In a decade where similar businesses have stagnated, downsized or declared bankruptcy, Adams Bros. Cabinetry Inc. has quadrupled sales and set the groundwork for continued growth.

The Punta Gorda, Fla., company produces commercial architectural woodwork, with a specialty in casegoods, for the education, financial, government, healthcare and religious markets. It employs 102 people in a main facility and a small solid surface shop that total 30,000 square feet.

Six improvements

Since 2000, Adams Bros. Cabinetry has added just 1,000 square feet to its main building while increasing sales from $4 million to almost $16 million. So what accounts for the growth? The company has made the following six major changes that have resulted in increased efficiency, streamlined production and surging sales.

1. Just-in-time supply

Adams Bros. used to have tens of thousands of dollars tied up in material inventory. Now it uses a just-in-time approach where Chemclad Corp., a board supplier in Auburndale, Fla., makes daily deliveries.

"Everything that comes in is bought for a job, and it moves," says Ethan Adams, vice president and chief operating officer.

Product delivered in the morning usually is cut that afternoon or the next day. "Our inventory turns are amazing," Ethan says.

"That's been a great thing for cash flow."

He describes Chemclad as a custom layup house.

"They do such a better job than anybody we've ever worked with before, and really provide a product for us that you just can't get from anywhere else," Ethan says.

"We wouldn't be able to do what we do without them."

2. Improved manufacturing flow

The gradual addition of machinery had disrupted the manufacturing flow at Adams Bros. Cabinetry.

"(We) had pieces that were crisscrossing throughout the shop floor, causing damage, causing lost products, causing way too much traffic," Ethan says.

Adams Bros. Cabinetry began working with Stiles Machinery, its equipment supplier, to develop a new shop layout.

"It became pretty apparent that if we bit the bullet and paid to have the machinery moved, we'd be getting that money back very quickly," Ethan says.

The two-phase move resulted in a sequential, S-shaped flow that included the use of Q-System roller conveyors for material handling.

Flow improvements have been measurable and dramatic.

"The product travels about a quarter of the distance that it did when we originally started looking into this," Ethan says.

"It's allowed us to produce so much more product in the same amount of time, with the same amount of people. It's increased our sales and our bottom line tremendously."

3. New equipment/machinery

Adams Bros. Cabinetry added to its existing machinery/equipment, which included a Holzma HPP 82 panel saw, a Weeke BHC 550 CNC machining center and a Homag KAL 310 edgebander.

"We were looking to increase our capacity in running cabinet parts," says Jonathan Adams, systems administrator. The company also wanted to expedite custom work.

The first acquisition was a Holzma HPP 380 panel saw, which features a power clamp and a speed package. The power clamp enables the operator to crosscut pieces that are different lengths. For example, if there are three pieces to be cut, the clamp would move each piece individually to align the cross cut.

"The saw still makes one pass, but you get three different lengths of pieces," says Jonathan.

"It's a huge time-saver because the productivity of the saw is greatly increased by using this power clamp feature." With the speed package, the machine operates much faster than the older generation machine, he says.

Second is a Weeke BHX 500 machining center, which processes two identical panels at the same time. "It takes the two panels and sandwiches them together. It has a drilling block on the top and on the bottom," Jonathan says. "You're basically doubling your capacity on that particular work center. It operates faster, it drills faster and it's running two panels simultaneously," he says.

The Weeke produces parts so quickly that the company has eliminated its door department. "All of our doors are routed and machined on that machine, so that freed up a large space that's allowing us to do laminating at the end of the production line," Ethan says.

Third is a Homag Vantage 12L nested-based router. It is used to run custom pieces, such as a radius reception desk, and solid surface work. "We can put a full 5 x 12 (sheet) in there," Jonathan says. "It's basically a huge router; it basically runs all of our custom work very quickly."

Fourth is finishing equipment for stain or paint: a Cefla Brushtech sander with six sanding heads and a Cefla Flexispray spray machine with six guns.

4. Fresh expertise

Last December Adams Bros. Cabinetry hired David Miller as plant manager. Miller had worked at a large manufacturing facility for about 25 years, and he's up to speed on lean manufacturing, just-in-time ordering, the Theory of Constraints, incentive programs and increasing plant productivity.

"He's really provided a lot of information for us, a lot of ideas," Ethan says.

5. E-Template digital measuring system

Adams Bros. Cabinetry purchased the E-Template digital measuring system so that employees wouldn't have to go into the field and manually template a soffit, for example, using cardboard or plywood. The company does all its engineering work in AutoCAD and exports that to WoodWOP, which directs the CNC cutting.

"When we would go out and template something the old-fashioned way . . . we had difficulty transporting that information back into the computer to write all the programs we need to cut out all the parts and pieces," Jonathan says.

E-Template allows the company to send one employee to a job site. He places markers, which represent points in space, all around whatever he wants to capture, then takes photographs.

"We'll process the pictures and we've got an exact replica in electronic form in AutoCAD," Jonathan says.

"We can start to generate all of our drawings and make of all of our CNC programs off of that. We know the information is true, it's accurate, it's whatever is actually out in the field," he says. "It's a great time-saver for us."

6. Trakware/Xora software

Adams Bros. Cabinetry has started using Trakware manufacturing and resource planning software, which consists of estimating and inventory modules, as well as a full labor tracking system.

Once an estimate is converted to a project, work orders are generated for that project. On the shop floor there are computers with touch screens that all the shop employees clock into.

"It tracks all of our direct labor costs and all our material usages for the project. The information from the estimate follows the project all the way through. Basically, this allows us to have real-time job costing," Jonathan says.

"The ultimate goal of Trakware is to have a job costing system in place to tell us how we're doing on our projects," he says.

"We can then use that information to help us estimate better in the future."

Adams Bros. also uses Xora software, which runs on a Nextel Java-enabled cell phone. It allows the field crew of installers to clock in and out for payroll and time allocation.

"With their cell phone, they're able to record all of their time remotely, and then we're able to, with one click of a button, retrieve that data and pull it right into Trakware for all of our job costing information," Jonathan says.

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