Maybe It’s Time to Move Your Shaped Closed Parts to a Production Work Cell

We understand. You’ve spent years honing your shop’s ability to process closet (and storage organizer) parts. It’s what you love to do and you do it well. Maybe you even have the word “closet” in your company name emblazoned over the front door.

Over time, you’ve selected the best set of tools for the work, built the right jigs and fixtures, and trained your people about processes you personally tested that push as much linear product through your shop as fast as possible. All along you're conscious that your delivering consistent quality that defines your brand in your marketplace. It’s how you earn a living. It’s also the drive that keeps people from going to that other closet shop across town.

Now the whole closet world is suddenly changing, right?

Customers have started asking for more ways to differentiate their closet projects from their neighbor’s. It's the old “keeping up with the Joneses” thing. Your customers went for more and different laminate colors and textures, they found new things that needed special shelving and lots more reasons for plenty of drawers. But now that’s not enough.

Someone, somewhere else, broke the ice and asked for a less linear look to their closet or organizing system. They wanted a personalized style with elegant swoops and expressive curves. No more resting on the floor, they wanted to suspend the whole shebang on the studs. And, of course, they didn’t think that should cost that much extra. Did you get that sinking feeling? Curves? Shapes? Suspension? What’s wrong with clean, sharp lines?  

But the customer is always right, so you plead extra cost for fiddly customization, adding time to farm out the swoopy parts. Then that closet shop across town started providing faster delivery dates on shaped projects.

So here you are with a shop full of perfectly good vertical panel saws and inline edgebanders, all set to bust up and band straight closet parts, and you come to find people are lining up for all kinds of shapes in their projects. And they are lining up in greater numbers EXPECTING that ability. What can you do?

You know what you’re going to do, you’re going to have to figure out how to provide contour routing and banding or turn customers away. Ouch. It’s just how you’re going to go with shaped parts and do it cost-effectively with the facilities and staff you already have.

  • You could manually route shaped parts using fixtures, then manually band them. That adds more steps and puts more burden on your worker’s skill sets.
  • You could continue to farm-out shaping and banding machine time to someone else. But then, are you totally confident they wouldn’t just scoop your customers out from under you?

There is a way you can do BOTH straight and shaped parts, and get them done faster with more profit than with manual production or contract ways. But it will require rethinking (somewhat) your workflow for the better.

Closet part production cells.

Yeah, we know; woodworking machinery production cells have been around for a long time. The dovetailing of multiple machine’s specialized processing abilities is well-known to create tremendous time- and labor-savings. But it used to come at a premium cost. As such, it was natural in the past for production cells to be seen most often implemented in larger woodworking companies. That’s not so true today. In fact, far from it.

The explosion of highly competent, inexpensive CNC routers, coupled with new machine technologies for contour banding, are quietly – and profoundly – changing how shops can embrace new closet design and manufacturing pressures. Changing over your shop to do shaped parts is now less of a re-do than it is a re-think.

New Ways to Cut and Band Shaped Closet Parts:

TOP-OF-THE-LINE TWO-STEP PRODUCTION CELL: (1) One beam saw & (1) one CNC router/contour bander - $720K - $1.2M | The sky is the limit here. Big beam saws can blast through bunks of panels with ease. Shaping parts is limited, though. Those all-in-one CNC routers and edgebanders are awesome to watch when they work, but they’re not known for being able to do smaller parts or ones with tight radiuses. There’s a lot of mechanical system flying around this type of machine and minor performance tradeoffs exist. Still, they’re amazing machines. At a high price, but worth it.

HIGH-VOLUME THREE-STEP PRODUCTION CELL: (1) One Beam saw, (1) One Pod & Rail CNC, and (1) One Automatic edgebander - $505K - $635K | The beam saw can become optional for much of your production in this setup, but we’re leaving it in for doing big runs of straight parts. A good pod and rail machine can do both straight and shaped parts, so it’s your go-to machine for contours. A fully-automated bander accepts material from the saw or CNC and focuses the banding production at its own station.

HIGH VOLUME AUTOMATED TWO-STEP CLOSET PRODUCTION CELL: (1) One nested-base CNC router & (3) three semiautomatic contour banders - $255K | Making a lot of closets? Need more throughput? Can’t spare much space in your shop? A good 4x8 or 5x10 CNC router has the power and speed to create any shaped part you need. With plenty of low-priced machines available, it’s a no-brainer moving to a closet cell with one. New semiautomatic contour banders, (oh, say the SNX nVision SYSTEM1 series) automate open and closed banding and trimming operations with almost no setup and they operate with fast cycle times. At a quarter of the price each instead of a CNC edgebander, it’s an incredible machine value. Since a CNC can bust sheets very fast, you can faithfully feed three banders with panels all day long. Plus the SNX nVisions are quite capable of doing straight parts up to 8-feet long. This doubles their production abilities/capacities and keeps you from having to move product around the shop.

COMPLETE AUTOMATED TWO-STEP CLOSET CELL: (1) One nested CNC router & (1) One semiautomatic contour bander - $134K | This is how you can confidently, comfortably jump into shaped parts without making sacrifices in performance. Keep your vertical panel saw and inline bander (unless you’re looking for a reason to part with them). They’ always come in handy. Add a 4x8 CNC router and one semiauto contour bander. Boom. You’ll route shaped parts and straights with smooth, consistent tool paths. The semiauto bander will deliver consistent (there’s that word again) glue application, produce tighter butt joints, trim your bands, and not require much space in your shop.

Of course, there are many other configurations you could do. But the goal here is a cellular shop orientation. That means you can slash material handling steps, use fewer people to get more done, and allow you to be prepared for whatever the future has in store (Industry 4.0, 5.0, etc.).

SNX has installed many router/bander cells in shops of all sizes and product mixes. Contact us today, let us tell you how you can transition your shop into doing shaped closet parts (or any parts) faster and more profitably by rethinking your shop’s machinery mix.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →