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HED//Creating Custom Kitchens
DEK//Elite Kitchens & Design, Inc., of Torbay, Newfoundland, eliminates outsourcing and increases efficiency with Alphacam
When long-time woodworker Phil Snow founded his own custom cabinet company five years ago, he knew that he was taking a risk.
As owner of the newly minted Elite Kitchens & Design, Inc., he also knew that he would need the right equipment to help him quickly turn a profit.
“I had my last day at my job on a Friday and the next day flew to Ontario, where I had purchased a van and trailer.”
After picking up his new van and trailer, he started the long drive back to Newfoundland, picking up machinery parts and equipment along the way.
“It was a strange feeling when I woke the following morning with no official job to go to, as I watched my wife and kids leave for work and school. I looked outside to see my new van and trailer, with equipment on board, and had an unsettling feeling about the whole thing. It was certainly a chance that we were willing to take, but it came with many risks,” says Snow.
The initial apprehension of Snow and his wife, both frugal by nature, was replaced with growing confidence as their investment began to pay off.
“In five years, we’ve always had work and never had to lay anyone off,” says Snow, a practical man who clearly believes that the proof is in the pudding.
Today, Snow employs a team of seven, including two designers to help create and design the custom kitchens for which he is known. The company’s work is roughly 95 percent residential and 5 percent commercial, which includes the likes of medical and dental clinics.
“We put a lot of work into our designs, our finish, and the layout of our kitchens,” Snow says. “We don’t do cookie-cutter kitchens; everything is custom work.”
To create truly custom designs, Snow and his team cater to the specific needs of their clients. In addition to their custom millwork, their workload includes a large percentage of painted kitchens.
“I try to set myself apart by doing custom work that fulfills specific needs,” he explains. “We have a consultation where we get a wish list, and we provide a rendering of the kitchen. From there, we work with the customer until they have exactly what they want.”
As his company serves those who live in some of the oldest cities and surrounding settlements in North America, Snow creates an abundance of custom kitchens to fit all types of spaces.
When he founded the business in 2010, Snow had his machinery and only one piece of software. In 2013, a discussion with a sales rep regarding the acquisition of a panel saw led instead to the purchase of a new CNC router. Realizing his need for a computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) system to program the powerful new router, he also purchased the Alphacam CAD/CAM system.
While he utilizes the Cabinet Vision design-to-manufacturing solution, also by Vero Software, to design and manufacture his custom cabinetry, Snow takes advantage of Alphacam’s ability to manufacture custom shapes to create one-of-a-kind parts for his kitchen designs.
“If I’m able to draw it, Alphacam is able to cut it,” snow says. “For me, the most helpful thing in Alphacam is that I’m able to make my own doors.”
With Alphacam, Snow has eliminated the need to outsource the production of his custom doors. To manufacture his doors, he chooses from a catalogue of about 10 door designs that he created and saved within Alphacam, and adjusts the dimensions of the designs to suit the project.
“You have to draw it and put the tools to it, but once I create the drawing, it’s there in my library for forever and a day,” Snow says.
To adjust the dimensions of his doors, Snow uses the Alphacam Constraint Manager, which is used to make geometry parametric. This means that the dimensions of features on the door can be adjusted in size but remain relative to each other, and to the door, as outlined in the original design.
“With Alphacam, I can make the door bigger or shrink it, and it comes out just the way that I want it.”
For instance, a door with a circular feature near the top can be adjusted in size and, with the use of the constraint manager, the size of the hole would remain proportionate to the size of the door.
When variables, such as size, are changed by the programmer, Alphacam automatically resizes and resolves the geometry. This makes the creation and subsequent machining of families of parts, such as doors, quick and relatively simple.
By being able to save and reuse designs, and to adjust those designs with the constraint manager, Snow has created automation with his programming process that will save him time again and again.
“I’m saving a lot of money and time,” he says. “If I outsource those doors to a supplier, I would have more down time in production during the two to three weeks it would take for doors to arrive.”
By manufacturing his own doors, Snow is also able to complete projects much quicker, and at a lower price point for his customers.
Snow explains that he also uses the Alphacam program as much as he can for the production of other cabinetry parts, when possible.
In addition to the helpful, efficiency boosting tools within Alphacam, Snow is also appreciative of the help he receives from Alphacam reseller Paul Demchuk of Vectorline.
“If I’m having an issue with something, I’ll send him an e-mail and he gets back to me right away,” Snow says.
Born with the art of woodworking in his blood, Snow has been active in the industry since 1987. His brother has owned a custom woodworking business for 30 years, and he has yet another brother who is also a professional woodworker.
In other words, starting his business may have been a risk, but Snow has always had the know-how to get the job done.
“So far, everything is going well,” he says, ever modest. “We have the tools we need to do what we need to do, and the work just keeps coming.