Mock Woodworking has steadily changed and expanded in its 57 years of business. The Zanesville, Ohio, company has gone from residential to commercial cabinets, then into architectural millwork and store fixtures.
Today, the company’s flexibility has led it to being able to deal with market fluctuations. The company also invested in new technologies in the 1980s and 1990s to help it handle higher volume repetitive manufacturing, including health care furniture and larger store fixture orders.
Company president Doug Mock says that the company has also changed in relation to its local market. In the past, much of the business came from tenant finish work for banks, insurance companies and other office work in nearby Columbus and other parts of Ohio. In 2010, half of work was outside of Ohio, and the percentage will be higher in 2011.
“Our circle has gotten bigger, it had to,” he said. “We have found it more challenging to manage architectural woodwork projects that are farther from our facilities. Also, the relationships are not yet as strong as our existing markets."
Business had increased in every year from 2006 to 2009. After the downturn started, Mock said the company had a large backlog, so they were in pretty good shape until end of 2009. The low point in terms of business was 2010.
In 2011, work for larger retailers kept the company busy. “This year, business has improved, mostly due to large contracts with some new, well-known retail fixture customers,” Mock says.
The company takes responsibility for the full job, but outsources installation. They do budgeting, create samples, estimating, design assistance, engineering, project management, fabrication and finish.
“We’re focused more on solid wood than plastic laminate,” Mock says. “We have history and expertise in solid wood and veneer, and our finish is a big part of the product.”
Millwork and fixtures
Mock’s customer list is long and includes a wide variety of colleges and universities, churches, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, libraries, hospitals and museums.
All store fixtures and architectural millwork are manufactured in Zanesville. Health care, universities and store fixtures have been the strongest markets recently. Larger projects from several large high-profile store fixture customers have been especially important. This work is typically for companies that are based in this region and ship nationally and internationally. Mock has also worked on various university and health care projects in Ohio and surrounding states.
Doug’s father, Wilbur, started the company in Zanesville in 1954 making kitchen and bath cabinets. After working summers at the company, Doug worked in corporate management before coming back to Mock Woodworking in 1983. The company has grown in stages and now occupies a 46,000 square foot U-shaped operation, including a 5,500 square foot warehouse.
“Our culture is high quality. My father created the culture of high-quality work. That continues today,” he says.
“We started seeing some opportunities for repetitive manufacturing, that’s where things like health care furniture and store fixtures came into play. Our mix since the mid-1980s has been 40-60 either way (store fixtures-architectural millwork).” In 2010 that mix was weighted toward millwork, in 2011 it was store fixtures accounting for the larger share.
Mock Woodworking has 38 employees. The average employee has been at the company 18 years, even though four people retired recently, one of whom started in 1966. Mock says that there are few programs in high schools related to what they do, but some of the drafting talent has come from local technical schools.
Four project managers use AutoCAD. For solid wood processing a six-head Weinig moulder is used. The company makes its own tooling here, storing 1,200 profiles in an interesting roll-out arrangement. Also here is a Butfering widebelt sander, Taylor clamp carrier, and Delta Unisaws.
The panel processing area includes a Holzma panel saw, Routech Record 210AL 5 x 12 CNC router with vacuum table, Morbidelli Author 4305 4 x 10 pod and rail machining center and an IDM Idimatic edgebander. A small assembly area in the back of the shop makes repeatable fixtures. The company is also looking at adding a press to do veneer layup in house.
“The pod and rail is used for cabinet components. The vacuum table is used for nested work, radius work and miter-fold. Both have horizontal and vertical routing, drilling, cutting and other machining capability,” Mock says.
The main assembly area is the largest and handles the most custom work. It includes 10 benches where experienced master cabinetmakers take cut pieces from solid wood and panel processing and do everything else to finish the job, including assembly and hardware installation. One person may work on a single job until it is completed.
Mock Woodworking’s finishing operation can do any kind of paint or finish, which can be a selling point. They can match stains and create special finishes. Conversion varnish is main finish, while the company continues to experiment with water-based finishes. Automating the finishing process is an area the company is researching.
Equipment upgrades have allowed improvements in efficiency and speed. “We’re seeing less dependency on the bench master cabinetmaker doing everything,” Mock says. “Years ago, they would get a pile of components and do most of the machining. The whole ratio between the assembly area and the mill area is changing. We use CNC machining to do as much of the work as possible before moving it on to the cabinetmakers.”
Mock credits the company’s involvement in the Architectural Woodwork Institute with helping it deal with issues.
“We have learned about estimating, project management and quality standards and much more from AWI over the years,” he says. “Networking in AWI led to a best practices group that acts as a sounding board on just about any issue that comes up.”
Mock says the company is market-driven, but is also sensitive to pricing and bidding issues.
“Our ratio of sales to bids is down quite a bit, especially on architectural millwork,” he says. “On commercial construction, as opposed to store fixtures, we do some negotiated work. The pure bid work (is down). (We have) no intention to take that work and have said no to some jobs.”
“There are a lot of woodworkers that are good craftsmen but aren’t as good at marketing. One of the companies Mock worked for before returning to woodworking was very market-driven
“It was part of the culture. It’s true for any business. Maybe woodworking companies need to focus on it more.”
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