In the office furniture component market, speed is everything.  L&G Industrial Products created a successful niche of handling high volumes of work in a short period of time for large office furniture manufacturers.

The company's typical lead time is 14 to 19 hours depending on the day and orders can run from two to 5,000 pieces. However, this overachieving outsourcer has been able to turn around orders in less than one hour, if needed. "Our biggest strengths are speed and flexibility," says Nevin Groce, vice president, L&G Industrial Products Inc. "Our way is our customer's way and each program is different."

Competitive advantage

Technology is the backbone of everything L&G offers. "We can't offer tight turnaround times and production sequencing without e-technology," says Groce. "When we started the company in 1994, we received orders via fax and information was manually entered, which increased the chance for errors. E-technology allows us to handle a variety of part numbers in a short period of time."

The company specializes in edgebanding, machining and laying up for panel processing as well as cut-to-size particleboard, fiberglass, high-pressure laminates, veneer, wood and wood composites, production sequencing and assembly.

"Many of our customers need us because they have reached their capacity," says Groce. "In some cases they don't have the equipment they need or we can make the components faster and cheaper without the capital expense."

Some manufacturers outsource segments of their production process because they can purchase the exact part they need and they aren't paying for excess waste in their system.

Lean and mean

L&G is able to react at a moment's notice because of its electronic workflow. Orders are received electronically and are placed in a work order system that checks each purchase order for date needed, specifications, quantity, size and finish. Information is then run through L&G's optimizing software, which figures out the best way to cut an order based on when it's due. The work order system also creates an order's shipping documents and automatically updates invoices.

From there, work is segmented and placed in the production schedule and sent to the floor.

"Because we're cutting custom parts our manufacturing operation is run like an ER," says Groce. "From day to day we don't know what orders will come through the door. When we get an order, we do an analysis to determine the best course of action and assign the resources needed to complete the order. Technology is critical to getting the information through the system fast. One program may have one person one day and the next day five people depending on the work mix."

After an order is completed, it's sent to a staging area where it's inspected and parts are sequenced, if needed. The parts enter the shipping department and are packaged and weighed. Pallets then are picked up by a third-party vendor or by the customer.

Upgrading equipment, adding capabilities

To stay leaner than its customers and to enhance its capabilities, L&G invested in two  Schelling panel sawsIMA edgebander and machining center. "We have some new programs our older panel saws couldn't handle efficiently," says Groce. "If we hadn't added the new saws our direct labor would have increased and potentially lead times, which would have added costs in the supply chain for us and our customers."

One of L&G's programs requires cutting down hardboard to create a window for panel processing. L&G's two new panel saws can cut a bigger book height.

"For the saws we needed speed and accuracy," says Groce. "On Schelling panel saws, the carriage comes from underneath the material so it allows us to cut the material faster. We're gaining significantly lower cycle times, increasing capacity and reducing direct labor costs."

Groce estimates that the new saws are 15 to 20 percent faster than the company's older generation panel saws. "As a result, we've been able to go after new work and offer even more aggressive pricing," he says. "They've also improved our lead time which is a huge advantage."

L&G added an edgebander and machining center to provide a more complete component. "The goal is to offer everything from ordering raw materials, panel processing, cut to size and inventory management to putting on an edge or machining to provide a finished component, if that's what the customer needs," says Groce.

L&G's main equipment had been panel saws and a Black Bros. glue spreader and cold press, but after adding the edgebander and machining center, they are trying to figure out how to connect all the machines so they can communicate.

"Currently we use custom software but we're looking into off-the-shelf software packages too," says Groce. "The custom software route has been successful, but now it's more challenging and complicated with the additional machinery."

Technology and communication have a huge impact on L&G's competitiveness. "Our machinery is wireless, which allows us to communicate better with customers and our suppliers," says Groce. "If something goes wrong on a machine we can dial directly into Schelling and they can run diagnostic testing online. It's all about speed, and technology is helping us run faster and faster."

Riding out the storm

To combat increasing fuel and raw material costs L&G is looking to build a bigger, diverse customer base. "One of our short-term goals is to move into the mid and small furnituremakers and small cabinetmakers markets and provide components," says Groce. "Right now smaller companies get a long lead time and have to order more material than they need to make a minimum order. We can offer those markets smaller orders with a much tighter lead time."

While the market is a little soft, Groce is relieved it's not as bad as many forecasters predicted. "We do see project work starting to pick up so we may see spikes in work, which is great for revenue but sometimes not for the bottom line," says Groce. "If we don't have the proper resources it may cost us more in the end to produce the order. We're looking for steady growth instead of big spikes and the best way to get there is to build a diverse clientele so we're in a better position to ride out the storm."

See how aluminum is pressed into hardboard to create a panel. 

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