Cut-To-Size’s plan is simple: find a niche and provide a quality product. In many cases, companies did this panel processing work themselves, says Mark Karkos, president of Cut-To-Size Technology, Inc.

“A company in the area may have had their own manufacturing facility,” he says. “They decided it wasn’t cost effective for them to continue that operation. They came to us to take over where they left off.”

Karkos started the company 17 years ago with the purchase of a saw. CTS is located in an Addison, Ill., industrial area that has many such small job shops offering screw machine products, general machining and metal fabrication.

Two years ago, CTS’s work was 80 percent store fixtures. Today, office furniture, closet organizers, kitchen cabinets and other industries are claiming a larger share.

“For store fixture manufacturers, work tends to come in surges,” Karkos says. “They get a lot of orders and they need it right away, so they outsource a component part for a display.”

“Our target market going forward will be the office furniture industry, and we’re going to try to focus on something we can keep locally. Chicagoland is a huge market for office furniture, with many office furniture dealers here.

CTS also supplies distributors that don’t do any cutting, but offer that value-added service to their customers. If a distributor has a customer that needs melamine ripped into 12-inch wide and eight-foot long pieces with edgebanding on one edge, CTS can process that material.

“Office furniture work surfaces need laminating, cutting, edgebanding, CNC routing and contour edgebanding -- It fits all five of our processes,” Karkos says. “It’s the office furniture dealers we’re going after with this product.”

Five processes 

Generally each new job starts as a unique project. CTS often works from AutoCAD drawings or a DXF file, and converts that data into code for the CNC routers. The company’s 15 employees do all panel processing with particleboard, plywood, laminates or melamine.

CTS offers five processes in the 30,000 sq. ft. shop. First is laminating, and the company has a Black Bros. line with a 5 x 12 cold press. Karkos says that laminate feeding shelves and an indexing station were added to reduce labor.

“We have a niche in laminating,” he says. “We have one of very few cold press laminators in the Chicago area. We also do thick laminations and buildups, making 1-3/4, 2 and 4-inch thick MDF.

Many companies don’t want to do this work. “It’s a big footprint on the floor. We can generate 300 to 400 sheets a day. Most companies would have no need to create that kind of volume.”

After laminating, all material is set aside to cure for 24 hours before processing. The next process is sawing, and CTS has two Holzma 12-foot rear-lift beam saws, a HPL22 and HPL23. All programming goes through Cut Rite.

CTS also has three CNC routers, a Komo VR612, Komo VR508, and a Weeke BHC550. There is no typical job here, and CTS may process anything from one to 10,000 pieces.

“It varies from day to day,” Karkos says. “We may be doing inlaid drawer fronts today. We could go from there to making closet organizer parts, filler panels for a stainless steel countertop, or hardboard parts for folding chairs.”

The Addison plant has two straight-line edgebanders, a Homag SC9300 and Homag Optimat KAL 310. The Optimat has a 3mm corner rounder, premilling station and is capable of doing up to ¾-inch solid lumber edges.

In contour edgebanding, the Homag BAK can handle up to 3mm thick edges, a capability few companies have.

“One of our niches is contour edgebanding,” Karkos says. “We’re one of the only companies in the area that has a CNC contour edgebander. There’s really no other way to make a headboard other than on a CNC machine. To make it by hand is very labor intensive.”

Looking ahead 

Cut-To-Size is looking at lean manufacturing while emphasizing preventive maintenance and time controls on jobs so employees are more aware of what they’re doing.

“We have a policy that the first-off part is measured for every dimension,” Karkos says. “We don’t know what the end use is going to be, so we don’t allow chipping or holes that have blowout.”

Most challenges are related to materials. Particleboard from some mills is more likely to chip. Warping is another common problem, especially on ¼-inch panels. CTS added a Scanhugger wastewood grinder and trailer loading system on their dust collector.

For the future, Karkos sees potential in assembled and finished cabinets, especially commercial cabinets and institutional cabinets.

The tough economy has brought out competition with low bids. “For the most part we try to stick with our prices, because we have an excellent reputation for quality,” Karkos says. “That’s how I build the business. I don’t want to jeopardize quality to undercut someone.”

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