From mass production to mass customization with CABINET VISION
As a one-stop shop for professionals in need of contract manufacturing services, Northway Industries, Inc., has carved a niche in the woodworking industry by meeting a wide variety of custom needs.
“We are a state-of-the-art job shop specializing in fabricating to customer specifications. Therefore, we program and produce cabinets simultaneously to a wide range of construction standards,” said President and CEO Don O’Hora of Northway Industries, Inc. “Our customers are all manufacturers or resellers, so they may be in architectural millwork, office furniture, store fixtures or they have proprietary product lines.”
In 2003, Northway Industries purchased the CABINET VISION Screen-To-Machine™ (S2M) solution as part of a strategic plan to transition from producing solely unassembled products to about 50 percent assembled products. The integration of CABINET VISION helped the company make this transition from mass production to mass customization.
“The ability to customize is important for us because we don’t know what’s coming next and CABINET VISION allows us to quickly respond to whatever the demands are.”
Don O’Hora, President and CEO
While Northway Industries had integrated CNC machinery years prior to purchasing the solution, programming took place without the aid of solid modeling.
“CABINET VISION as a package was a great starting point for us. From there, we were able customize it to satisfy the high variety work that we do,” said Senior Engineer Chris Totton. “I’ve been doing 3D modeling for 25 years and early on there weren’t many software packages flexible enough to handle custom work. Today, it’s really about who lets you do the most customizing of the software.”
Northway Industries employs a staff of 130 to run production 24 hours per day, five days each week. Its 110,000 square-foot facility houses 14 CNC machines of varied configurations, which adds up to a lot of vital data and countless moving parts to manage as jobs make their way through the shop.
“Half of our business is done through CABINET VISION, and that requires a team effort to keep up with programming and making sure it all gets done on-time,” Totton said. “Using CABINET VISION software, we are able to produce a lot with very few people.”
Totton and his team rely on CABINET VISION to help them standardize and replicate AWI (Architectural Woodwork Institute) production standards while delivering the custom products that their customers want.
Among programming tools used at Northway are the solution’s parametric, or object intelligence, capabilities, which enable programmers to easily adjust design dimensions while maintaining the desired scale of part features. Especially helpful with jobs that are similar or identical in every aspect except for size, the software’s parametric tools make it possible to reuse existing processes for future jobs. This means that time invested in programming today will boost efficiency for the company indefinitely. Moreover, reused processes can be easily edited to account for custom design features.
The company also makes frequent use of CABINET VISION User Created Standards, or UCSs, which deliver a high level of customization for specific construction methods that may or may not vary from job to job. UCSs can be applied to just about anything, such as cutting methods based on material type or tracking hardware requirements.
“We have a variety of UCSs, and most of them are running daily,” Totton said. “I’m very comfortable writing my own and with every new version of the software we’ve tweaked them and made them better.”
When it comes to cutting parts, the team at Northway takes advantage of the CABINET VISION nesting engine, which ensures maximum material yield while delivering the customization needed. While nests are automatically generated, the solution allows programmers to edit nests as needed, which ensures that they retain complete control over how products are made.
“For us, the ability to edit a nest is a great feature,” O’Hora said. “We nest them in a specific way just to manage the workflow, and this is based on timing and the number of panels in a process. We can bring rainbow stacks of panels to our nested-based routers and the operators work down through the pile. Organization is important so that we can complete cabinets in a shorter period of time.”
Managing data for a high volume of custom products is made easier with CABINET VISION’s report-generating capabilities. In addition to generating cut lists and material lists based on design data, the system generates assembly sheets that are the only piece of paperwork sent to the shop floor at Northway Industries.
To track parts as they move through the shop, the company uses a barcoding system with labels generated by CABINET VISION.
“The labeling and reporting are really important because we have 24-hour throughput that is all done essentially paperless,” O’Hora said.
At Northway, the ability to confidently respond and consistently deliver on quality when unforeseen demands arise requires a combination of talent, experience, innovation and reliable technologies.
“The ability to customize is important for us because we don’t know what’s coming next and CABINET VISION allows us to quickly respond to whatever the demands are,” O’Hora said.
About the Company
Name: Northway Industries, Inc.
Business: State-of-the-art job shop that specializes in fabricating to customer specifications
Simplified the transition from mass production to mass customization
Ability to produce a high volume of products with a small team
Automation tools help to streamline and standardize production