Successfully adding a CNC router
May 31, 2014 | 7:00 pm CDT

Gene Adams wanted to build a shop that used the best technology available and to him that meant a CNC router.

"We hope to morph into the factory of the future' using the technology to our best advantage, and this is a strong gamble," says Adams, owner of Adams Interiors, Farmingdale, N.Y.

"Based on everything I'd read, heard and witnessed, I knew we had to do this and make this commitment, otherwise we'd be left in the dust."

The company's forte is high-end residential work. They've also done restaurants, catering halls, hospital nursing or reception stations, museums and even a Wendy's restaurant.

The company purchased a used router, both a savings and risk, according to Adams. The $60,000 purchase price was just the start. A rigger and electrician had to be hired, computer hardware and software upgraded, and the foreman, Keith Baxter, sent to Komo's factory for training. By the time everything was done, the price was more than $100,000.

"At that point there were no guarantees, no turning back," says Adams.

The value of CNC

The Komo 512 CNC router was set up on the floor of Adams Interiors in May 2007, and was up and running by August. By March 2008 Adams started to see how the router was improving accuracy and adding creativity to the mix.

The router has a tolerance of one-thousandth of an inch and a 5 x 12 foot vacuum table. Already employees have learned to do three-dimensional carvings for sign-making and have created programs to cut all of the parts, as well as pilasters.

The operating program Baxter trained with was Router Cim, which feeds off the CAD program. A technician for Komo also visited their shop to set them up. The shop is limiting the operation of the router to one man, so that one person knows that all the right tools are in the machine's carousel and is responsible for it.

Equipment not enough

Even with topnotch equipment, Adams employees were important. "You can list all the best equipment you want, but when it comes down to it, your workers should top the list," he says. "Our Komo CNC is wonderful, and of course we are still quite young in our use of that machine, which will become our most indispensable device."

Adams Interiors' building is almost 10,000 square feet and is fully air-conditioned, to make the evironment comfortable to work in. Adams feels that the capable hands of his men are what make his company work so well.

That's what woodworking was when they started: a manual task

Planning ahead

Early on, Baxter studied the building and designed a scale model of the shop. Templates of all the machines were cut from cardboard to manipulate various pieces of equipment before moving them into the shop. Adams also redid the lighting and electrical drops. Comprehensive planning has meant no equipment had to be moved in the shop since it was first set up in 2000.

"I also cannot say enough good things about Keith Baxter and how he's helped us with both our work and making sure every square foot of space is used to its fullest," adds Adams.

"He has enabled us to stay in a relatively small shop, still produce a quality product and make it so that when our Komo was moved it was simply a matter of shifting some equipment around effortlessly."

Baxter set up the shop so that raw materials enter the shop with everything moving in a lineal motion, with panel processing on the right where the CNC machines, the Martin T72A panel saw and the Ott edgebander are placed. Hardwood runs up the left hand side of the shop where the radial arm and rip saws are located, as well as planers and shapers and the Timesavers widebelt sander. Assembly is done in the center.

"It was always cut, machine, assemble, and now with the CNC router machinery it's a whole different process," says Adams.

Value of outsourcing

Adams is a firm believer that not everything must be done by the individual cabinetmaker in order to be competitive.

"If you've outsourced to the right people you can still control your quality," says Adams.

The shop does its own fabricating and installation 90 percent of the time, but outsources a fair amount of the finishing work.

"We have a great finisher, Paul Furnari, on the premises," says Adams. A tenant and sole proprietor of his finishing business, Furnari does finishing for other shops besides Adams.

"This is a fantastic arrangement I don't have to worry about the product because I trust him," says Adams.

Longevity, loyalty key

The actual product now has little to do with Adams. During the course of the last 10 years, the weight and quality of the product and production demands have shifted onto his men's shoulders, he says. Estimating on the computer and the phone all day has given him a whole new prospective.

"A lot of my employees all young guys are so dedicated to this trade that they love this work and have been with me a long time 15 or 16 years," Adams says.

Adams believes this is a service business, with a goal of meeting people's needs.

"On any job we take, it's not simply a matter of when completion will be. It is how good and just what do you want and how well it can be done. These are folks who clearly know what they want."

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About the author
Peter Hildebrandt

Peter Hildebrandt is a freelance writer with a background in writing for a wide variety of publications, including CabinetMaker and CabinetMakerFDM. He has profiled a variety of cabinet and furniture manufacturers mostly in the southeast region of the United States.