Cardell Cabinetry is changing its focus from builders to designers, with the goal of building a kitchen at a time.

"This company changes fast to meet demand, and it's very responsive," says Tom Moodie, director of manufacturing. Moodie adds that Cardell should be classified as more than semicustom. "If the customer wants an unusual cabinet, we'll build it," he says.

"We are focusing on moving from a builder mentality to the dealer business," he says. "That will get us into the whole new world of kitchen at a time."

Cardell is an integrated cabinet manufacturer, starting with dimension lumber and ending with a finished cabinet. Orders come in daily, are broken down into routings and cutlists, and two weeks later the cabinets are built and loaded into trucks.

"We want to make what the market demands," Moodie says. "Right now, there's more demand for a glazed finish, so we just changed our entire standard overlay product line so we can glaze a standard overlay product."

Cardell's primary operation in San Antonio includes a 450,000 square foot main building and more than one million square feet of space overall, including the rough mill, flat mill, (panel processing), laminating, door assembly, finishing, cabinet assembly and a separate drawer box operation named Timko, after the San Antonio street on which it's located. A separate plant in El Campo, Texas, makes lower-end products.

Due to the housing slowdown, Cardell is down to one shift, which produces about 4,000 cabinets a day. There are 1,400 total employees, including 1,100 in manufacturing.

Flat mill

Cardell's biggest recent addition is the Holzma HFL 33 angular saw system. It has over two times the capacity of Cardell's rear load saws, uses less space and less manpower, and has a built-in waste management system and off stacking system that is ergonomic and production oriented.

Brian Kosa, director of panel processing and door assembly, says that everything in the flat mill starts with incoming plywood or raw particleboard, much of which is laminated on a Harlan double-side line, or a Monco machine for thin material. Laminated pieces then go to panel processing, where they are cut to size. In addition to the angular saw, there are three HPL 33 Holzma saws.

"All of the heavy mill or Kanban products go through one of our two Celaschi double end tenors, one of which is dedicated to wall end panels, which also applies edgebanding, and the other to base, sink base and vanity end panels," Kosa says. "All products requiring shelf boring holes will go through our Weeke BST 500. Five Homag machines complete all of our edgebanding; we also have a Homag NFL -21 double-end used for machining some of our drawer parts."

In the custom cutting department, lower volume cycle products are done a single piece at a time by order. Laminated or plywood parts are cut daily, including special depth and per drawing cabinets, matching interior, bookcases and all other custom and specialty items. Custom cutting includes one Holzma HPP 350, an HPL 11 and seven Altendorf F45 sliding table saws.

Four of the five Weekes were designed and built to a Cardell's configurations and are dedicated to custom cut components, and one is dedicated to boring holes for a plug-in drawer guide system. One of the SE-9300 edgebanders is dedicated to custom cutting department. Before shipping all custom cut plywood product is run through the Butfering widebelt polishing sander so it is ready for paint.

New HFL 33 saw

In an eight-hour shift the new HFL 33 angular panel saw can cut nearly 2,700 sheets depending on material thickness and the cut pattern, matching the output of about two-and-a-half rear-load saws. In addition, Cardell runs the saw at 60 meters a minute, compared to 35 to 40 meters a minute on our rear-load saws.

Cardell also has the capability of loading six bunks of material or equivalent to 480 sheets of one-half inch material on the saw due to an extended roller line loading area.

One bunk of 80 sheets has a cycle time of about 12 minutes through the machine. Kosa says that the saw has double-saw carriages for speed, strip accumulator, automatic waste removal system, automated destacking systems, automatic cull board sheet removal and a thin board hold-back device to give the ability to cut 1/8 and ¼ inch material.

The double saw carriage has two different kerf blades, Kosa says. The scoring blade, the first main blade, has a thinner kerf and cuts about half of the material. The second blade has a little wider kerf and finishes off the complete cut through the book.

Six destacking stations (two of which are interlockable for large pieces) are color-coded and tell the operator where to place each product. Holzma also designed additional flip down spots on the air tables where the operator has more flexibility to maneuver and stack awkward-sized pieces. There is also a label printer for pallet identity and tracking. Cardell has four cameras for the operators to watch remote parts of the saw during operation. Kosa says they also chose to elevate the saw on reinforced concrete piers for housekeeping and better accessibility for their maintenance team, rather than digging pits.

Cardell's rough mill cuts and machines all of the solid wood components and doors, using Paul optimizing saws, a Cameron machine for color matching, and Unique equipment and a Friulmac Countourmat.

Parts from the rough mill and panel processing come together with drawer boxes and fronts, the framing department builds frames, and they all converge in prep and paint. Components are sanded and painted. Then pieces are staged by line. The main assembly area has three main assembly and one custom/special line.

Assembly is where Cardell is going to make many of its process improvements. "We want to be able to assemble every type of cabinet on one line," Moodie says. "So we are especially looking at innovation in assembly."

A custom and special area handles some 250 to 300 jobs and special requests a day, including tall cabinets and unusual sizes. Customers can also send in their older components that may have gotten worn or damaged, and Cardell will match the color and send a replacement door.

The finish area includes two hang lines and a Cefla flatline finishing line that includes stack ovens and SlipCon DiscMaster sanders, all in a U-configuration. It can finish 8,000 pieces with 12 people in an eight-hour shift.

With changing manufacturing processes and greater efficiencies, Cardell is better able to serve its new markets. "We are a transitional company," Moodie says. "We can sell a truckload or a kitchen at a time."

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