A Canadiancabinet manufacturer has won a number of business awards while deliveringcustom features at low prices. The company recently won Canada’s 50 BestManaged Companies award.

DeslaurierCustom Cabinets in Ottawa, Ontario, has been in business for more than 35 yearsdesigning, manufacturing and installing custom cabinetry. Deslauriermanufactures all cabinets at its plant in Renfrew, Ontario, where it uses greenmanufacturing methods and locally sourced woods.

“Wedo a great job using our expansive catalog to give customers individualizeddesigns using standard cabinets,” said Denis Staples, president of Deslaurier.

“Thisallows our customers to get custom designs at reasonable prices. We use some ofthe highest quality raw materials and detailed manufacturing processes, whichgive us a high quality product. We have one of the highest quality green finishesand one of the most expansive color palettes in Canada.

Theroad to the award was not easy. “We have overcome much adversity over the lastseveral years,” Staples said. “We had a devastating fire on January 1, 2009that destroyed our head office and manufacturing facility in Renfrew. Despitethat, we fulfilled all of our orders, retained our clients, and rebuilt theshop.

“Oncewe were up and running we suffered through the collapse of the U.S. housingmarket and the effect that it had on our local market through increasedcompetition. We have been creative (and persistent) in how we have gottenthrough that adversity.

“Wehave won several housing design awards at the local and provincial level. Wehave won several sales and marketing awards at the local level. In 2012 we wonthe Better Business Bureau Torch Award for marketplace ethics. We werenominated for Entrepreneurs of the year by Ernst & Young. We have Chamberof Commerce awards in Renfrew and Ottawa. And we were featured in a Canadianbest-selling book called “That’ll Never Work” by Penguin Books Canada and KPMG.

Designersplay a large role for Deslaurier. “Our designersconduct a detailed needs analysis with each client to determine how they usetheir kitchen and how they would like to use their kitchen,” Staples said. “Fromthe needs analysis comes the layout which details which cabinets go where. Oncethe layout is complete the designer helps the client with their selections(door style, material, color, hardware and countertop.)”

 

Streamliningthrough lean

“Overthe last five years the market has been very competitive. As such, we haveworked internally through the adoption of lean manufacturing to streamline ourprocesses and reduce waste. We have also worked actively with all of our majorsuppliers to reduce our cost of materials without negatively affecting ourquality.

Monthlycorrective action meetings are one initiative that has produced good results.

“Essentiallyany employee, customer or supplier can fill out a corrective action form (anissue/problem that is repeated) and submit it to the committee for review,”Staples explains. “The committee discusses the causes and comes up withpotential solutions.

“Wealso have two Kaizen events per year where a specific issue is tackled. TheKaizen teams are made up of employees who volunteer to be on the committee.

Staplessaid that in Renfrew the company cuts out the sheet goods, dowels the parts andedgebands them. A finishing department sands, stains or paints and finishesparts. An assembly department gathers and assembles all parts. A customdepartment makes custom parts are made and a countertop department makes laminatetops.

Inthe shop, Staples said that there are three CNC machining centers, two dowel inserters, twoedgebanders, two sanders, two finishing lines and an assembly line.  There are two finishing lines and twofinishing booths in Renfrew. All equipment was updated and upgraded after thecompany’s fire in 2009.

Themajority of kitchens are either wood with a stain or MDF with paint and arefinished using water-based products. The new Deslaurier catalog offers a vastarray of non-finished products such as laminate, thermo, acrylic, high pressurelaminate, and reconstituted veneer.

 

Challengesand competition

Staples saidthe company is always under pressure to offer more at lower prices, but theydon’t cut corners by using lesser-quality materials.

“Themarket remains exceedingly competitive where margins are under constant duress,”Staples observes. “We are hoping that the uptick in the U.S. housing marketwill draw some of our competitors back into that market which would ease someof those competitive pressures.”

“Themarket in Ottawa has remained stable although it is still quite competitive. Ontariois starting to pick up again which is positive for us. We have dabbled in the U.S.but never really obtained a foothold. Last year we completed a major project tosupply kitchens to high end rental units in Boston. When we decide to focus onthe U.S. market we will have to hire a dedicated sales force. We have triedunsuccessfully with agents in the past.

For thefuture, Deslaurier’s biggest initiative is theimplementation of an ERP system called Insight. “We would like grow our revenuein our modern and closet lines.”

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