WMS speaker calls ERP the ‘backbone’ of his factory’s automation
August 12, 2019 | 7:39 pm UTC
Muskoka Cabinet's journey into high-tech included adding robots to the production floor in 2015.

Luke Elias, president of Muskoka Cabinet Co. Inc. of Ottawa, Ontario, will share his firsthand knowledge and passion of plant automation during a luncheon presentation scheduled for noon Thursday Oct. 31 at the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference and Expo.

Since taking ownership in 1989, Elias has transformed Muskoka Cabinet into one of North America’s most technologically advanced woodworking factories. Under Elias’ leadership, Muskoka Cabinets was an early adopter of nested-based manufacturing in 2000, implemented ERP software in 2004, fully converted to automated water-based finishing in 2005, became a paperless shop floor in 2009, began using RFID product tracking in 2012, installed robots in 2015, and automated part tracking and movement in 2017.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Elias, his team and Automatech Robotik armed with an NRC- IRAP research grant, are in the process of leveraging the company’s arsenal of technologies to launch SMARTSonic early next year, which he said will be “the most automated fastest panel processing cell in the world." 

"With SMARTSonic we are taking all of our technologies and combining them into a high-output cell. A lot of peripherals have to be designed around this processing cell because it’s going to be putting out so many parts per hour that we have to deal with a lot of elements including automated waste extraction.”

At the core of SMARTSonic and all of the other automation used by Muskoka Cabinet is enterprise resource planning or ERP system for short. "I can’t help but stress the importance of the basics of having an ERP system,” Elias said. “That sounds simple, but a lot of companies in our industry either don’t have one or tried to have one and failed. The basis for an ERP system is to collect data for each order in a centralized place so that you can use that data for many, many things to automate your business. We could not have achieved the level of automation we have if we had not implemented in ERP system in our organization.

Elias said Muskoka Cabinet's ERP systems “controls orders from beginning to end with everyone on the same page because there is only one data entry system. In our factory, everything including robotics, RFID, automated sorting smart carts, automated ground vehicles and a bunch of other automation features have been built into our ERP system. All of our automation is extracting the same data. We’re not running multiple systems and making things more complicated.”

Successfully implementing an ERP system in a woodworking plant is not without challenges, but the potential rewards far outweigh the time and labor to make it happen. Perhaps most important, Elias said, “The commitment has to come from the top down. Senior management has to be the one that pushes ERP implementation through the company, otherwise 50 to 75 percent of them fail.”


Luke Elias, president of Muskoka Cabinet Co. Inc. in Ottawa will be the luncheon keynote on October 31 at WMS 2019.

Elias added that ERP is not for big manufacturing operations only. “Small shops all have the same basic information to manage -- clients, vendors, scheduling, installers, etc. You need to put this information into one centralized location where you can access it instead of running your business on fragmented systems requiring multiple data entry points. That’s important. From there, you can grow into RFID, robotics and other technology.”

In his WMS presentation, Elias will share his company's technological journey and answer questions from the audience about the benefits his company has gained along the way.

View the full WMS 2019 Education Program.

About CCI Media
CCI Canada is owned by CCI Media, a business-to-business media company focused exclusively on industrial wood products manufacturing markets in North America. CCI Media’s flagship publication, FDMC magazine, circulates monthly in print and digital formats. CCI Media also publishes the bi-monthly Closets & Organized Storage magazine. Woodworking Network is the umbrella brand for the combined portfolio of wood manufacturing print, digital, and web products and industry events operated by CCI Media. CCI Canada also produces the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Oct. 31-Nov.2, at the International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario and Salon Industriel du Bois Ouvré (SIBO), which will be held April 23-25, 2020, in Drummondville, Quebec.

In addition to WMS 2019 and SIBO 2020, CCI Media produces Wood Pro Expo Texas and the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo, both of which will be co-located March 11-13,  2020, at the Arlington Convention Center in Arlington, Texas. The company also produces Wood Pro Expo Lancaster 2019, to be held October 17-18, at Warehouse at the Nook, Manheim, Pa., and the Executive Briefing Conference, November 8-10, 2020, at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.


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About the author
Rich Christianson | President/Owner/C-Level

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his nearly 35-year career, Rich has toured more than 250 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. He has also directed and promoted dozens of woodworking trade shows, conferences and seminars including the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Canada’s largest woodworking show.