from the rear,” Wiggins said.“However, it can also outload material into the docking station to be taken toone of our out-of-cell machines like our other beam saw, one of our otherrouters or just a regular table saw, or whole sheets might be going out to ajob site.”

    Fromthe new panel saw and CNC router, material goes to either the Akron 855edgebander, or an older SCMI edgebander. As mentioned, doors and components areseparated. A Biesse Elix dowel inserter is used, then pieces are sorted into“build sets,” 10 on a cart with dowels for assembly.

    “Wheneverything is done, a cabinet goes through that case clamp about every twominutes. We’ll build today for tomorrow. We do all of our installations.

    ABre.Ma Eko 902 vertical CNC machining center can do similar jobs that the mainCNC router can do, and it can be used for special jobs or for backup.

    Itdoesn’t cut a circle for a trash grommet, for example. It machines it out andthen gets rid of the sawdust, because there’s no place to get rid of the offal.

    AMayer panel saw and MultiCam CNC router are outside the system and are stillusing for general production. They also were used while the system was beinginstalled.

    “Just the fact that we now have a flow that makes sense has probablyhelped the most. We upgraded our fixed dowel drill and insertion machine to amovable CNC machine and that has also helped a great deal.

    “Our future plans would be to become more efficient, improve the process,make fewer mistakes and have less waste,” Wiggins said.  “We are actually looking at adding alaminating line to lay up plastic laminate on sheet goods just to become moreproductive in that area.”

    The laminating linewill be in the building with the countertop department. Wiggins said thecompany has work well into 2015, but the company has to become more adept atchange, and in handling more jobs with smaller quantities.

    “Our quality is good, but our service is better,” he said. “There areother shops that build cabinets as good as ours, but we have the labor andequipment resources as well as a desire to meet our client’s deadlines, and ifthere is a problem or mistake we stand behind it and get it resolved as quicklyas possible.”

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    About the author
    Karl Forth

    Karl D. Forth is online editor for CCI Media. He also writes news and feature stories in FDMC Magazine, in addition to newsletters and custom publishing projects. He is also involved in event organization, and compiles the annual FDM 300 list of industry leaders. He can be reached at [email protected].