For Accu-Trim Custom Woodworking Inc. in Cooleemee, N.C., the combination of Flexi-Cam CNC technology with Cabinet Vision software has enabled it to do more work with fewer people, says co-owner Chuck Hoose. "Previously we had nine people doing the work. Now we're down to four or five people doing more work in the same amount of time. The CNC equipment has not only increased precision, but also our productivity because we're able to do more with less."
Incorporated in 1990, Accutrim's Chuck Hoose and his brother Gerald were partners in getting their business started. As the business grew over the years, Chuck realized he had to find a way to do things just a little bit faster. To automate the drawing process the shop went from AutoCAD to Cabinet Vision software, knowing that someday it would integrate the drawing part of Cabinet Vision with the CNC part of the work.
Old and new have come together, with great results. The shop creates custom cabinets and interior trim using CNC technology, in a local historic building, which at one time housed a department store and later a sewing factory, as the backdrop.
Nesting, improved accuracy
Accu-Trim has become increasingly reliant on the CNC router and the software program to do nesting on projects they're working on.
A job may have 15-20 boxes that need to be made. "What nesting does is look at all the pieces and parts, place them on the sheet you've designated for it to use and then cuts them out at various places on that sheet. Really what it does is utilize and optimize all of the material," says Chuck. "With the CNC you are actually doing all the process at one time not only cutting the parts, but drilling the holes, and sliding together two pieces with a joint. All the other techniques you used to do on five separate machines are now all done on one machine."
Accu-Trim's Flexi-Cam CNC is set with a 12-bit tool changer so it will select from 12 different tools to do the process it is being asked to do.
Another advantage of the CNC equipment is its accuracy. "It used to be when you were within an eighth or sixteenth of an inch when comparing one completed cabinet to another, you were pretty close," says Chuck. "But with CNC equipment now we're finding we're dealing with a thousandths of an inch in our cabinet work. We've discovered that with our tooling, machinery and sanders, the work has become much more exacting and demanding of accuracy."
Residential and commercial work
"Our business has slowly grown to the point where now people realize that we're able to build virtually whatever they want," adds Chuck. The brothers recently worked on a home located on the seventh hole of a nationally famous North Carolina golf course that included a facade in the building housing the owners' indoor swimming pool to match that of Yankee Stadium. Accu-Trim was able to replicate the facade, which includes columns and arches, into the room. It had to be constructed out of PVC material to endure the high humidity in such an environment.
"These are the things I look for when we take on a job," adds Chuck. "Part of us will always be looking for challenges which may seem insurmountable to others. The artistic side of me wants challenges and to know that when someone calls me I can be there for them. That said, we still keep an eye on having quick turnaround times."
Chuck and Gerald have always worked together, each working on different roles in the business. When they first started out, they worked on custom moulding and as time went by Chuck realized a time would come when he got older, and wouldn't be able to do it all. They had a meeting and agreed the time had come to diversify the business.
Over the years more than 90 percent of their business has been residential. "Everything we've done and do is customized to the extreme," adds Chuck. They just finished building a study made of solid walnut - ceiling, walls and beams all constructed and finished in their shop. They took it apart and reassembled it up in Winston-Salem for the North Carolina Parade of Homes.
"Our commercial end is starting to grow, though there remain aspects of that side of things which I've had to get used to, such as the fact that it can be repetitive. On the other hand it is good in that it has a fast turnaround time."
Cash flow challenges
Because money flow is always a challenge for small businesses such as cabinetmakers, being conscious of every dollar is a must for the Hooses. They also try to keep their contracts as detailed as possible to avoid any problems. "But, we try not to be so rigid that no one can understand the contract. We work things so that by the time a project has reached the end, the remaining money to be collected is our profit so if we're out anything, that's the part that we're out.
"But again, cash flow will always be an issue in this business, and I've been in this going on 20 years now. You always have to be aware of the fact that if you have more money going out than coming in you have a problem. Be mindful when you have lots of materials in the shop, lots of jobs being worked on at once, as this could easily present problems at some point. There must be some cabinet installing going on out there too."
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.