Focusing on the future - Sitting on the fence

Article Index
Focusing on the future
Small shops are big business
Drawers, legs and more
Sitting on the fence
Anybody's guess
All Pages

“At certain times we will make things for ourselves; doors, for example, if the job requires something that we can’t get easily. But most of the time I’ll outsource to Conestoga,” says Odhner. “As far as drawer boxes, it’s the same thing. We run a lot of moldings here, but we also outsource a lot. If there is something that we can get from Dykes Lumber [New York], it is cheaper than [running it] ourselves. Carvings … all that kind of stuff we’re outsourcing to Wohners [New Jersey] and Raymond Enkeboll [California].”

Odhner hasn’t outsourced from any foreign manufacturer and doesn’t feel a desire to do so. The quality provided by Conestoga, Dykes and other companies meets the standards of the materials he can produce in his shop. But he is extremely careful about what companies he chooses for his outsourcing. If a customer has a quality problem with a job, the problem is of the same importance whether the product was produced in the shop or outsourced.

Sitting on the fence
Augustin Morley Cabinetmakers of Skaneateles, N.Y., is a four-man shop that designs and builds fine cabinetry in the Finger Lakes region of the Empire State. Owner Gus Morley says his company has been guided by the single policy of quality and excellence. In an environment where one bad job can kill a business, Morley outsources some of his custom items while keeping a close eye on quality.

“We’ll outsource for a couple of reasons,” Morley says. “One is if we just don’t have the time to do it in the shop; and two, if the work is really beyond our capability in one form or another. I’m starting to outsource some more of our finishing also.”

Morley outsources most of his boxes to Cab Fab in Syracuse, N.Y., a supplier he has found to be reliable and quick. He sends an AutoCAD file to the company, which runs the program and quickly sends the boxes back. One benefit for Morley and other small shop owners that outsource is that the practice provides the opportunity for them to take on other jobs, thus increasing the bottom line.

“If I can take in another job that I can profit on and outsource, I do it. The other form of outsourcing that I’ve done is things that we can’t do and that comes down to some turnings. I’ve done some really big rope turnings that look like a barber pole and I’ve outsourced those to Turnings Unlimited in Ohio, and they’ve been great. I send them an AutoCAD file also. If it comes back with a mistake, it’s usually my mistake. They follow that plan to a fraction of a millimeter, so I’ve been very happy with them.”

Most of Morley’s customers frown upon the idea of outsourcing to foreign countries and to some degree that has become a selling point for the New York cabinetmaker.

“They’re all going very green, which is good, and I think they’re all growing very national.”

Thanks, but no thanks
Not every custom shop owner is a believer in outsourcing. Take Paul Sherwood, owner of Contemporary Kitchens, a six-man custom shop in Topping, Va., for example. His business is strictly high-end kitchens. Except for occasionally ordering doors during busy times from Horizon CNC Products in South Carolina, and hardware such as Blum’s stainless-steel drawer systems, Sherwood has no desire to outsource, nor do his clients want him to.

“It’s because of quality control, primarily,” he explains. “We have to be very careful with quality. The people that we work with now are assuming there is not going to be a quality issue. The only issue they might have is a design flaw and that’s usually with the architect or interior designer that they use. What we produce is just a given that it’s going to be the best quality that they can get because we sure do charge them a lot of money.”