Rodgers Wade builds store fixtures, millwork andcommercial casework in a large plant, often with short turnaround times.

John Hamer, president, explained, “We have theability to review a design or concept, get the customer a quick response inquoting and then initiate production. A good deal of our work is tied toproduct launches or store openings, and needs to go out quickly.”

Hamer said that the company’s business is abouttwo-thirds retail store fixtures, with the rest architectural millwork andcommercial casework.

For example, Rogers Wade produces casework for hospitalityand education projects, plus millwork for commercial and institutional buildings,even historical restoration.

Wanted: 15,000shelves

Rodgers Wade received the 2014 Wooden Globe forCommitment to Excellence through Technology from the Woodworking MachineryIndustry Assn.

The company was recognized for its fast turnaroundon a large store fixture job, and specifically for their use of the VitapEclipse contour semi-automatic edgebander with trimming unit, which can processsmall or large panels and can apply straight, concave and convex edges.

Darren Hamner, project manager, said Rodgers Wade hadto make 15,000 retail shelf units for an apparel marketer. There were 12components for each shelf, with more than 200,000 parts, and about 75,000 ofthose curved shelf parts went through the contoured edgebanding process.

The shelves used dowel construction so they could beassembled on site by the retailer. The displays were designed as seasonal unitsthat could be rolled out to the sales floor and back. The Vitap was supplied bySNX Technologies and Maze Machinery in Denton, Texas.

“We were able to meet the requirements of the jobwith a $60,000 piece of equipment, rather than a $300,000 machining center,”Hamner said. “The contour edgeband was very cost-effective for us.”

Also, Hamner said that they avoided the potentialdelay that the introduction of more complex new equipment may have presented.

The shelf parts went from the nested-based CNCmachines to the contour edgebander. The time frame was three months, from Julyto October—the busiest months for Rodgers Wade--before retail’s Black Friday.

One challenge on the project, as the days grew longerand temperatures rose, was the need to adjust the equipment for operatingconditions. When the Texas heat intensified, the glue pot had to be monitored, anda different glue type specified.

Smallerbatches and lean

Rodgers Wade’s efficiency gains weren’t limited tothe new contour edgebander. The company has produced many enormous jobs, suchas shelving for thousands of former Blockbuster stores.

Hamner said that they streamlined processes throughoutthe plant, and have improved production flows in the 10-building operation.

“We’ve converted from massive, large batch workorders to smaller, more controllable batches to improve the flow of materialsthrough the plant, and to track specifically how well we’re doing,” he said.

“From a process standpoint, we’ve been able to takeadvantage of the ERP system and track the metrics. Our Total Quality and LeanManufacturing leader has set up some very good Key Performance Indicators(KPIs) for us to monitor. It’s not just optimizing our machine, but optimizingthe whole plant. That’s what we’ve been working on.”

The Global Shop ERP system, in use for three years,tracks every job in real time, with schedules for remaining functions.

“The biggest change is batch production,” Hamer said.“We may have previously spread a 10-store retail rollout over six months. Theold way was to turn in everything for those stores at one time. Cut all ofthis, cut all of that, and move it in large batches, which was great for thesaw, or great for the CNC, but by the time you got to assembly you had partssitting for months.

“Now what we’ve done is reduce those batch sizes acrossthe board. It is perhaps slower on the saw, but it’s much faster when you’re onassembly. You have economies of scale and you’re making up for any lack ofspeed and efficiency on the saw. You’re making that up with your ability toassemble unit by unit as they come through.”

Rodgers Wade employees have also created a scoreboardthat tracks highly visible KPIs, and sets goals and targets for improvement.

Long historyin Paris

Rodgers Wade has been in business since 1856 inParis, Texas. The company’s 70 employees work in 10 buildings, with a total ofabout 400,000 square feet of space.

The company is owned by Harrison Walker &Harper, a diversified company also based in Paris. HWH bought Rodgers Wade fromLeggett & Platt five years ago. Other HWH divisions handle site selection,construction and supply chain management.

Rodgers Wade and HWH work together on many projects,such as laboratory casework for hospitals and schools and millwork for dormsand other buildings on military bases. They also have alliances with millworkand casework companies in China and the United Kingdom.

Main mill

In addition to the Vitap Eclipse contour edgebander,the main woodworking mill includes one Holzma HPP 380 CNC beam saw and threeCNC machining centers; plus Weeke Vantage 34M nested-based, Weeke Venture 35pod-based, and Komo VR510 nested-based machines. There are two Homagedgebanders, including an Ambition 2270, an Accu-Systems HPJ dowel inserter,and Altendorf table saw.

Also in the Paris complex are finishing capabilitiesfor solid wood and veneer, and two assembly areas. A panel inventory storagearea includes an Advantage Plus laminating machine for smaller quantities ifneeded. Solid surface countertops can be fabricated in another dedicated area. Andanother area handles assembly and laminating by hand.

Rodgers Wade has a metal shop, and also outsources certainlonger lead metal components from China for retail displays.

A retail prototype display area shows completedpieces. The customer can preview and approve assembled and finished displays.One project recently underway was a large product wall, composed of complexangles and backwards sloping surfaces, 15 feet high and 45 feet wide withlaminates, metals, acrylic and LED lighting—headed to a new store opening inNew York for a sports equipment customer.

What’s next? “From a lean perspective, it’s acontinuous journey,” Hamer said. “There’s never an end to improving yourprocesses. That is ongoing for us, today, tomorrow and for the foreseeablefuture.”

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.