Mullet Cabinets Inc. started with now-grandpa Jake Mullet’s vision some 54 years ago. Today, with son Dean at the helm and grandsons Vince, Jordan and Nick Mullet helping to run the business, Mullet Cabinets operates in a 75,000-square-foot plant, employing more than 100 people in Millersburg, Holmes County, OH – the heart of Amish furniture country.

The company has grown by leaps and bounds since Jake and Dean bought Hostetler Cabinet in 1975 and Dennis, another son, became a partner. A dozen years ago, the Mullets expanded by selling to kitchen dealers east of the Mississippi River. In 2008 they added a new Custom Color Studio, providing color stylist Lamar Troyer with additional room to create his unique collection of finishes. A Design Center followed a year later.

Working with kitchen professionals, Mullet tailors and designs to meet customer needs and tastes. Its color lab is on the cutting edge of future trends and styles, says Troyer. Readers may recognize the firm’s name from the Best Rated Custom Woodworking Business list (see page 17), as they were included on Best of Houzz lists in 2012 and 2013.

Mullet Cabinet’s unique Custom Color Studio is a key part of its marketing program. The consumer quest for ever more individualized products extends to cabinet preferences. The National Kitchen & Bath Association last year identified the latest color and design trends, which include darker natural finishes (now specified in 58 percent of projects, up from 43 percent in 2010). And shades of gray also have caught on in cabinets, occasionally opening to reveal colorful cabinet interiors. Likewise wood species shift, with oak on the rise (now specified in 22 percent of cabinets) and walnut (tripling from 3 to 9 percent of cabinet orders) as well as the declining use of cherry wood and maple.

All this means custom color stylist Troyer must develop for customers a wide variety of finishing options. The challenge to production is the continuous finish delivery system changeover, job to job. In Mullet’s case, that means changing colors up to 17 times each day. As choices broadened, too much time was consumed in finishing sprayer labor-intensive color changeovers.

Troyer and the Mullet team identified a particular sticking point in their piece-parts finishing area, where color changes took far too long: Flushing, cleaning and adding different colored stain or paint into sprayers was taking between five and seven minutes for each color.

“The finishing facility has been the bottleneck in the past due to equipment and processes,” Troyer notes. Those minutes added up to more than an hour and a half in the course of a day.

Mullet got the repeatability it was looking for – along with improved finish quality – by switching from conventional applicator equipment to Kremlin Airmix technology. What once took 360 seconds using manual guns and pumps now takes 30 seconds with the more automated process.

Troyer personally witnessed tests conducted by EXEL North America and FinishWorks, a Kremlin Rexson distributor.

“With the Kremlin equipment, it is no longer the bottleneck,” he says. Mullet Cabinets bought the new equipment on a performance-guarantee “Spray Before You Pay” program that allows for a 30 days of system verification before final purchase. The 3K Cyclomix Expert system was installed with several pumps (see box above).

Troyer says the new process has reduced coatings and solvent waste, including conversion varnish, by 65 percent, which has led to substantial additional savings. If customers want even more color choices this year, bring them on, Troyer adds.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.