Early risk reaps rewards

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Loren Swanberg, president of Hayes Cabinets Inc. in Woodland, Wash., is a firm believer in shop efficiency and maintaining a smooth work flow. It has motivated him to equip his 50,000-sq.-ft. facility with the latest in CNC machinery in a continuing effort to streamline his custom production processes and mirror the successes of European-style manufacturers.

Hayes Cabinets opened in 1972 as a two-man business run out of a garage. Swanberg plugged away through the years, eventually bought out his partner and assembled a CNC cabinetry business that focuses on the high-end custom residential market, for both new homes and remodels. The company employs 65 people and grosses about $8 million a year. The success and size of the operation can be traced back to a decision Swanberg made 18 years ago to implement CNC machinery.

CNC believer
Swanberg entered the CNC arena around 1990 when the technology was relatively new to the woodworking industry. He viewed his choice as all or nothing, and elected to go full-speed ahead. The decision to go frameless was made at about the same time. If the company was going to make face frames, then it would have to be a manual operation, which entailed using people. But by going frameless, he could automate. His desire to create and sustain a fine-tuned CNC operation has been unwavering ever since.

HAYES CABINETS INC.

Owner: Loren Swanberg
Location: Woodland, Wash.
Plant size: 50,000 sq. ft.
Employees: 65
Annual gross sales:
$8 million
Client perception:
“My theory is the customer sees pretty much two different people in our organization,” says Swanberg. “One is the sales guy and the other guy is installation, and if neither one of those makes a good impression or performs, I don’t get a referral.”
Kitchen changes: “We’ve always been residential, but in 1972 houses were pretty minimalized. You did a kitchen and a bathroom and that was what the house was made of. Now, besides the kitchens, we’ll do whole entertainment walls, dens and rooms of  cabinetry. There’s just a lot of millwork; I use that word pretty loosely, but there’s a lot of millwork that goes into creating the feel that we want in this market today.”

“Once we made the commitment, we had to go all the way,” recalls Swanberg. “It was the infancy of CNC in our industry. But it was the commitment at that time and it took a while to get it to totality. In 1990, we made the turn and decided to go frameless; we went CNC and we went bar code, point-to-point. At that time, it was all new.”

Swanberg toured European manufacturing facilities and became a big fan of Stiles products such as his Weeke point-to-point machine center and Homag six-roll capacity edgebander. He occasionally strays away from Stiles, such as a purchase of an Italian-made Giben panel saw a couple years ago. The woodworking and cabinetry machinery that see daily use at Hayes Cabinets include:

• Giben Y3000 panel saw

• Butfering Classic 48" 3-head wide-belt sander with Doucet BT-60 return conveyor

• Comil CF-2000 case clamp

• Homag SE 9800/S2 CNC edgebander (six roll capability) with Ligmatech Boomerang ZHR return conveyor

• Quickwood Pro 1100 contour/denibbing sander with Doucet-2048 return conveyor

• Jenkins-Unique 2500 door machine

• Unique Machine and Tool Co. 325 Shape and Sand CNC machine

• Gannomat Elite 25 boring machine

• Disa Cattinair Rotoclean G spray machine

• Weeke BHC 550 point-to-point machine center

• Weinig Unimat 500 molder

• TigerStop

• SawStop table saws

• Altendorf sliding table saw

Swanberg has based his CNC purchasing decisions on labor savings and accuracy.

“There obviously has to be a need, which is the apparent issue, and then the cost and how many potential people it would replace,” he says. “There are benefits to a machine other than just cost savings, such as quality issues and versatility. I think all of those fit in. My theory was always buy bigger than you need so you can grow into it. It gives you some capacity. If I want to do three functions on it, I better buy one that will do six because we will find a need for it.”