Although California Kitchen Cabinet Door Corp. just completed a new $25 million plant-to-manufacture wood cabinet doors, CEO Ed Rossi sees  CalDoor  as a service company, rather than a manufacturer. "We cut, machine and assemble, but we do it based on a service that our customers demand," Rossi says. "We strive to ensure that our product is delivered on time and that our quality is consistent."

To deliver that level of service, CalDoor moved all of its wood production from its headquarters in Gilroy to the new, state-of-the-art 150,000-square-foot facility in Salinas, Calif. It's a high-volume plant - it can produce 15,000 custom cabinet doors a day - but it can also make a single drawer front.

"We have one of the finest custom production facilities built today," Rossi says. "We really don't know from one day to the next exactly what that manufacturing configuration is going to be. That's our constant challenge."

Blank slate 

Rossi designed the plant starting with a blank slate.

"I took time to study the product flow from the time it was cut and machined through assembly," he says. "Planning everything ahead of time was the strength behind it.

"We wanted more efficiency, and tried to balance incoming and outgoing materials, cell technology and lean manufacturing, and the flow from cell to cell throughout our operation."

Salinas was chosen for several reasons. "There is a huge workforce there," Rossi explains. "We offer good-paying jobs in a new, modern factory. We're competing against agricultural jobs, instead of high-tech jobs in Santa Clara County." The structure itself was built as a candy bar factory 40 years ago and features strong, thick walls and a reinforced ceiling.

Rossi also spent time upfront discussing the new plant with Salinas officials.

"Our communication started right at the beginning, meeting with all of the city officials, fire, building, planning and the mayor of Salinas," he says. "Before we occupied the location, we had them visit our factory in Gilroy. We had a big meeting with all the city officials, so they could understand what we were trying to do. There were asbestos and underground tank issues. We cleaned up the site, and did a service to the community."

Rossi considers each of the 40 production lines to be a cell within a larger cell, and there are six distinct operations in the new factory. The first is moulding and millwork, including the processing of raw materials to get them to a machined state.

There are three major categories of cutting/machining/assembly cells. The first is the manufacture of the center solid wood door panel. There are 12 production lines making these panels. Next, there are six production lines making mitered pieces. Another large group of 14 production lines makes cope-and-stick components.

An additional cell grouping comprises finish sanding and machining. Several cells within the shipping and receiving function round out the plant.

"Designing those cells to be flexible enough to handle the fluctuations is kind of a tricky balance based on new and old technology," Rossi says. "My concept is not to unplug bottlenecks, but to create vacuums to pull product through.

"This plant was designed with balance in mind. You don't want to start a job until all the components are there. For me it's very critical that we balance production flow to create proper buffer zones for those unexpected situations."

Using many dedicated machines linked together helps deliver this flexibility. CalDoor also emphasizes using quality hardwoods. Maple, red oak, alder and cherry are the primary species, with hickory, poplar, red birch, white birch, walnut and mahogany also used. A recent addition is Weyerhaueser's Lyptus.

"It's easier when you're using high-grade materials," Rossi says. "We build efficiency in cutting, machining and assembly into our operation. It's not built to optimize a lot of low-grade material."

CalDoor's first cell, the processing of raw materials, includes a Newman EPR-24 planer, then a Mereen-Johnson 431 ripsaw with Taylor Opti-Rip laser system. The widest boards are kept for the panels.

Each cutting line starts with an industrial chop saw using a TigerStop automated cutoff stop and programmable pusher. Each cope-and-stick line also uses a Delta table saw, two Martin shapers, a Jenkins Systems arch cutter, then assembly.

Generally, more attractive pieces are selected for the miter production lines. Pieces go through one of three Wadkin moulders, then to one of the four Omga double miter saws, and finally through a Balestrini or Bacci machine for blind mortise and tenon. These machines are designed to take a square piece and cut the 45-degree angle, then do the blind mortise and tenon application instead of starting with a 90-degree cut. "If you're going to make a miter door, why not start with a miter to begin with," Rossi says.

