Cabinetmaking is an old industry with long traditions of tried-and-true methods. As industrial manufacturing technology has advanced, cabinetmaking has readily adopted some new tools such as rotary cutting tools (like table saws and electric routers) and new materials (like plywood, plastics, and composites). But other changes have come more slowly.
One such example is CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) technology, which the cabinetmaking industry has been slow to adopt.
But not at Northland Cabinets. We have used CAD for years, and one benefit is easy for you to see: your designer can show you near-photographic 3D images of your new cabinetry. These aren’t just pretty pictures – seeing the design in full-color detail helps you to understand what you’re getting, so you can be sure that it’s what you want. But that’s only the start of the CAD revolution.
Those pretty pictures also contain lots of information about the cabinets. So once you have drawings, you have part lists and tooling operations (like angled cuts and drill holes) applied to the parts. By investing in computer-controlled machinery, this information can be directly utilized on the shop floor to produce completed parts in a single step.
But it doesn’t even end there. Optimization is the process of gathering all similar parts for a job (such as all the cherry end panels, or all 2″-wide boards) and fitting them together on a piece of raw material in a way that maximizes usage of the material. Particularly when used with a machine called a CNC router, we are often able to achieve 95% or better utilization of 4×8 sheet stock; virtually the only waste is the trimmed edges of the sheet and the sawdust lost through cutting. Even with sheets that are only partially used, cuts can be arranged to produce a “drop,” a leftover piece that’s big enough to be useful in a future job.
Lineal-length material can be optimized too. In our face frame department, which produces solid wood frames applied to the front of cabinet boxwork, the raw material often has defects (knots, cracks,
etc.) that must be avoided. With our computer-controlled optimizing saw, we can tell the computer the “clear” length of a piece of wood and it arranges cuts onto that length to achieve the best yield.
Given our industry, Northland Cabinets is of course sensitive to the availability of forest products. Wood is a renewable resource, but it’s limited. Ever-increasing demand suggests that it is incumbent on us to use this resource as wisely as we can. By using processes that reduce our usage of raw material, we control cost and help to ensure the continued availability of the products upon which we, and ultimately you, depend.
Optimizing technology requires considerable capital investment and some advance preparation for each job, but in the end it offers all benefits and no downsides. The quality product benefits our customers, minimizing costs benefits Northland, and reduced waste benefits everyone.