It’s more than machinery: Throwing technology at a productivity program is not always the solution. It’s actually more important to take dozens of small steps, advancing productivity incrementally. This section celebrates companies that have made the journey of a thousand paces to productivity beginning with a single inventive step.

Productivity Gains
A-Cab Custom Woodworking, St. Joseph, MN
A commercial casework firm, A-Cab added door
manufacturing equipment last year. While planning
no capital expenditures in 2010, owner Adam
Hansen says productivity is up and expects higher
sales in 2010.

Cabinet Components, Bessemer, AL
Producing wood components for custom cabinetry,
interior and exterior doors and moulding for residential
and commercial construction, the 50-employee firm
automated rip sawing; 2009 sales hit $3.23 million,
up from $2.97 million in 2008.

Closet Factory, Raleigh, NC
“We took a hard look at how much we were paying
for supplies, how much workforce we were employing
for our given output and just tried to maximize our
productivity,” says Suzanne Pail, owner. Her
12-employee firm added a CNC router last year; sales
grew three years running to $590,000 in 2009.

Eyewood Design, Interlochen, MI
Just 37-employees, this custom woodworking operation’s
5S manufacturing improvements would be the envy of
any large manufacturer, updating CNC cutters while
reworking materials handling, inventory, and raw
materials placement. Read more.

Hooker Furniture, Martinsville, VA
Despite a 22 percent drop in 2010 fiscal sales (the year
ended Jan. 31) Hooker Furniture reported net sales of
$203.3 million and net income of $3 million, all the
profit derived during Q4 on sales of $52.7 million,
helped “by reductions made in our cost structure,
improved work schedules and capacity utilization in
our upholstery division and lower warehousing and
distribution expenses,” says Paul Toms Jr., chairman,
CEO and president. Read more.

Provincial Store Fixtures, Mississauga, ON
This 100-employee retail and commercial fixture firm
last year added case clamp, dowel inserting machines,
a multi-head hinge inserter and automated paint line,
and this year adds a new finishing area, dust collector
and table saws. Sales rose $3 million last year to
$19 million.

P.R. Bean, Washington, IN
Providing institutional and plastic laminate casework
for educational, lab and architectural woodwork (it’s
also an OEM of office furnishings), P.R. Bean added
material handling equipment in 2009 and may upgrade
existing CNC equipment. This 11-employee firm saw
$2.4 million in 2009 sales, up from $1.6 million in 2008.

Northway Industries, Middleburg, PA
Northway manually improved physical flow of materials
in its 93,000-square-foot plant. Then employees assessed
a simulated warehouse makeover in a weekend analysis
of automated materials handling and workflow, before
implementing changes, all integrated by Northway’s


, enhanced productivity while reducing the environmental impact of its operations and its casegoods and furnishings. Continuous improvement brings steady steps toward sustainable production, part of an integrated package that begins upstream at design, with life cycle analysis and environmental impact planned in. This has allowed Kimball Office to attain e3 level certification by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) for 98 percent of its lines.

Kimball is no slouch in technology. A first-of-its kind Cefla coating system cures the proprietary Kimball Pura coating, giving off virtually no volatile organic compounds. When furnishings are coated with Pura, which is then UV cured, wood materials are effectively encapsulated, reducing or eliminating offgassing and so the products can meet indoor air quality standards set by LEED and BIFMA.

Pura is now used across most of its wood products. “Because Pura is water-based and robotically applied, material overspray can be recovered and reformulated with pure water, to circulate back into the system with new finish,” says Steven Brewster, sustainability director for Kimball Office. An independently certified internal testing standard verifies that products meet performance standards, also troubleshooting items. Kimball Office, part of $1.2 billion Kimball Intl, was named an Office Furniture Dealers Alliance outstanding manufacturer. Read

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