Custom wood doors, such as the one above, comprise about 60 percent of the company's business.
Custom wood doors, such as the one above, comprise about 60 percent of the company's business.

Located in the largest bi-national megalopolis in North America, El Paso Wood Products successfully straddles the demands of producing single-lot custom residential doors, including stained glass varieties, with manufacturing furniture components for OEMs on a high-production basis.

All manufacturing for the 30-year-old, El Paso, TX-based company takes place in a new 34,000-square-foot facility in Juarez, Mexico. In addition to stained glass and beveled glass doors, El Paso Wood Products also manufactures solid wood and thick veneer plywood core doors. Unique to the company is that it produces all the hand-carved decorative mouldings, as well as the stained glass, in-house. (See A Touch of Glass sidebar.)

"When we first started [in 1975], we were making panel doors. There was a lot of competition in the panel door market, so one of my reps suggested that stained glass doors were something different and could sell well," says Alejandro Fernandez, company owner. "I took classes, then brought in teachers and designers to help work with my other employees."

For the first 10 years, the designs were drawn by hand, with Fernandez doing most of the work. "After 10 years, we switched to AutoCAD. Now, everything is in AutoCAD," he says. Customers send in dimensions and the type of door style. Fernandez still does the majority of the design work, although clients can submit their own designs or choose an existing one from El Paso Wood Products' catalog.

Approximately 60 percent of El Paso Wood Products' business is manufacturing custom doors, which it sells nationwide, primarily through OEMs. "We can do whole houses, or just one entry door," Fernandez says.

Door Manufacturing

El Paso Wood Products is a vertically integrated company, controlling all phases of production, except finishing, in-house. Each door is custom produced on a just-in-time basis, with turnaround time ranging from four to 10 weeks, depending on the complexity of the design and scheduling demands.

Approximately 80 employees work in the plant and are divided between the glass manufacturing, rough mill operations and machining applications. To eliminate downtime, workers are cross-trained on the machines, including the CNC equipment.

El Paso Wood Products has a number of CNC machines in its shop, including a recently purchased Homag Optimat BOF 311 machining center with a 12-position toolchanger, as well as an SCM Record 130 machining center, with a modular working head and a multi-function worktable. Both have the capability to machine stiles, rails and panels.

"We started with a CNC router three years ago," Fernandez says. "We can do doors on both, but right now we have one almost dedicated to cutting [high-production] parts for furniture."

The production process starts in the rough mill area, where lumber is ripped and cut on a Raimann FlexiRip 5200. The machine also can perform angled, miter and bevel cuts, enabling the company to eliminate most of its table saws and cutoff saws. El Paso Wood Products also has a smaller Raimann ProfiRip KM 310, which has a maximum rip size of 3-1/2 inches by 12-1/4 inches.

Boards are planed on an Extrema Pro Series double surfacer, which has the capability to plane and joint in a single pass.

Soon to be installed is a Cameron Automation Opti-Match system for color sorting, panel sizing and optimizing. Fernandez says he purchased the machine after seeing it at IWF last year.

"When we bring in the Cameron, we will only need one cutoff saw for 45-degree angles on transoms," he adds.

For cutting large panels to size, El Paso Wood Products uses a Robland T-120 and an Altendorf F92 horizontal saw. Also in the shop is a Lobo horizontal boring machine, an older model Medalist Challoner double-end tenoner and a newer Maxym Technologies machine for mortising and tenoning doors. Tooling is ground in-house on a Wadkin grinder.

In addition to a Wadkin moulder for cutting straight mouldings, the company also uses a Williams and Hussey moulder for smaller size straight, round and elliptical cuts. Distinctive details are hand carved into the mouldings by El Paso Wood Products craftsmen.

For making curved frames, the company recently purchased a Pro-Tech Machinery forming machine after seeing it at IWF last year. The machine is used to make elliptical, half- and full-round forms. "It now takes approximately two hours to do what used to take almost two days," Fernandez says.

Most of the doors are made from solid wood, from such species as walnut, poplar, red oak, white oak, mahogany and maple. Approximately one year ago, the company also began constructing custom plywood core doors with thick veneer. El Paso Wood Products has three hydraulic presses it uses for laying up the veneer, along with Doucet gluing and clamping machines for the construction.

"The plywood core doors have a lot of stability and [help offset] the price of lumber, which is going crazy," Fernandez says.

Large panels are sanded smooth on Lobo and A. Costa sanders. The company has a Murphy-Rodgers dust collection system in place to eliminate wood dust from accumulating in the plant.

"Here in Mexico, we follow the same regulations as OSHA sets," Fernandez says.

Diversifying Pays Off

For some time, the company has diversified its manufacturing into niche markets. However, the addition of some of the newer equipment, particularly the Homag, has given added capacity - and thus new opportunities - to El Paso Wood Products.

"The bigger equipment brought new volume," Fernandez says. "We were already doing some components, but in order to use the machine [to its full potential], we found more customers."

In the past year, El Paso Wood Products' component manufacturing has grown and now comprises approximately 40 percent of its business. The company's customers include such notables as Brown Jordan and American Leather furniture companies.

"We moved into components so our business wouldn't be as cyclical," says Francisco Fernandez, Alejandro's son.

In addition to his other duties, Francisco helps coordinate the furniture production. Typically, for a company such as Brown Jordan, El Paso Wood Products processes 300 to 400 sets a week, "although our goal is 800 a week," Francisco says. The components portion of the business typically has a two-week turnaround time on orders,

"On the CNCs, we can do a full truckload in approximately six hours," Francisco adds. In addition to the basic machining, El Paso Wood Products also performs value-added work, such as adding T-nuts for sofa beds.

It is the added services that keep customers coming back to El Paso Wood Products. Likewise, it is the added services and benefits afforded to employees that helps the company retain its workers.

"One reason we don't have much turnover is that we pay even the new employees twice the minimum wage," Francisco says. "We also have a very good benefits package."

In addition, the company strives to keep employees up-to-date on new technology. "We have one person currently who programs the machines, but others have knowledge," Francisco says. "We are also teaching the younger guys to run the CNC machines, and we'll also send them to take courses so they are familiar with the computers."

A Touch of Glass

What differentiates El Paso Wood Products from other door companies is its creative glass work. The company designs, cuts and produces its own stained glass artwork.

Owner Alejandro Fernandez designs the majority of the glass patterns. A full-scale drawing is produced and used as a template. The glass is hand cut to the correct shape, sanded and polished. The individual pieces are then placed into the design patterns defined by brass, lead or zinc.

In addition to stained glass, El Paso Wood Products also uses beveled, tempered, insulated and safety glass its doors.


About the Company: El Paso Wood Products, El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico

Established in 1975, El Paso Wood Products specializes in manufacturing custom solid wood and stained glass interior and exterior residential doors. The company has diversified its offerings, producing furniture components for OEMs on a high-production basis. El Paso Wood Products employs 80 people at its 34,000-square-foot factory in Juarez, and another six people at its office in El Paso.

Three Keys:

1. El Paso Wood Products is vertically integrated, with all phases of production - including stained glass manufacturing - performed in-house.

2. The addition of CNC equipment, including a machining center installed late last year, has enabled the company to increase its production capabilities, with component manufacturing now comprising 40 percent of its business.

3. Employees are cross-trained on the machines to avoid possible downtime.

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