Component shop emphasizes the process

For Fichman Furniture, the process is the key.

“Nothing that we do is overly special or unusual – we only take onjobs that fit within our meticulously designed production system,” says presidentErran Fichman.  “And we only take on jobs that we know will meet ourcustomers' exacting custom specifications.”

The company started in Toronto, and crossed the border to set up anew location in western New York.

“There is still a location in Toronto, and we recently expanded,opening a new manufacturing and R&D facility in Holland, N.Y., to betterserve the U.S. market,” Fichman says. “This new plant has allowed us thefreedom to expand and grow while simultaneously developing new technologies totake the business to the next level.”

Geographically, New York was an ideal location for Fichman. Hollandis near Buffalo, which puts them within a day's drive of most of customers andsuppliers, and is in close proximity to the existing Canadian operations.Buffalo is also a major manufacturing hub and there is an abundance of skilledlabor workers available.

After college,Fichman found himself to be dissatisfied with the corporate world in Boston. Hereturned to Toronto and went back to woodworking, making hockey sticks with acircular saw and a few hand tools. Business grew, mostly from word-of-mouthfrom customers, and the product mix expanded to include kitchen cabinets,casegoods and furniture.

In Holland, Fichman makes custom cabinets and components, solddirectly to residential clients as well as contractors, designers, and othercompanies in the trade.

“I'd like to think of Fichman Furniture as more of a technologycompany than a furniture business,” he says. “I would attribute our successmore to our process than our product. By studying how we do things andperfecting those processes, we are able to produce consistent, high qualityresults while nearly eliminating our worker's exposure to workplace hazards commonlyfound in the industry.”

One process that changed was finishing, which has been outsourced.

Several years earlier,Fichman determined that outsourcing the finishing portion of the work removed aworkflow bottleneck and helped get work out the door faster. Specifically,doing the work and finishing it in the same small space proved to be moredifficult than expected. Working with an outside finisher sharply reduced theturnaround time.

Now, finishing has returned. “Our strong growth over the last sixyears provided the opportunity to invest in the equipment and training requiredto bring finishing in house,” Fichman says. “This has allowed us to control theconsistency and quality of items we produce.”

Another big change came with the purchase of two CNC routers.

“In 2008 we purchased a Thermwood Model 41, and this year wereceived delivery of a new Model 43, both three-axis machines,” he says. “TheThermwood routers align with our company vision of automating production toachieve consistent, high quality results, while removing workplace hazards.”

Thermwood Model 41 is a three-axis flatbed nesting CNC router formachining cabinet boxes, custom furniture and components.

Fichman says the CNC routers process sheet goods. “Of course wecould have done that before with table saws and panel saws; it's not about theCNC itself but rather how the automation fits into our process,” he says.

“We went from using a table saw on a daily basis – now we nolonger even own a table saw. We used to use five drill presses, three radialarm saws, and a router table as part of our daily production. We no longer ownor operate any of this equipment, besides a drill press used for shopmaintenance.

Also in the Holland shop are two TigerStop automated stops, adouble miter saw, and a Kremlin finishing system. Fichman says the company isalso developing a proprietary, fully automated robotic painting system.

Fichman says the flow of work through the shop is fairly typical. Partsare cut on the CNC router before being assembled and going through finishcarpentry (mouldings applied, sanding etc.). They are then passed on to beprimed and painted.

There are six full-time employees in the U.S. plant, and two parttime employees in the Canadian office. The Holland facility has about 10,000square feet of space and the Canadian location is about 1,000 square feet.

For the future, Fichman says that the company will be focused oncontinuing to invest in our technology and refining our processes.

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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].