Change is a good thing at Genothen.

Company management believes in forcing chaos into the company, says Jim Mammina, operations manager. "Because we know if we don't change, there is no way we can improve."

A new owner brought a new perspective and an opportunity to change. The focus is on letting people do their own jobs well. "We're driving decisionmaking down to the lowest level," Mammina says.

The new owner, who did not want to be identified for this story, was looking for an industry where advanced technology wasn't being used. He found it in woodworking.

Mammina says that Genothen's strengths are communication with the customer and close communication with general contractors; pre-production project services, including shop drawings and engineering; manufacturing speed and quality; project management, including delivery, installation and field coordination; and motivated people who care about the company.

"Understanding and adhering to the contract in the construction industry has become job one. As a company we always strictly adhere to the requirements of the contract and specifications and we require the general contractor to do the same," says Mammina.

The pace of construction is much faster than in the past. "About 10 percent of the projects that we used to do were fast-track.' Today, every job falls into the category," says Mammina.

Commercial casework

Genothen, Tumwater, Wash., makes commercial casework for hospitals, schools and office buildings, primarily in the Pacific Northwest, with some customers in Alaska and California. Customers are general contractors. Seventy-five percent of the work is casework, 25 percent is custom items. Recent projects include the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, Muckleshoot Indian Center, Overlake Medical Center in Seattle and the Northside Elementary School in Springfield, Ore.

Genothen has built a data-information system around people, and shifted labor to pre-production. Many of the company's key people have moved up from the plant floor.

Paul Gibson, production supervisor, encourages people to move into more challenging positions.

After a project is awarded, it is turned over to the "handoff" specialist Brian Ritter, who ensures contract compliance, then turns the project over to Pre-Production Services (PPS) and Project Services (PS). During the project meeting, employees discuss specifications for the project, delivery date, long lead or unusual items and scope of project.

"Engineering is the most precise thing we do," Mammina says. "We have to have precise numbers, and Brian is turning the vagaries of estimating into something precise for us. That can save tens of thousands of dollars on a project. We are a job shop, so everything we do is different."

PPS begins to work on the project by completing shop drawings, taking off and ordering materials and electronic engineering. All cutlists and optimization are electronically communicated to the production department where the casework is made. All items are manifested and shipped to the job site where the product is staged in preparation for installation.

"We are an architecturally driven manufacturing facility so our design function is interpreting what the architect or designer is looking to achieve and engineering the most efficient way to produce that product given our manufacturing capabilities," Mammina says. "Both AutoCAD and Keytrix are used extensively in this process."

After drawings are sent, Genothen does a complete submittal with all color and hardware samples. When the drawings come back from the architect, drafting determines if there are change orders and sends changes to project management, which prices the change orders, to identify where the cost is.

"Change orders are vital to our business," Mammina says. "You want to make sure you've provided everything they've asked for. When they ask for something additional, we need to get paid for it."

Material is ordered, allowing extra time for certain special materials, and the field coordinator sets up field measurements. A cutlist is created, and each department gets a package of what is required. Ninety-nine percent of that data is generated out of Keytrix. "We exploit that information as much as possible, so we're not re-creating it," Mammina says.

Database driven

Keytrix software is designed to customize and optimize production and manufacturing processes. Mammina says Keytrix is the backbone of engineering and production, and people work in data-driven Keytrix. "We use it in every aspect of the company," he says. "It has estimating capabilities and drafting capabilities. On simple projects we'll do what we call Keytrix' drawings, which are just elevation reports, so we don't have to get a drafter involved."

AutoCAD supplements Keytrix, and Keytrix's simulated CADCode link is what links the office to the machines. Gibson looks at drawings to get an advance notice of what will be needed, suggests modifications and determines the cutlist.

The company tries to hit a 100-box cutlist as an optimum amount to send through the facility, Mammina says. "If it's very complex cabinetry, we might reduce that amount because we don't want to clog the system.

Genothen achieved integration with the help of Keytrix Data Systems and the machine manufacturers and dealers, along with Genothen's in-house IT staff.

Genothen purchased a Schelling panel saw more than a year ago and uses it for cutting all of the company's semi-exposed materials. They also have a front-loading Schelling saw. The new Schelling FLH30 saw is a rear-load, single-line saw capable of cutting 12-foot lengths. It can be used with Windows NT.

The code for the machines is stored on the servers, so the engineers create that code through Keytrix CADCode link, and then that data sits in a project folder. When the machine operator gets a production list, he calls up a specific number in specialized proprietary software Genothen created, takes that data and sends it out to the machine.

A Busellato Jet 4 5x12 nested router with vacuum gantry is in the cutting department and does all countertops, curved parts and anything that isn't a square box part.

Genothen uses a Homag 9800 edgebander for banding up to 3-mil thickness or 5/8-inch wood edgeband. A Homag 9500 edgebander works with a Ligmatech conveyor.

The machining area includes Gannomat horizontal borer and dowel inserter. The Weeke BP 12 Optimat top and horizontal boring machine has been a workhorse for more than 10 years. This and a newer Weeke BP 150 machine square box parts.

In the collating stage, parts are grouped together, assembled and put in a Biesse Comil Cosmo NK1 case clamp and Gannomat Concept case clamp. Genothen also uses an Altendorf F-45 sliding table saw and Hendrick vertical panel saw. Boxes roll down conveyors to the rigging tables, where doors are hung, and drawers and hardware installed.

Mammina says the company wants to increase the use of Dow's WoodStalk product, since it has many of the qualities architects desire it's water resistant, and is non-formaldehyde added and considered to be a renewable resource. The company orders most material already laminated; finishing capability in Tumwater is limited. Genothen outsources larger finishing projects to two area companies in the Puget Sound area.

Mammina says that Genothen plans to move to a new facility in nearby Lacey within three years.

"We drove a lot of chaos into the system with the new computers, software and machines," he says. "We wanted to have a good year of profitable production before we start the move."

The company's other goals include expanding into more West Coast areas, developing a dealer network and trying to do more $500,000 jobs and fewer $50,000 jobs.

"We can scale up with the systems we have in place," Mammina says. "We do a lot of statistical process control, so we track the number of boxes an engineer can do in an hour. We see the trend line moving up, and we're really making mild tweaks and improvements to the system, and they're working on projects that allow them those economies of scale."

With so much change a new identity was appropriate, and Genothen means "new beginning."

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