22 tips to enhance productivity & efficiency: WOOD 100 Strategies for Success
October 6, 2020 | 2:59 pm CDT

Lean manufacturing, training, new technology and a dash of ingenuity is helping these woodworking manufacturers increase production while improving quality and efficiency. What follows are some of the strategies put in place by the 2020 WOOD 100 class, which includes cabinet and casework manufacturers, closet and home organization providers, residential and office furniture producers, architectural woodworkers, store fixture manufacturers, wood component manufacturers, and more.

Now in its 31st year, the WOOD 100: Strategies for Success highlights the innovative as well as tried-and-true initiatives put in place by 100 North American wood products manufacturers to grow their businesses. Here's what some of them had to share about the enhancements made to improve the production process:

Case Systems, Midland, MI —  The company manufactures architectural laminate casework for institutional, healthcare and commercial markets. It also offers metal fabrication, for specialty products like athletic lockers, instrument storage, and science tables with wood and metal components.

“Case Systems has made a considerable investment in employee training for operational efficiency, safety, and customer service,” said Nina Neuschuetz, marketing manager. “In addition, we have expanded capabilities for custom solutions to answer unusual requests from our clients. New software implementations also help speed up project management.”

Recent investments include Homag EdgeTeq  banders, a Homag DrillTeq Dowel CNC,  Parker Ionics Q-FLO powdercoat booths, and more panel saws.

Cole Wagner Cabinetry, Rochester Hills, MI — “At CWC we strive to build good relationships with not only our clients but with each designer, builder and sub-contractor we work with, which positively impacts our business and our ability to grow and thrive,”  said Cole Wagner, president of the custom cabinetry and furniture firm.

  “Another key component to our success is updating the cabinetry software we use to aid in building and design and this is something we invest in each year.  We have also have taken steps in the past year to increase productivity and maintain efficiency by adhering to project timelines without compromising quality. All of this has resulted in the ability to gain new clients and projects which ultimately helps the continued growth of our company.”

In 2019 CWC revamped its website and social media presence. Purchase of a new CNC was planned for 2020.

Stevens Industries Inc., Teutopolis, IL — “We focused on bringing our products to new markets, extending geographically and expanding end-user markets,” said Amanda Emmerich Shamhart, marketing coordinator.

Along with reduced delivery times, the company optimized its production process, including investments in additional cutting and edgebanding equipment and automated assembly equipment. It also added 250,000 square feet of manufacturing space. 2020 plans call for adding technology to further increase the company’s efficiency.

Stevens manufactures commercial casework and millwork, primarily for educational and medical facilities, and is a TFL panel laminator/supplier for other manufacturers. It is also a private label contract manufacturer, and has contract programs with national customers.

CabParts Inc., Grand Junction, CO —  “CabParts believes in ongoing improvement and we are always looking for ways to be more efficient,” said Shauna Fox, business manager.

The company has been manufacturing custom cabinet boxes and closet parts for more than 30 years. All components are precision machined to meet customer specifications for easy assembly and are used in residential and commercial applications.

Aiding production was the purchase this year of an automated saw and storage system.

“Shipping quality products to our customers is our main focus and we strive to provide adequate knowledge and excellent customer service to our customers,” Fox added.

Sales projections for the firm continue to be good for this year and next.

More top producers & their methods

Vision Kitchen & Bath, Tampa, FL
Sales rose 57.1% for the cabinetry and closet systems provider. “Factors in our success stem from the investment in our employees' skills and our desire to see them grow and be successful as our business continues to grow.  Also, our continuous desire to gather feedback that leads to the improvement of our production process,” said Melanie Carter, vice president of sales. The firm invested heavily in panel processing technology, sanders and moulders. Credit is also given to Allmoxy software. ”Our investment in these products not only allows for efficiency today, but it allows our team to prepare for future growth.” 

Central Millwork LLC, Dallas, TX
The millwork and caseworks manufacturer expanded the estimating and design teams, training and mentoring programs, said Eric Thornton, president. 2020 plans include a new edgebander.

Merritt, Mentor, OH
The interior solutions firm produces high-end woodwork and joinery for estates and super yachts. Recent investments to further increase production include 4-axis and 5-axis CNC routers, and an edgebander, with a veneer splicer planned for 2020.

ROOMI Group, Houston, TX
The architectural millwork and casework firm invested $7.5 million, including “a new facility four times the size of our previous operations,” said Faisal Hussain, president. Along with upgrading the office space, “we purchased a new line of equipment in all industrial departments.  The outcome was an overwhelming sense of pride within each of the hard-working people of ROOMI.”  At the new 400,000-square-foot plant, ROOMI has five nested CNC machining centers, six edgebanders, and eight UV finishing chambers Additionally, ROOMI invested in ERP and EMR dashboards. “Essentially, ROOMI is an IT Firm, that also manufactures high-end woodwork.” Sales grew 18.!%.

Eurowood Cabinets Inc., Omaha, NE
Sales at the high-end custom cabinetry, casework and millwork firm rose 6.7%. “We invested in the latest technologies, including new equipment and improved software, with an emphasis on improving data flow in all areas of the company,” said Tyler Paskach, vice president of operations.

AWM Group, Miami, FL
Sales at the architectural woodwork and casework firm grew 13.3%. In addition to investing in technology, including an SCM CNC router, “we expanded the estimating department, including the implementation of software to manage RFPs and took a hard look at all the steps necessary to manage the client, from the initial contact to the contract award,” said Juan Geymonat, CEO. 

Schilling Schu Industries, Random Lake, WI
2019 sales at the furniture and fixture firm rose 48.6%. “We completely revamped our engineering and production methods, embraced a Lean Enterprise culture and made terrific gains to safety, quality, delivery and productivity,” said Paul Golden, CEO. New products were also launched.

Studio Zoran, Lincolnwood, IL
President Stanley Adams attributes the commercial millwork manufacturer’s 20.4% sales growth in 2019 to quality control, client relationships and the addition of equipment, including Festool tools, to aid production.

Woodcrafters Inc., Marion, IA
Sales grew 18.0% at the commercial casework and millwork firm. “Our focus has remained on maintaining a lean environment with the ability to react rapidly to customers’ needs as well as a shifting market,” said  Dan Sanderson, vice president. The purchase of a Biesse Rover CNC and Winstore, he added, “provides us the flexibility necessary for our production needs while keeping our overhead low. At any point, we are able to see our current material counts and, of those materials, what has been reserved for future work orders.”

Foggy Bottom Woodworks, Muscoda, WI
With plans to take stain and finish matching in-house, the custom cabinetry and millwork firm in 2019 “expanded our finishing area and added equipment to increase throughput,” said Rick Tisdale, managing member.  The increased focus on efficiency helped 2019 sales rise 7.6%.

Antique & Modern Cabinets Inc., Jacksonville, FL
The custom cabinetry and architectural wall panel producer invested in new equipment, including a CNC router, V-groover  for solid surface fabrication, and an edgebander. The firm also expanded its production facility and focused on training employees in other departments, said Ben Patterson, vice president.

Advantage Architectural Woodwork, Colby, KS
“This past year our company worked heavily on our lean manufacturing principles. We increased our efficiency on each project in the production process by adding new equipment and more space to our shop. We added an automated saw to cut down on time spent measuring and cutting parts. The assembly tables and crane allows for one employee to assemble the large window and door units that normally would require 3-4 people. This has resulted in a lower cost of production and minimized operator fatigue while still maintaining a high-quality product free from defect,” said Shawna Holloway. Sales grew 8.5% at the firm, which specializes in energy-efficient European wood window and door systems.

Richard Rose Culinary, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Sales rose 47.2% for the small manufacturer of hardwood cutting boards, stovetop covers, kitchen products and restaurant tabletops. The company invested in equipment to increase production, including an RF gluer and wide belt sander, said Rich Odea, owner.

JB Cutting Inc., Mt. Clemens, MI
At the components manufacturer, which specializes in 3DL and five-piece doors as well as custom components, “We hired a vice president of Operations that led the company to record profitability,” said Debra Behring, president. JB also invested in a flipping and buffing station for its membrane press and a sander for its Shaker doors. A second buffing station for an existing press was added this year.

Doors & Drawers, Dexter, MI
Sales at the commercial cabinetry firm grew 3.3%. “The addition of a 6,000-square-foot shipping and receiving department allowed us to reconfigure our manufacturing work areas,” said Chuck Manitz, owner. “Productivity and efficiency goals were achieved.” The purchase of a panel saw brought the panel layup in-house.

Homestead Cabinet, Hyrum, UT
Business continues to be good for the custom cabinet firm. Eliminating bottleneck areas has been key, and “the ordering software has made a huge impact,” said Johan Herrera, HR manager. A beam saw and PUR edgebander were also added.

Halcon, Stewartville, MN
The contract furniture manufacturer expanded manufacturing 18,000 square feet in 2019, increasing the total to more than 300,000. The expansion allowed it to add equipment, including two CNC routers, two edgebanders, and a widebelt sander, as well as reorganize nearly 75,000 square feet of current manufacturing space to increase its capacity, capabilities, and product quality.

Ashley Furniture, Arcadia, WI
The furniture giant announced plans to invest $22 million and expand manufacturing at plants in Verona and Saltillo, Mississippi. The company will upgrade the facilities and add equipment and jobs. Completion is projected for spring 2021.

Read more 2020 WOOD 100: Strategies for Success

Marketing Initiatives

Business Strategies

Productivity Enhancements

Technology Integration

Product Innovations

Customer Service

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]