Outsourcing wood components makes good sense for furniture, cabinetry, closets and other types of manufacturers, whether large, mid-size or small. The ability to obtain quality products, consistency, as well as design expertise, are just some of the benefits realized by these companies. Savings in production time and money, by not having to invest in additional labor, inventory and equipment, are others.
Don’t just take our word for it. Read what these companies have to say.
Outsourcing brings options to the table
Slagle Wood Designs began as a business almost by accident. Kalyn and Brian Slagle founded the Dawsonville, Georgia-based custom woodworking business in February 2016 when the couple decided to build a farmhouse table for their home.
“We built the table together and had a lot of fun in the process,” said Kalyn. “It was the first time I had ever used a miter saw. We took our time and the end result was so pretty. I wasn’t sure if the color of the stain worked for our home, so we took a lot of pictures of it and put the table for sale on Craig’s List. It sold immediately for full price.”
Early on the couple faced the question of whether to make or buy various components for their growing business. “We made the decision to outsource wood components along with some of our tabletops after weighing all the pros and cons,” said Kalyn.
“Available space in our shop was one consideration. It didn’t make sense to invest in new machinery we didn’t really have room for once we knew we had a great resource for outsourcing,” she said. “Outsourcing has opened up a whole world of styles and designs for us to choose from and that we can offer to our clients.”
The company outsources a variety of wood components. “We do a lot of tables and coffee tables with tapered legs and we found a great resource online, Osborne Wood Products. I am extremely grateful for them. They are only about an hour and 15 minutes from my home. They ship all over the nation, but I like to visit them in person and see what is new. Osborne Wood Products has opened up a whole world of styles and designs that we can offer to our clients.”
“Everything we have needed thus far they have delivered, including some custom legs that I personally designed,” Slagle added. Others also liked the custom leg design, she said, and as orders grew Osborne Wood Products asked if they could name it the Slagle Leg. “We said yes and thought it was very cool.”
With the exponential increase of Slagle’s range of products over the years, “sometimes we have challenged ourselves big time, but at the end of every single challenge we have come through very strong,” she said. “Our portfolio is expanding all the time, from the general farmhouse tables to entry and sofa tables, living room furniture and bathroom vanities. We also build bunk beds and bunk rooms, and loft beds – the list literally goes on and on.” One of the newest items is built-in banquettes.
The company also outsources from other wood suppliers for slabs and other lumber products. “Because we do a lot of farmhouse-style designs we typically work with pine,” Slagle noted, but if oak, maple, walnut or another species is requested, they will contract with a local source for the slab or even fresh-cut lumber. “We outsource to him to plane and rip the boards we need, and he does his magic. It has proven to be a big help in another way, as we don’t have the room in our shop to store a variety of different woods or the equipment we would need” to rough mill the lumber, she added.
Slagle said it has been a whirlwind four years since the first farmhouse table. “Before we started our business I was a children’s fashion designer and my husband worked with Verizon Wireless. I spent 10 years behind a sewing machine and I’m much happier with this career.“
Social media has played a big part in the company’s success. “Good photography skills are important. A picture sells. We get images of new items up on Facebook and Craig’s List immediately.” The company's website is slaglewooddesigns.com.
Slagle Wood Designs currently has more than 100 pieces in its repertoire, with custom projects accepted. “We are open to doing what a customer wants. A client comes to me and says, ‘Hey can you build a barn door unit but I want it to have a hutch on top and add this and add that,’ we’ll do our best. We love a challenge.”
Outsourcing makes sense for custom furniture manufacturer
Hartford House Furniture is known for its heirloom-quality furniture, customized for each client. “One-of-a-kind is our specialty,” is a slogan and a policy of the company based in Alto, Georgia, 60 miles north of Atlanta.
Founder Sarah Smith started the business 32 years ago and remains active in the business still today. Initially, she refinished furniture but started the business to sell furniture from other companies and also pieces they designed, built and finished on-site.
Hartford House Furniture currently employs eight people, including two furniture builders who can do “just about everything including building, sanding and finishing,” said Mickey Quincey, production and store manager.
“We are a small operation and we build-to-order,” she said. “Lately we have been doing a lot of custom work. We just finished a massive bookcase that was really an entertainment center with bookcases on each side. We delivered and installed it in the home and the clients were delighted.”
“If a client can imagine it we almost always can build it.”
A variety of species are used to produce the solid wood furniture, including pine, oak, cherry, maple, and walnut. “We work with any wood a client specifies,” Quincey said. “We just finished a table out of heart pine and we have worked with rustic pine, maple and cherry very recently. Our company offers a wide and varied selection of unique designs in stained, painted, lacquered and aged finishes.”
Over the years, the company realized there were certain things that were easier to outsource than produce in-house. “Many years ago, we researched what would be our best options and it turned out that outsourcing some items was the way to go.”
Today, Quincey added, “We outsource legs for dining room tables, bedposts and anything that is turned, such as feet for the bottom of a chest.” Components are brought in unfinished, then stained to blend by the Hartford House employees.
“Outsourcing is done for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Our main reason is to allow us to do the kind of custom furniture we want to produce.”
“With custom furniture, you really never know what you are going to be asked to do with a design. The customer might want to add corbels or turnings or a very wide range of things. For us to be able to give customers exactly what they want in a design, we rely on finding a supplier with the experience to do turnings and much more.”
For example one of the company’s component suppliers, Osborne Wood Products, “has the capability to pretty much do everything in turnings and corbels. We just couldn’t compete with trying to manufacture that ourselves, by the time we bought the needed equipment and hired extra personnel who could create that type of work,” Quincey said.
“Just looking at the cost factor, outsourcing often makes sense,” she added. “It allows us to have a better cost for our customers than if we were doing some things in-house.”
Another reason for outsourcing is it helps the business stay current with design trends. “Outsourcing lets us offer a greater variety to our customers, while being more cost-efficient,” Quincey said. “It allows us to offer a greater spectrum of parts that we can carry, and what we expand on design-wise.”
Dining room chairs is another product line outsourced, from Zimmerman Chair, a Mennonite company in Pennsylvania. Chairs, she said, can be very time consuming to build. “We researched our options and decided outsourcing let us provide a better a cost to our customers, and still be able to provide the quality we wanted,” Quincey explained.
Hartford House Furniture has a showroom in addition to the production area. “We invite people to visit us in person or visit our website, hartfordhousefurniture.com, to see our collections and what we can do.”
Editor's note: The above article was included in the Wood Component Manufacturers Association special section, printed in the May issue of FDMC magazine. For information on the association or its member companies, visit WCMA.com.
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