The Springfield Hutterite Colony valuestradition, but its cabinet business embraces technology. 

Both modern farming equipment and the latestwoodworking technology are evident in the community. “We’re not afraid to spendmoney on technology,” Pauly Kleinsasser, general manager of SpringfieldWoodworking, said.

The colony wants to be as self-sufficient aspossible, and look for solutions to problems internally. “When we came toAmerica we were not farmers, we were craftsmen and tradespeople,” Kleinsassersaid.

More than 110 people live in the ruralcommunity, located east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It also has a large-scale chickenoperation, a hog farm, and raises soybeans, wheat, canola and barley on 6,000acres.

Farming is the primary focus, but this andother colonies are getting into manufacturing to support the community. Concretewalls for a new building here were made by another Hutterite community thatspecializes in that product.

Younger colony members are rotated intodifferent jobs, and may have experience in the blacksmith shop, mechanic shop,hog barn – or the cabinet shop. “When I was growing up, every winter I wasassigned to a different job,” Kleinsasser said. “Wherever you are, you learnhow to solve problems. You know a little about everything.”

(There are 130 Hutterite colonies inManitoba, with others in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in the northern Great Plainsstates in the United States. See www.hutterites.org for more history.)

Cabinet products

The wood operation here started in 1996 inhand-made furniture, then moved into cabinets, which were the complete focus by2002.

“We started out business with custom bedroomfurniture, and we thought this will always be a hobby shop, but it grew into amassive business,” Kleinsasser said. “Quality, honesty, and having a sense ofhumor made this business grow into our livelihood.”

All Springfield cabinets have a sturdystructure and 5/8-inch backs. Drawers have 5/8-inch bottoms. “We don’t use thatto upsell. The customer doesn’t even know we have it,” Kleinsasser said. “Everykitchen is drawn and designed as what the designer and customer wants. Optionsare wide open.”

Kleinsasser said that 80 percent of cabinetsare maple, with oak, walnut, cherry, hickory, bamboo, and engineered product(Echowood) also used. The customer can spec other materials.

Cabinet manufacturing

Springfield has 60 employees working in twoconnected buildings with 70,000 square feet of space. One building wascompleted in April 2013. Kleinsasser said that the right people are key to acompany’s success, and many of the employees have been here for 10 years ormore. Twenty-five community members work in the shop. Other employees are hiredfrom outside the colony, something Hutterite communities don’t normally do, butthis business has grown fast they had to hire people, Kleinsasser said.

The shop produces 100 to 150 cabinets perday. Two Anderson CNC routers, (one a Stratos 3713) cut, drill and optimize allparts. Each router can cut 70 sheets per shift and generally runs one shift.Some machines start earlier than the scheduled shift.

Springfield also does hand sanding, and has aTimesavers sander, Unique shaper/sander with Doucet return conveyor, SCM T130shaper and JLT Clamps clamp carrier.

In another area there is a Mereen-Johnsonripsaw, two Martin sliding table saws, and one Altendorf table saw. A TigerStopoptimizing saw with defecting system was also added recently.

The company makes all of their own five-piecedoors here. Thermofoil doors are outsourced. “When we make our wood doors webuy the lumber 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 inches wide,” Kleinsasser said. “When we cut forour doors, we get both stiles and rails from same pieces of board for the samedoor.”

An IMA Advantage 400 edgebander with Doucetreturn table does all edgebanding, using 3 mil or solid wood edgeband.

Springfield also has a Gannomat Index 130dowel inserter, which uses a barcode system to select the drilling pattern. ThreeGannomat Concept 70 ECO case clamps are used in the assembly area.

Kleinsasser was part of an IMA tech tourseveral years ago prior to the Ligna show in Hanover. And he has also visitedplants and trade shows in China. He also goes to IWF and has been to AWFS. Thetech tour also gave him a chance to meet other cabinet manufacturers and talkabout how they do business and solve problems.

UV finishing line

The new Cefla line was up and running inApril 2013 when the new building was opened. Springfield offers a durablewater-based UV finish. The line applies stain, sealer and then the UV finish.

The first machine in the line is a sander.Then a cleaner with ostrich feathers brushes clean the doors. After brushing thepieces pass through a heating machine that preheats the material, withdifferent temperatures for maple, oak and hickory to make the species of woodthe best temperature to accept the finish. Then it passes through clean sprayto get sprayed, then into a six-tray stackable oven.

From the oven it goes into the UV machine.One second of that light is like two weeks of sunlight, and the wood piecescome out instantly cured. The door or piece can be taken to the assembly tableright away.

“Before we had this line, we had a problemspraying in July and August when it is so humid here that the spray wouldbubble,” Kleinsasser said. “There were days we couldn’t do anything. Now, itdoesn’t matter.”  Coatings are allChemcraft material. The UV finish has provided a harder finish with fewersurface scratches.

Springfield also does a small amount offinishing by hand in a separate spray booth for unusual colors or smallquantities.

A large dust collector in the finishing areatakes dust out, filters air and brings back recycled air. It gets cold here inthe winter, 40 or 50F below zero, so they don’t want to dump heat outside. Theyinsulate pipes so air comes back not too cold. (A separate dust collectorhandles the rest of the plant.)

Process improvement

Many customers come from word-of-mouthreferrals and include contractors, homebuilders, renovators and a few dealers.A retail showroom in nearby Winnipeg has been open for several years.

Most customers are in the Winnipeg area, butthe company also sells cabinets in Kenora, Ontario, and does a lot of summercottage work in that vacation area.

In the plant, an outside consultant comes inperiodically, walks the shop and looks for areas to improve. Kleinsasser hasalso set up 18 cameras around the building, watching and analyzing differentoperations.

“We’re always trying to improve and makecustomer service better,” he said. “In a Hutterite colony you’re assigned to ajob, and I take care of this operation.

“(We are) always sourcing better machines. Wego to most machine and hardware shows.” Now, the company is looking at newwidebelt sander technology from Europe and they plan to add a moulder.

“Growing pains will always be (a difficulty),the biggest challenge is we are (already) outgrowing our plant size.”

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