Colecraft uses modern computer design
techniques to work with clients. “We
can rapidly design a product to exactly
meet customer needs,” he says. “We use
Solid Works, Go ToMeeting, email and
eDrawings for almost real-time feedback.”
Comparing it to sending a 3D PDF file,
Kozlowski says the eDrawings allow for
notes, messages and customer sign-off,
making for a collegial process with customers, who then become enthusiastic
partners. The company has branded this
process as Colecraft Custom Designer.
Says Messinger, “We know that
Collegial business approach
providing a unique solution for (client)
specific requirements is the key to build-
ing our reputation.”
“The old company was not as flex-
ible,” says Chris Friend. “Now we have a
willingness to do things out of the box.”
“The large companies don’t take the
time to understand the needs of their
customers,” says Messinger. “We enjoy
cultivating close relationships with our
customers. Personal service is a strength
of our company.”
That team approach with customers
is a reflection of the collegial business
approach inside the whole company.
Messinger leads a team that clearly
thrives on sharing ideas and working
with each other to find solutions. “We all
complement each other,” says Messinger.
“We don’t overlap on our skills sets.
We’ve all been in business for years and
experienced different management styles.
We’ve reflected on that. As a group we’ve
tried to apply what we’ve learned.”
“We all have to yield to a common
Custom conference tables like this are
intent in the end,” says Pitney, and Ko-
zlowski echoes that sentiment. “We are
all willing to compromise in the end.”
But don’t mistake the compromise
of collaboration with any compromise
in quality. All the Colecraft owners are
concerned about the growing com-
moditization of the furniture industry and
what they see as an ensuing “race to
the bottom.” By offering higher quality
and custom solutions borne out of this
collegial approach inside and out of the
a specialty of Colecraft.
Dassault Systèmes Solid Works Corp., Solid Works and eDrawings software 800.693.9000 www.solidworks.com Stiles Machinery Inc., Optimat CNC machine 616.698.7500 www.stilesmachinery.com For more info: Or go to www.CabinetMakerFDM.com
A worker uses a hand router for
trimming a tabletop. Balancing
skilled woodworking and automated
processes is key in the success of the
new Colecraft operation.
factory, the company is fast setting itself
apart from competitors.
Despite the enthusiastic endorsement of computer technology for design,
engineering, and sales, Colecraft has
found it works best in the manufacturing
plant to blend high-tech and low-tech.
Randy Jackson, who is in charge of
manufacturing operations, notes that a
Weeke Optimat CNC machine is at the
center of manufacturing, but they freely
mix conventional and computerized manufacturing to provide optimum efficiency.
For example, on some projects, Jackson
says, it is more efficient to use the CNC
machine to make jigs and fixtures for use
on a shaper or saw rather than actually
machining the final parts on the CNC. An
entire wall of neatly organized jigs and
fixtures is testament to how frequently the
plant relies on conventional processing.
Since the CNC machine uses pods
instead of a vacuum table to hold work,
the company machines most work with
an “onion skin” technique, leaving a thin
flange of material to be cleaned off with
a hand router. “It’s quicker to knock off
the onion skin than use a spoil board,”
Smaller lots work
A big key to Colecraft’s success is efficiently working in smaller lot sizes. “We
typically work in lots of one to five pieces,”
says Jackson. And that fits neatly with the
overall economic plan for the company.
“What we understood was that the
larger domestic and offshore suppliers
do not like small order quantities,” says
Messinger. “They do not like individual
customization of designs that limit mass
production of orders. We could excel at
design and customization of products by
taking advantage of our small factory’s
less automated equipment and our employees’ skills in woodworking.” ❮