Taking a second look at 32mm flow manufacturing
True 32 flow manufacturing revised book cover

True32 Flow Manufacturing, Revised and Explanded, by Bobbo Buckley, Copyright 2024 True 32 Corporation, 262 pp, softcover, available through Amazon.

Consultants and so-called industry experts always come on like they know it all and have always known the best way, fastest technique, and most efficient production techniques. 

But how? Too many are just parroting ideas they picked up without actually having any personal experience or having really tested and investigated the systems they preach.

That’s not Bob (now Bobbo) Buckley. Back in the 1990s, Buckley was running his own cabinet shop in Tennessee and was desperate to find the most efficient way of doing things. He read all the books, talked to supposed experts and had endless discussions with two brilliant friends he trusted and respected, Keith Hill and Marc Poole in North Carolina. 

All three men did constant experiments with machines, techniques, and setups until they all arrived at what they thought was the most efficient way to build cabinets in their three separate shops. 

Buckley took all that practical research and wrote it down in a book in 1998 called “True 32 Flow Manufacturing.”

The book combined tenets of 32mm European-style frameless cabinet construction with principles of flow manufacturing promoted by Eli Goldratt in his books “The Goal” and “Theory of Constraints.” The result was a step-by-step road map for very efficient and profitable cabinet manufacturing in small to medium-sized shops. Buckley, Hill, and Poole even combined forces for a time, training other shop owners and supplying them with specialized hardware.

But most of this was based on conventional manual equipment such as sliding-table saws, and boring machines. Soon after the book was published, Buckley, ever the experimenter, began adapting his ideas to CNC automated production. Along the way, he closed his shop, retired from cabinet manufacturing, left the industry, then heard the siren song that called him back. For a while he worked with Cabinotch, developing their frameless product. 

Today, he works as a consultant and coach for small shop owners hungry to be as efficient, productive, and profitable as possible.
In 2023, he decided to revisit his book and recently released a newly revised, updated, and expanded version. 

The new book is a great record of his journey because he includes much of the contents of the earlier book without much change then adds and explains how he came to modify a lot of his original methods. He talks about failed attempts as well as successes, and it is fascinating to follow along.

Every cabinet shop owner who ever thought, “There must be a better way,” will identify with what Buckley does to ferret out the improvements in production he discovers. 

This is more than just giving lip service to “continuous improvement.” This is the story of how continuous investigation and continuous improvement really work. Some of it is messy. Some of it is frustrating. You can argue with some of the conclusions based on your own experience, but you will surely identify with Buckley’s searching and analysis to find that “better way.”

He even discusses the ways he developed to more readily market and sell his products to folks opposed to frameless.

I read the first book when it came out. It was even more fascinating to read this new version. Two dozen years of analyzing and testing are on display, and there are hard-won lessons on every page for today’s cabinet shops.


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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.