Ken, who was highly involved in the pre-planning efforts for closing the company, saw an opportunity to relaunch the cabinet component facet of the company into what would become NuWood Components.
The transition to NuWood Components was fairly seamless, thanks to their solid customer base which remained loyal to them during the transition. However, due to the caliber of customers they were working with, including large-scale national kitchen cabinet companies, they knew that their next steps were going to be crucial to ensure there was no disruption in the quality or quantity of their production process.
Working Out the Kinks
However, as with any major transition, NuWood came across several speed bumps as a new startup, including condensing their production into a much smaller footprint and the challenge of being largely understaffed.
We didn’t factor in the amount of business we were currently up against with the amount of labor required to keep up with production demands,” says Ken. “In addition, we couldn’t have anticipated the unprecedented rise in sales orders in our first several months of operation.
These production challenges caused NuWood to quickly fall behind in both production and shipment times.
We were constantly putting out fires,” Ken notes. “Most of our operations were manual as well, which naturally takes more time to produce the number of orders we were receiving at the quality our customer’s expected. I was putting a lot of my own time and sweat equity into rebuilding and troubleshooting old, outdated equipment. We knew we had to make a change.”
Out with the Old, in with the New
Ken and Troy decided that if they were going to keep up with customer demands and provide the quality their customers had come to expect without increasing labor costs, they were going to need to invest in more advanced technology.
Aware that this wasn’t a challenge that could be solved overnight, Ken and Troy made the decision to start with their oldest machine and work their way up, replacing one piece of technology a year until their entire line of machinery was replaced with state-of-the-art equipment that could support their customer demands and expectations.
Thanks to computerized machines with faster set up times and processing speeds, we were able to increase our production volume without increasing labor costs,” says Ken. “As of today, including our most recent purchase of a HOMAG HPP 300 panel saw, our main machine room has been 100 percent replaced by eleven new pieces of technology.”
When asked how their new levels of efficiency have affected their current workforce Ken explained that the time and labor they have saved with their new equipment has enabled them to cross train their employees to fill in other areas of production that may otherwise have fallen behind.
It is very difficult to find and retain skilled workers, so we rely on technology to keep our labor numbers consistent,” Ken notes. “When we are more efficient in one area due to faster technology, we redistribute the extra labor to other areas that are backing up. It’s like one big job share, where employees can take their extra time and put it to use where it is needed most.”
Achieving More with Less
Here a few of the solutions that have helped contribute to NuWood's success:
HOMAG HPP 300 (Now known as the SAWTEQ B300)
When I first visited Stiles Machinery to do a demonstration on the new HOMAG HPP 300 panel saw, my jaw dropped at the speed. At the time, we were working with a 20-year old panel saw that performed well but took twice the amount of time,” says Ken. “After investing in the HOMAG panel saw, we can now get the job cut and moved to the next station quickly allowing us to do more work in less time, which simply equates to keeping our labor costs lower.”
Kentwood M509 K2 Pro Moulder
Our old moulder was very tired and worn, and required a high level of skill and artistry from our operator in order to achieve quality results. The new machine is computerized with automatic setups, making production much faster, and highly accurate, without the need for such a high level of skill to operate effectively,” says Ken. “After having our Kentwood M509 K2 Pro on the floor for a few months, our operator was able to finish a week’s worth of production in just a few days.”
Brandt Ambition 1210 F (Now known as the EDGETEQ S240)
With the Brandt Ambition Edgebander, our set up times were dramatically reduced, allowing us to achieve more in less time, while nearly eliminating issues leading to rework. With the new Brandt Ambition 1210, we were able to increase production quality without spending hours tweaking the machine to get just the right configurations,” Ken notes.
On top of these featured solutions, NuWood has also partnered with Stiles to invest in a new shaper, feeder, grinder, rip saw and more to support their efforts of achieving more with less.
An Unexpected Shift
According to Ken, the benefits of their new technology have gone far beyond the improvements to the production itself. By investing in these advanced solutions, NuWood has also experienced a boost in their overall work environment and corporate culture.
Of course, our team was apprehensive in the beginning, change is always scary. However, after Stiles’ installation team provided a thorough setup and training on the new equipment, our operators became much more comfortable with the new technology.” says Ken.
What NuWood discovered that they weren’t expecting, was that by investing in new technology, they not only improved their production speed and quality, they also demonstrated to their employees that they were a company that aimed to stay relevant and that cared about the quality of machinery their employees work with every day. This ultimately resulted in a positive shift in moral and corporate culture.
NuWood has no current plans to expand the size of their production. He believes that by keeping things small, they are able to maintain more flexibility, innovation, and enjoyment.
What time they might have used to increase the size of their production, NuWood has been able to invest in innovation and development of new concepts and products with their customers that allow them to be more competitive in the marketplace.
Now that we’ve made improvements in almost every aspect of our manufacturing process, we’re left with the question “what’s next?” Currently, for us, that means discussing and dreaming about the possibilities,” says Ken. “You never want to reach the finish line, but it feels good to be in a place where there are no big foreseeable hurdles to get over. We’ve overcome many challenges in the past eight years, and we are just excited to see what the future holds.”