Like many who opt to pursue commercial work, Phil DeMarco, owner of D&L Cabinets Inc., learned he prefers commercial work because he doesn't have to play "designer."

Ninety percent of the company's business is in commercial work. It satisfies DeMarco because the architect has all of the design process already figured out.

Besides building a reputation for doing quality work and being an AWI-Certified shop, D&L Cabinets, located in Graham, N.C., finds the best tool for getting work is its membership in the North Carolina chapter of American General Contractors Online.

"Every day you can get a good sense of what jobs are available out there," adds DeMarco, "and this is where we find our jobs."

"We will quote on/accept work within a three-hour area of our shop. We never know whether we are going to be working in town or two to three hours away until close to the time of the installation."

Online job sources

Before D&L Cabinets joined the online service, DeMarco would get a call from a contractor or receive an invitation to bid, drive to the GC's office and renew plans and specs. Sometimes the job would be six feet of cabinetry or there would be no casework at all. "So, in that case you've driven 80 miles, used up three hours of your day for nothing, says DeMarco.

"Since we first got this system about three years ago, I may have gone out to look at plans just a handful of times. We're getting to the point that we're spoiled; if it's not online, we usually don't quote the job. A lot of the general contractors use the Web site, www.iSqFt.com, and in many situations we'll receive an invitation by e-mail to bid. At the bottom of the invitation is a place to click, which will simply take us to the site where we can view the plans, specifications and all the addendums given."

The Web site, www.agc.org indicates the county and town the job is located in, as well as a number for each project, which they are then able to click on for details. As other jobs come up, DeMarco can go in, find out details and new plans and specs on those. Phil's wife Liz goes online each morning and checks the list. Any job she determines the shop would be interested in, she lists on a bid board and gives DeMarco a copy of the printout with a number so he can access the information. He can then print out plans, specifications or whatever he needs.

"I'd say that for some 95 percent of what we now bid on we don't have to leave the office," says DeMarco.

Machinery equals efficiency

DeMarco's Conquest 250 CNC machine does all the cutting and machining so it's perfect every time. It allows D&L to purchase all its panel stock laid up, instead of having two or three guys laying up the sheets of laminate on particleboard, as it had done before the machine. Despite the initial expense of the machinery, it's paying off because less labor is involved.

"Our guy who runs the CNC machine also runs the doweller (Omal) and edgebander (Holz-Her)," says DeMarco. "By running all three of those, a couple of workers have been eliminated. This technology is hard to put a dollar value on, but for this size of operation it is ideal. With the CNC equipment we're using we do nesting."

For D&L, one of the major drawbacks with nesting comes with shuffling the material around. "The time it takes to remove all the parts from the machine is actually more than it's taken to machine the material in the first place," adds DeMarco.

Getting jobs started

Phil's sons, Louis and Dominic do the shop drawings to be sent to the GC for the architect's approval. Once the drawings are approved and the job's ready, they go out and field dimension it.

After measuring it's put into the computer using Cabinet Vision software. The program builds the casework and creates the cut list. Then Dominic sends it through an optimization program to figure material requirements. He also programs all the plates and all the radius measurements and then parts are cut on the Conquest 250 CNC machine.

"The program tells us, for instance, that we'll need 10 sheets of melamine, two sides or two sheets of something else, or whatever," says DeMarco. "This in turn is how we order our material using the information it supplies us. In my shop in California, we did this whole process manually. But with this, the computer is doing the thinking for you. You just have to wait until you plug in your basic information."

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