Early risk reaps rewards - Employees

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Finishing is one area that has received a lot of attention through the years and the owner views finishing as a prime indicator of quality. Hayes Cabinets has four to five full-time finishers and an automatic robotic flat-line spray system manufactured by Cattinair in France.

The operator of the CNC spray system first places unfinished material on a conveyor belt. The material travels through a scrubber, a vacuum system to remove any excess material and a spraying sensor that dictates what exact areas are to be sprayed. The material continues on the conveyor belt where it is sprayed by a four-gun spray carousal system. The finished piece continues its travel down a long conveyor belt that eventually turns around and the piece ends up within a couple feet of where the operator first placed it.

“It’s a machine we’ve had since the early ’90s. It senses the size of the board and sprays only the board. It’s very efficient and does an absolutely perfect job. We pride ourselves in finishing detail,” says Swanberg. “One thing we’re known for is we’re the best finisher around.”

He estimates about 25 percent of the finishing now is some form of distressed work, which in his market is referred to as rustic or “lodgey.” Other custom finishes include glazes and various painting styles.

“In our market here we’re pretty much at the forefront of that. We’ll go to the shows and we watch magazines closely. We see what’s coming from the East to the West because it always takes a long time to get out here. I feel we are pretty responsive to have a product that’s state-of-the-art for our area.”

Through the years, the company has been able to retain a large portion of its workforce. Swanberg says that’s a credit to how employees are treated.

“I’ve had the philosophy that I’m offering more benefits and paying more than what’s typical. We have vacations, 401(k) plans, health insurance, so I always think that contributes some to the longevity of the crew and I would also hope that they would include that we [provide] a good work environment.”

Most of the raw materials are obtained from three distributors in Portland, Ore., about 35 miles away. The 3/4" veneer plywood material is supplied by the Mount Baker Plywood mill in Bellingham, Wash. Hayes has been a faithful customer of Blum hardware, while most of the knobs are purchased from Top Knob.

One of the few areas Hayes Cabinets hasn’t become involved in is countertops — and it doesn’t sound as if that policy is going to change.

“We don’t do countertops,” Swanberg states definitively. “I think it is a specialty item and if you’re going to do countertops, you have to have the laminate and the tile guy, the Corian guy and the stone guy, and I don’t think you can be an expert in all of the above.”

Hayes Cabinets has a superb Web site that showcases its product offerings and highlights services the company provides. The site has been operational for five years, but Swanberg can’t assess its value beyond the fact that it adds credibility to the business.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m a marketing genius at all. We’re very local in our marketing, and it’s mostly been custom homes, word of mouth, referrals and just our network in our local area.”