Technology drives company's growth

When  Indiana Dimension Inc. expanded and diversified its operations, it also increased its technology investment. The Logansport, Ind., components manufacturer combined a 75,000-square-foot addition with the latest machinery to elevate the quality and extend the range of its products.

"We have more technology here than you'll see just about anyplace else," says Roy Rentschler, president.

Roy traveled the United States in search of the best equipment. He visited plants to see operating machinery and met with suppliers.

"I wanted to do everything I could to eliminate hand labor," he says. "I wanted the machinery to do the job. That's really where I made my decisions."

The result is a 200,000-square-foot operation that produces high-quality cabinet doors, drawer components, furniture components and mouldings, in species ranging from alder to walnut, for large and small kitchen cabinet, RV and furniture manufacturers.

Sister companies

IDI started in 1990 as a sister company to  Cole Hardwood Inc., with Milton Cole as CEO of both companies and Roy Rentschler as IDI president. Located on adjacent property, Cole Hardwood is a concentration yard that brings in green lumber, kiln dries it, grades it and sells it.

"The idea was for IDI to process lumber further into component parts," says Jeremy Rentschler, Roy's son and IDI's sales manager.

IDI uses AutoCAD software for design work and  Microvellum software for production management. Every cabinet door order starts as rough lumber that goes through the rough mill system, after which cut parts are sent to the moulding department for stile and rail processing, or to the panel department for door panel processing.

Key equipment includes Newman Model S382 planers, Mereen Johnson Model 431-DC gang rip saws, Barr-Mullin Compu-Rip systems and The Brute saws in the rough mill; Weinig moulders and Friulmac dual-feed machines in the moulding department; and Cameron Automation Optimatch systems, James L. Taylor hydraulic clamp carriers and Mayer Model PS 9Z panel saw in the panel processing department.

"Eventually, all those components will get linked together in our new facility, where they'll be assembled into doors," Jeremy says.

The new operation

When the components reach the new operation, they're processed on several machines, based on customer requirements. For tenoning, the components go the Voorwood Model A1515 CNC arch shaper/sander or Progressive Model 1 P5 tenoners.

"(The Voorwood) allows us to arch all our raised panels, and at the same time you can run straight sides on it," Jeremy says.

"We can enter a customer's profile in there and select it on the screen. Then the machine will automatically set itself up to change tooling and sanding heads, and you're ready to go."

The door department features Friulmac Contourmat machines, JLT Door Pro clamps and a Balestrini mitered door mortise-and-tenon machine.

"(The Balestrini) is all hopper fed and gives you extremely good results day in and day out," Jeremy says. Capacity is 600 doors per shift.

Three  Busellato Jetmaster CNC routers currently are used for making RV accessory items, such as wine glass racks.

"At the same time, we can use them for whatever our wildest dreams are," Jeremy says.

The Timesavers 5300 series sander is used for pre-sanding of panels before assembly or shipment.

IDI uses return conveyors on most machines, which means only one operator is needed.

"Our whole goal here at IDI is to produce high-quality cabinet doors and not use a lot of labor to do it," Jeremy says.

Another plus is diamond tooling. "It makes assembly very easy for our customers and it's consistent."

After assembly, the cabinet doors move to the Timesavers sanding line, which consists of three machines connected by conveyors and controlled by a single operator. The first is a four-head sander; the second a single-belt sander with three orbital heads behind it; the third is a brush sander.

Why three machines? "Quality," says Jeremy.

"This is a scratch-free finish. It's like glass."

While some shops require hand sanding after machine sanding, that's not the case at IDI.

"With proper tooling in place, with the proper operator and proper machine, we feel those things aren't necessary," he says.

Two Giardina water-based finishing lines are the final step before shipping. The first is the stain line, connected by conveyors and run by a single operator.

The product, to be finished, travels twice, once for each side, through a Loewer DiscMaster sander, a Giardina RotoTech 401 stain booth and a Giardina GP Jet Plus drying tunnel.

The second part is the UV sealer/topcoat finishing line. The parts travel four times once for each side on the sealer and the topcoat through a Loewer DiscMaster sander, then through Giardina's DualTech 605 spray booth, MOS Plus microwave oven system, Jet Plus drying tunnel and Albatros UV cold light.

In both cases, a Kremlin system pumps Sherwin Williams water-based finish to the spray booth. Steam from a boiler fired by the plant's wood waste is used in the drying tunnel of both finishing lines.

This machinery has been running for less than a year, and the results are favorable. "We're producing high-quality cabinet doors, and we picked up some new cabinet door accounts," Jeremy says.

Product that turns heads

"We're seeing first results that are actually turning heads," Roy says.

He recently brought sample cabinet doors that had been machined and finished at  IDI to a customer's plant. The customer said his company had been trying to get that same look for three years, but without success.

"We're excited," Roy says.

"We know that as we go through more and more of the learning curves, working with the right tooling people and working hard with these machinery people, we have the right equipment in place," he says.

Roy credits machine suppliers with IDI's success. "I truly believe that none of this would be possible short of them really being excited about wanting to make something good happen," he says.

He and Jeremy also acknowledge the contributions of IDI's 50 employees. Most have been with the company for 10 or more years.

"My thinking is if you're going to create jobs, make them good jobs," Roy says.

IDI has requirements of employees and new hires that go beyond experience.

"It's finding someone who is self-motivated, wants to work and is trainable," Jeremy says.

The future

"Long-term, we want to offer totally green, solid wood, American-made furniture," Jeremy says.

"We're going to focus on cabinet doors first and then we'll go from there," he adds.

"Ideally, the goal will be for doing both."

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About the author

George Lausch was a staff writer and editor for FDM and CabinetMaker magazines. He wrote feature and news stories for the magazines.