Five-year-old  Innovative Design Industries  recently moved into a new 26,000-square-foot facility in Greeneville, Tenn. From the old to the new facility, the biggest difference was the amount of dust in the air, says Joseph Brown, vice president of IDI. "When we were at our other facility, dust was just massive."

According to Brown, proper dust collection has impacted productivity, employee job satisfaction and the overall impression customers get when they visit the plant. "The key player at this facility is DISA, with the new dust collection system," he says.

Brown met with DISA at IWF2002 in Atlanta and explained the company's needs. "They showed us they would put in a system that would maintain our needs. I said, 'I'll believe it when I see it.'"

Now, says Brown, "I would say our recovery of dust is in excess of 95 percent. There's hardly any dust that comes off the floor."

IDI uses MDF in its products, and the dust is very fine, Brown says. "With the particle size being so small, it's just like baby powder. It's so hard to capture, but with the correct tooling and the dust collection system DISA put in, it's phenomenal."

DISA installed a 35,000 cfm system that's an eight-partition unit equipped with Flamex spark detection system to prevent fires. "The plant is a totally clean facility," says Brown. "What dust accumulates at the end of the day can be picked up with a scoop."

Because of the dust collection system, cleanup time for IDI has been reduced from 45 minutes per employee per shift to 15 minutes per employee per shift. With eight employees on the floor, that adds four additional hours of manufacturing time to IDI's daily production.

"The system has been one of the biggest personnel savers," says Brown. "When you're working in an environment that's more of a manufacturing environment than it is a dust hall, it's unbelievable."

IDI empties a 12-yard container of dust twice per month. "Our waste factor is so small because in production, we're probably utilizing 75 to 80 percent of the board. If it's anything less than that, we re-nest the parts," says Brown.

The biggest intangible benefit of a clean facility is the overall impression it makes on customers and potential customers, says Brown. People visiting the plant are impressed by two things: the cleanliness of the plant and the quality product IDI produces.

The product

IDI produces a wide variety of product and is comfortable working with a wide variety of materials, says Brown. "We do kitchen cabinet doors, RTA furniture and consumer electronic parts. Today we're making closures for pet carriers, which are sliding doors. We work with composites, plastics, MDF, particleboard and solid wood."

Some of IDI's customers include Rubbermaid, RTA manufacturer Iceburg Enterprises, major consumer electronics companies and Cana Corp. Product is shipped from coast to coast.

A large portion of IDI's product is MDF thermofoil kitchen cabinet doors. The company owns four Shoda CNC routers and one Komo router. IDI buys MDF with high-pressure melamine backing from Georgia
Pacific. The doors are routed from the MDF, sent to a Quick Wood sander and thermofoiled with rigid or semi-rigid vinyls on one of two Italpresse membrane presses.

IDI gets its rigid and semi-rigid vinyls from  Omnova Solutions . Before using the vinyl, IDI sends it to a company called Finish Tech in Pennsylvania where Bemis glue is applied to the back of the vinyl. Using vinyls with preapplied glue cuts out two to three people in the operation, says Brown.

"We press parts according to what color [vinyl] the order requires," says Brown. "Everything we make today ships today. We don't carry inventory." Normal lead time is three to five days from the time product is ordered to the time it's shipped.

Little overhead

"It's always been our focus to have as little overhead as possible and to be as automated as possible. We try to move our equipment every three or four years because technology becomes more and more a factor. We try to be on the cutting edge of technology," says Brown.

One new product IDI has introduced are custom conference tables. "We take the customer's logo and we rout that logo onto a conference table," says Brown. IDI uses MDF for the table, which is thermofoiled and topped with glass.

In addition to producing customers' orders, IDI also sells its research and development capabilities. "Whenever we get a project in house, it's usually 48 hours by the time we have a sample back. From concept to production, it's 48 hours," says Brown.

Meeting this deadline causes some sleepless nights in front of the computer, says Brown, but when a customer comes to him with a concept for a product, he or she usually needs it fast. There are a few instances where the deadline simply can't be met, but IDI tries hard to stick to its 48-hour turnaround time.

The future

This fall, Brown has plans to install a powder coating line for MDF. The facility is ready for the machines, he says. "I'm just waiting for the economy to improve." Brown says this will make IDI one of the first companies in the southeastern United States to offer powder coating on wood.

With the addition of the powder coating line, Brown also plans to double the size of his 26,000-square-foot plant. He also hopes to double sales and almost quadruple the number of employees. 

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