A SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS STORY
The Great Recession presented challenges to most woodworking businesses in one form or another, and Select Millwork in Irving, Texas was no different. After founding
their company in 2004, business partners Paul Gause and Billy Harrington were faced with some difficult decisions when the project pipeline started to dry up for them in 2010, including being forced to make a drastic reduction in their workforce. The company’s survival through the recession and its success in the subsequent years was due “in equal share to the decision to purchase a CNC router, and to hire a lean-practices consultant to help identify opportunities to improve efficiencies”, says Harrington.
Both decisions represented a major financial investment at a time when doing so was particularly difficult, but they are now paying dividends for the company. In 2018, Select Millwork’s decision to adopt the Lamello Cabineo connector as their primary assembly method has maximized the usefulness of their router and is right in line with their philosophy of continually improving and streamlining their processes.
Historically, Select Millwork built their cabinet boxes using the screw-and-glue method, but they were finding it increasingly difficult to remain competitive when they could
only assemble two cabinets per hour per assembler. Adopting a new doweling system in 2016 was a significant improvement in speed and allowed them to double output
to three to four cabinets assembled per hour per man. However, there was a capital investment required: “We spent $50,000 to buy a specialized machine and paid to get extra software support and router bits” , says Gause. Then, as it turned out, those assembly efficiencies were not only expensive but also short-lived and lost to
software integration challenges and the chronic unreliability of the machinery which is required to make the precise dowel joinery work correctly. Additionally, the
specialized manufacturing process for the doweling method required a dedicated machine operator. A new solution was needed, quickly.
One day in 2018, Paul’s son David was browsing the Häfele website looking for a better assembly method when he came across the Lamello Cabineo connector system. David focused his attention on Cabineo, researched it, and saw enough potential to request a sample pack from his local Häfele representative. The ease of the screen-to-machine software integration that Select Millwork experienced using Cabinet Vision also helped sell the team on the process. A proof-of-concept build of a few cabinet boxes confirmed that using Cabineo would solve their production challenges. “It reduced the manufacturing component down to a onemachine process” , says Gause, “and the software and machinery programming became much simpler.” The material thickness issues that plagued their previous method were sidestepped due to the design of Cabineo, and the assembled joints were nearly twice as strong as their former method. Additionally, getting started with Cabineo required only minimal initial
investment: “We spent about $1,000 to get connectors, extra software support, and router bits to start using Lamello [Cabineo]” , says Gause.
By implementing Cabineo connectors, Select Millwork now produces five to six cabinets per hour per person using Cabineo, an average 60% improvement in throughput from their previous method. Another huge benefit is that they were able to transform the now unnecessary dowel machine operator into an assembly team member. Reallocating personnel, in combination with the improved efficiencies by using Cabineo, has more than doubled output without a single new hire, and also effectively lowered their overall labor cost by 25%. Paul Gause sums up their experience using Cabineo: “The ‘one-machine’ process of Cabineo has greatly reduced the time involved for our entire building process, which allows us to be profitable in a cost-competitive market”.
In order to survive the Great Recession, Select Millwork was forced challenge their old way of thinking and doing. Now those same survival instincts are helping them to prosper. By always looking for ways to improve their manufacturing process, they have been able to maximize the potential that the Lamello Cabineo connector system offers: the ability to do much more with much less!
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