One of the shifting paradigms of modern manufacturing is that bigger is not necessarily better. In fact that philosophy, a remnant from the industrial revolution, has proven that “bigger, faster and more” is not always the most profitable. Instead successful operations are moving toward finding the optimal; where specific consumer demands intersect with lean production. This contemporary model relies on precise automation, access to and an understanding of a wide variety of materials and an intimate knowledge of the market being served.
It also means that a person doesn’t have to be J.D. Rockefeller to be in business. Case in point is California Closets’ carefully constructed and easily replicated franchise model (see page 22). While it is full of all the things that make manufacturing exciting: high design, automated machinery and consumer demand, the franchises are also accessible to anybody who has the desire to succeed and a dedication to customer service. Franchisees rely on a combination of machinery that fits their size/level of expertise and distributor relationships to meet the needs of any customer.
Optimizing is more about tailoring production to the market served than trying to sell as much of a generic product line as can be produced. Harbour City Kitchens (page 10) is a great example of this. Their success does not rely on beating out all the other players in North America’s highly competitive kitchen cabinet industry by offering a limited product line to a saturated market. It relies on precisely serving the needs of a very finite local population. This requires agility. So the company invests in automation and keeps their distribution close to home. In doing so they are able to serve a broad range of local market segments appropriately and cost effectively.
Another key to finding the optimal fit is choosing the right materials for the application. The wide variety of materials available makes it possible to manufacture products with very precise characteristics. Suppliers are constantly developing new and innovative products (check out “Great Countertops on page 54, “Trends” starting on page 46, and “Next Generation Decorative Overlay on page 62). And in many cases distributors are taking on the role of educating and helping with specification (see “The Real Value of Training” on page 34).
This is not to say that there is no room for large enterprise, economy of scale has a place in every operation. But rather that successful businesses recognize that “better is better” and that bigger is only important if demand justifies growth, and growth does not compromise quality.
What does successful modern manufacturing look like to you? Share your thoughts with the “Surface and Panel” group on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Complete a questionnaire to receive a complimentary 1-year subscription to Surface & Panel, the only magazine focused exclusively on the design, manufacture and marketing of panel-based furniture and casegoods.
fill out the questionnaire