10 tech investments that improved production: WOOD 100 Strategies for Success
October 6, 2020 | 3:40 pm CDT

Adding technology can help woodworking companies reduce their turnaround time and labor while improving product quality. What follows are some of the machinery and supply investments put in place by the 2020 WOOD 100 class, which includes cabinet and casework manufacturers, closet and home organization providers, residential and contract 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 10 companies shared about how investments in technology helped them improve their business:

Millwork on 31st, Charlotte, NC —  The commercial architectural millwork and casework manufacturer not only increased productivity, it pretty much doubled its sales in 2019.

President & CEO Tony Everett and his wife took over the company in late 2018 and put an emphasis on technology and lean manufacturing. “Processes and standards were established to cut waste and increase productivity,” said Les Holland, director of engineering.

“About a million dollars was invested in automating our cutting operation, allowing us to reallocate employees to other job duties instead of hiring more,” Everett added.

New technology includes a Biesse Winstore automated storage and retrieval system, Biesse Rover, Biesse edgebander, bSolid and AutoCAD software, and a Leica 3D Disto laser from ETemplate, plus tooling for solid surface. Next may be a hot press to lay up panels in-house.

Northway, Middleburg, PA —  With more than 100,000 square feet of flexible workspace, the contract manufacturer’s high-scale production capacity helps customers achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace. And with the company’s recent investments in technology, the advantage may have gotten even greater.

Northway recently added a CNC inventory storage and retrieval system with automated loading and unloading, and a PUR edgebander. The company’s full range of value-added services include panel layup, contour edgebanding, miter folding, and CNC machining of commercial casework, store fixtures, office systems, closet parts,  and furniture.

Elywn Peachey, vice president of sales, also credits the contract manufacturer’s reputation for “quality, service, and integrity,” for helping spur the multi-million dollar company’s  9.9% sales growth in 2019.

Read more from these tech heads

Carriage Hill Cabinet Co., Frederick, MD
The residential and light commercial cabinetry and millwork firm invested in new technology, including a Homag CNC nested-based router and Homag drill and dowel machine to improve productivity and grow sales, said  Douglas Fauth, president. Projections for 2020 and 2021, he added, are looking good.

Diversified Fixture, Lakewood, NJ
“We are constantly trying to fine-tune our manufacturing process and become more efficient,” said Phil Vitillo, vice president of the custom cabinetry, store fixtures and millwork firm. “We are diversified as the name says and we are always trying to be innovative in what we do.” After upgrading some of its bigger equipment in 2018, the company installed a second larger and faster CNC, and also a contour edgebander. 2019 sales grew 6.0%.

Stuart Xlam, Bethany, CT
The combination of new machinery, redesigned products and quality employees contributed to a sales growth of 4.8% last year, said Stuart Paley, manager. The company specializes in CLT mats, crane mats, access mats and timber mats.

Laborde Brothers Cabinets, Bossier City, LA
The use of CNC technology and software design have helped the manufacturer of cabinetry, mantles and bookcases improve its productivity and profitability, said Randall Laborde, owner. The addition of new moulder knives expanded the company’s cabinet door library, and plans are to add a dovetail drawer machine this year.

Eaglecraft Door Inc., Moultrie, GA
Sales at the cabinet components firm rose 2.1%. “We have been able to customize and adapt to a variety of customer requests by investing in software, machinery, and employee training. This has improved the quality of our products as well as our ability to develop new products to meet our customers' needs,” said Rebecca Lewis, CFO. The company added a Gorbel workstation crane system, Unique Shape & Sand 4522, expanded software and computer capabilities for existing machines, and made improvements to the dust collection systems.

A Better Closet, Calera, AL
“We strive to provide the highest quality products and service at a fair price,” said Robert Duff, president of the custom home storage solutions firm. Along with new equipment, including a Laguna dovetailer, “we also provide the quickest turnaround in our market, 7-10 days from design appointment to installation.” Sales rose 3.4%.

Uniboard Canada Inc., Laval, QC
The firm invested $18 million at its Mont-Laurier mill, including a new dryer configuration. “This new process will significantly reduce the company’s CO2 emissions, in addition to increasing the plant’s production capacity,” said Ariane Bouchard, marketing manager.

Dura Supreme Cabinetry, Howard Lake, MN
Upgrades were made to the finishing area. “By steadily updating our processes through incorporating proven technologies, we’ve managed to continually improve our quality, consistency, and production speeds while at the same time never sacrificing the true handcrafted aspects that our cabinetry is known for,” said Perry Fails, president & COO.

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]