A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for Kent Untermann, the greater value is in the frame that surrounds it.

Along with his wife Lori, Untermann owns Plus Interiors, a multi-faceted operation in Kapolei, HI, that produces mass-customized picture frames along with cabinetry, components and more. Plus Interiors is part of The Art Source Inc., an umbrella corporation owned by the Untermanns and under which reside: the Picture Plus frames manufacturing and retail locations on all major Hawaiian Islands; Exotic Woodlines custom cabinetry; California Closets and The Sliding Door Co. franchises; Design Studio, the fine art Diamond Head Gallery; and their latest venture, the branding and retail sales of Island Sole footwear.

Vision into Reality
In recognition of his entrepreneurial spirit and efforts in promoting woodworking — and industry in general — throughout Hawaii, Kent Untermann was named a 2014 Wood Industry Market Leader by Woodworking Network.

His entry into the woodworking industry can be traced back to the late 1980s, when the Untermanns imported framed artwork to sell at a local swap meet. The success of these efforts led them to produce the frames themselves, and in 1988 Pictures Plus was born.

“Initially we focused on the mass customization of picture framing,” Untermann says. “Eventually the exponential opportunities afforded by panel processing shifted us into another direction. It afforded us the chance to reinvent ourselves within the industry.”

The transition from frames to cabinet fabrication proved to be relatively seamless and the company’s capabilities, services — and success — has grown dramatically over the years. Already the largest picture framer in the islands, Untermann says, “we want to become the state’s largest presence in closet organization systems and panel processing, while also growing our wood products division.”

When asked if there are plans in the works to add another product line to the mix — now ranging from frames to footwear — Untermann laughs. “Our plate is pretty full right now.”

Currently, half of the 43,000-square-foot manufacturing plant is dedicated to the Pictures Plus frame business, while fabrication for the other businesses accounts for the remaining portion.

“Our focus right now is on refining the technology in the shop,” Untermann says.

Recent investments in technology have added to Plus Interiors’ capabilities for producing nested-based and mass-customized components quickly and efficiently.

“With the advent of technology and marketplace competition, there’s simply no room to be ‘average,’” he adds. “Mediocrity gets you nowhere fast.”

Organized by process versus product layout, the plant utilizes 38 machines, ranging from standard equipment such as miter saws, jointers and finishing equipment, to high-tech machinery, including: Komo and Weeke CNC routers, Brandt edgebanders, and multiple presses, including an Italpresse hot press and a thermofoil press.

“Technology has advanced so you can achieve higher quality and quantity of products in a smaller footprint,” comments Untermann. Additional investments in technology, including screen-to-machine and digital printing, may be in the near future, he adds.

Always in mind too, Untermann says, is technology that will help the company to reduce its ecological footprint. 

Improved Sustainability
In 2014 Plus Interiors installed a Hocker Polytechnik MultiStar 16,500 cfm filter with energy management dust collection system, which it integrated with a Hocker BrikStar C4 briquetting press.

“Investing in this technology makes a lot of sense, especially in the long term when you consider the energy efficiencies and other benefits,” Untermann says.

Instead of the sawdust and woodwaste going into a landfill, the company has been giving the briquettes to a nearby cogeneration plant for electricity.

Untermann notes that the cost for electricity in Hawaii is double or even quadruple the amount per kilowatt hour, of other states. The savings that the company will realize in electricity alone will cover more than half the return on investment for the systems, he adds.

For example, with the MultiStar filter only running when needed, the company has already saved 7,065 kW, or $1,978 in electrical usage, not including demand charge savings, estimated at $1,696. On a typical work day at Plus Interiors, the filter operates at 30 percent total cfm – a 70 percent energy savings — while connected to the plant’s 38 machines.

Driving the point, the carbon sequestered by the system in the last month alone is equivalent to planting 191 trees, or managing 25.2 acres of U.S. forestland.

These sustainability efforts, along with the manufacturing and marketing initiatives in place, are among the reasons Plus Interiors’ parent corporation The Art Source, and its product brands and retail stores, have been able to create lasting impressions with customers.

“Success in the wood industry requires a balance between creativity and discipline that I find both compelling and gratifying,” Untermann says. “All our success in this industry is the result of a forward-thinking, collaborative effort to grow our business and expand our core competencies along the way.”

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