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All Hail the WOOD 100!

The 100 woodworking firms profiled in this year's WOOD 100 combined to ring up more than $1 billion in sales in 1998. In the process, they increased their annual sales by an average of 22.9% between 1997 and 1998.

Fifty-nine of the 1999 WOOD 100 firms registered percentile increases exceeding the average. Even more significant, 76 of the 95 companies that dared to go on record project at least double-digit growth this year, with 28 of the firms forecasting 25% growth or better. Only three companies expect their 1998 sales to slump below what they recorded in 1997.

What's more, their optimism carries over to year 2000. Sixty-four percent predict "good" years in '00 while an additional 31% envision that the dawn of the next millennium will usher in their "best year ever."

Factors of Success

CSM Invests and Grows

CSM CABINETRY LLC, the No. 1 company on this year's WOOD 100 report, went on a quarter of a million shopping spree in 1998. The investment in machinery and software has paid off as the company expected.

CSM Cabinetry, a Wallingford, CT-based manufacturer of commercial millwork and casework, placed No. 26 in last year's WOOD 100 with a 40.8% increase. Last year, it generated $1.6 million in sales, more than doubling 1997's sales. Since 1996, the company has grown nearly 190%.

Chris Migliaro, founder and member of CSM, said in 1998 that the company had to get involved with high-technology equipment in order to expand its production limits. "We were basically at full capacity for what we could produce from October 1997 through 2000," he said. "So if we didn't do this, there wasn't any way we could get more work, because we didn't have the capacity to do it."

The machinery purchases have allowed CSM Cabinetry to pursue bigger projects, including a renovation of St. Raphael's hospital in New Haven, CT, and cabinetry for a Bloomingdale's by Mail store in Cheshire, CT. Several projects, including work on a court house and several assisted living facilities, topped $300,000 each.

Investment in more productive machinery and methods is the most often cited factor accounting for the recent success of WOOD 100 companies.

When pressed to identify the one factor that "has contributed the most to your company's overall success since Jan. 1, 1996," 30 of the WOOD 100 executives checked off "Increased Productivity," followed by "Employee Skills/Dedication," 23%; "Marketing Program," 16%; and "New Product Development," 16%.

A prime example of a company that achieved growth through harnessing new technology is CSM Cabinetry LLC (No. 1). The company, anticipating difficulty finding additional employees to meet its growth objectives, has more than doubled its sales since upgrading panel processing automation at its plant, including implementing production bar coding.

Meanwhile, Paladin Industries (No. 21), a contract CNC machining operation, has been able to expand into new markets through the recent purchase of a membrane press and a machining center with edgebanding capabilities.

A third example is N2 Millwork Services (No. 33), an up-and-coming company that is appearing in its fifth straight WOOD 100. N2's sales have skyrocketed from $320,000 in 1994 to an estimated $6 million this year. CEO Barry Nash provides some insight into how he manages his company's growth. "We continually test and revamp our shop area for improved assembly lines and production," he says. Investment in more high-production, yet flexible, machinery is another factor, he adds .

In addition to adding new machinery, Craftsman Woodwork (No. 39) has increased productivity and profitability by outsourcing some of its parts.

A final example, Fancher Chair (No. 70) says it has found that new equipment has helped the company make its products faster and improved quality.

Acknowledgements: Barrett Kilmer, Dan Aske, Rich Christianson, Jennifer Blocker, Sam Gazdziak, John Iwanski and Blanca Hernandez contributed to this report.


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