The picture frame is then assembled around a plywood insert panel (a Delta Unisaw cuts these panels) or a solid wood panel. All miter doors are hand clamped and set into specially designed clamping racks to help with squareness. After assembly, the door's outside edge is profiled and then finish sanded.

On the panel lines, prompt solid edge gluing of cut pieces of lumber is emphasized. Joints are stress relieved by running them across carbide Tersa knives on Martin jointers. CalDoor has some 50 Martin jointers and shapers. Then pieces go into one of five James L. Taylor clamp carriers. Once a panel comes out of a clamp carrier its width is cut to size, an important step, and it's then machined in a variety of applications, including the six Jenkins Systems machines, three for panel raising, and three for arch profiling.

"We don't let anything sit from one shift to another without being jointed and glued up," Rossi says. "That gives us optimum strength in our joints, and we don't have glue failure."

Voorwood A112 and A115 shaper/sanders with Doucet CMS-24 return tables are used for shaping and sanding the outside edge. The five newer (A115) Voorwood machines have variable speed that allows them to handle different sanding applications. A Ritter edge sander is also used.

Sanding technology was one of the largest investments. "We really needed expanded sanding technology," Rossi says. "Since we don't do any prefinishing, the sanding is a critical operation." (CalDoor has never done finishing on its solid wood doors.)

There are four sanding lines in the new factory. Two Timesavers planing and sanding applications use the helical planing head along with sanding and oscillating platens. Two other Timesavers finish sanding lines are used for back or front finishing. One of these uses Fladder technology.

In addition, CalDoor has 12 Carlson Promax machines used with Ritter framing tables for assembly. A Komo VR804TT CNC router is used for French Lite doors, glass doors and routed drawer fronts.

All hands on deck 

"We have never bought a used piece of equipment in 15 years," Rossi says. "The equipment that was in the factory in Gilroy was only five years old and I sold the majority of it and bought all brand new. My commitment to investment in new technology has always been foremost. It's critical to have good state-of-the-art equipment combined with preventive maintenance programs."

CalDoor purchased about 300 machines for the new plant. Each machine is being numbered and identified in the database, and a maintenance history is being created.

"We can usually take care of a problem ourselves, which is critical to being up and on time," Rossi says. "Our new maintenance software is letting us know how much real time uptime we have. We measure those things very carefully."

The new factory also has an electronic scanner that scans employees hands as they come in the door, replacing traditional time clocks. The hand scanners and maintenance software provide information on who is and isn't at work and which machines are not running, all within minutes after the start of the shift.

"This information points out problem areas," Rossi says. "If a cell is down, you can move employees and reroute production. Real time information is critical."

Gathering this information also encourages people to be there and the people responsible for the machines to have them up and running.

"It's amazing that a factory of our size averages two or three days a week with 100 percent attendance of our 250 production employees," Rossi says.

Gilroy still running 

CalDoor continues to run its thermofoil line in the Gilroy location, and this product accounts for about 10 percent of business. Rossi says that thermofoil completes the product line and responds to the occasional request for an RTF kitchen. Doors are cut on an Anthon saw and routed on a Komo Mach 3. A Burkle vacuum press line applies the foil. CalDoor recently added a new Heian twin-table router for the RTF line.

CalDoor's offices will remain in Gilroy, where the company was started in 1988. All wood expansion will take place in the 20-acre Salinas site, and Rossi says as much as 300,000 square feet of space could be added. The next areas of expansion in the new plant will be greater milling capability and more on-site storage. (A Homag SawTech panel saw for cutting plywood door inserts was recently added.)

"Our niche is the small and medium-sized cabinetmaker. We're not worried about our business going offshore," Rossi says. "Most of our business does come from our competition. Most people have figured out whether they're going to make their own or buy their doors, drawer boxes, drawer fronts and mouldings.

"We try to do a better job of servicing the demands of the market." 

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