At Woodmeister Master Builders, everyone's on the same team managing details for the customer.

 

The team-oriented company offers residential construction, custom cabinetry and interiors and lifestyle management services. "This is a single-source company," says Chris Komenda, marketing manager. "We're a single source for the customer to maintain their lifestyle, whether it's a small or large project."

 

"Collaboration as a team at the beginning of the process is fundamental to the outcome of the project," says Martin Deale, marketing consultant for Woodmeister.

 

Founded by CEO Ted Goodnow in 1980 as a cabinet and millwork shop, today Woodmeister's 155 employees offer construction, renovation and remodeling, project management and engineering, stair fabrication, interior and exterior painting, even plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and electrical. The company was named Residential Cabinetmaker of the year by CabinetMaker magazine in 1996.

 

The company managed its own project, a relocation to Holden, Mass., and maintains offices in Nantucket, Mass., and Newport, R.I.

 

Woodmeister president Gary Ludden says the company has re-engineered its facility, its communications systems and finance system. "There is not much we haven't re-engineered," he says. "Our current threshold will be good for at least five years."

 

Cabinets first

Woodmeister started out doing high-end cabinetry and millwork, but responded when customers asked it to "do a little bit more."

 

"We evolved into a construction company after starting out as a cabinetmaking and millwork operation," explains Deale. "When we took on construction, we needed to integrate all the pieces, so we evolved into a master builder construction company that does the entire project."

 

Deale says that Woodmeister has the infrastructure to do things itself, but is also able to work with architects, interior designers and builders. "We recognize that we are one player on a team," he says. "We're part of the client-architect-builder-designer linear relationship."

 

Woodmeister has a preconstruction department and a certified kitchen designer on staff.

 

"Everything we do supports the client relationship: construction, cabinetmaking and millwork, and lifestyle management services."

 

This last link is structured to provide ongoing client care, including inspections, routine maintenance, caretaker services and even emergency response for flood damage.

 

"We pretty much guarantee the customer's satisfaction," Ludden says. "We work hard at understanding their needs and what they want, and putting it together in a package."

 

In one case, Goodnow and Howie Beressi, director of Lifestyle Management Services, were on their way to work on an estimate for a homeowner on a snowy February day. Instead, as Beressi recalls, the owner had suffered a serious dog bite and he took her to the hospital, stayed with her and helped get prescriptions, and took her back home hours later.

 

Ludden says most work comes from referrals or repeat business. Customers are typically affluent, and may be well-educated about construction.

 

"Our customers are a discerning type of person who wants a certain type of quality or lifestyle and can afford it," Deale says. "People who want to live in an elegant, quality environment."

 

Ludden says the company is making smaller and more detailed houses, delicate, homey, with more details rather than big empty boxes. Customers want better quality, and energy efficiency.

 

Woodmeister makes both face frame and frameless cabinets. Production manager Volker Braun says recent trends include a lot of paint grade and brushed paint to achieve a traditional feel.

 

Three into one

In October 2006, Woodmeister moved from three locations in Worcester, Mass., to its new plant in nearby Holden. The building has 70,000 square feet of plant space, with 20,000 square feet of office space and room for expansion.

 

Braun says the goal was to improve efficiencies at the new location by 30 percent.

 

"We combined an academic approach with a practical hands-on approach," he says. "We did a lot of simulation on the computer.

 

"The building was empty, and we did a full-scale layout, transferring an electronic AutoCAD layout and creating models on the floor. Employees were involved from start to end. "

 

The move itself was done in a matter of days, and only three days of downtime were required. "Everybody acted like they owned it, everyone knew what to do," Braun says. "We took pictures of every corner in the old facility, so we knew where everything went. It was all color-coded."

 

Braun says the company wanted to be flexible so it could do anything; the focus was on quick changeovers, ergonomics, short travel times and no backflow. Everything is assembled on the floor, and then reassembled on site. They modified an ERP system for their own use, and use some lean systems. Each team on the shop floor has a computer and access to everything the company does.

 

"Our processes are driven by the employees," Braun says. "Often lean manufacturing processes are driven by management. Here, there is a constant stream of employee ideas."

 

For example, scissor lifts are used on almost all tables, and employees determine which tools and supplies are at each workstation. Woodmeister implemented 120 suggestions in a year, about a 99 percent rate. "There is no idea we don't implement, if it's feasible," Braun says. "We don't over-engineer the idea."

 

He says the company uses AutoCAD 2006 and a CADCAM system developed in house called Meisterbox.

 

Within the production plant, a job comes in and work is divided among the CNC machining, solid wood, finishing, shipping and assembly teams.

 

Equipment includes a Busellato CNC machining center with labels attached for tooling, Giben panel saw, Brandt edgebander, Omga chop saws with positioning systems, Martin thickness planer, SCM shapers and planers, and SawStop table saws. Another machining center is planned.

 

Finishing was upgraded and expanded in the new location, with three booths designed by Northern Booth Technology. The building has a new dust collection system from Ventilation Control Products, and Imperial, along with Hasentek spark detection and ML System humidification system.

 

Whether in or out of the plant, teamwork is important. "This leads to a happy homeowner and a lifetime relationship," says Deale

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