Making manufacturing smarter is a day’s job at Fletcher Wood Products, a 59-year-old custom carpentry and woodworking business that has thrived for nearly six decades by continuously improving its processes.
Based in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the company was founded in 1961 by Bill Fletcher, an experienced craftsman who built a business by manufacturing high quality, custom products. His son, Clark Fletcher, is now the head of the company; it uses modern technologies to stay competitive while continuing the company’s heritage of manufacturing best-in-class products.
A firm believer in the power of technology to help increase efficiency and reduce errors, Fletcher implemented the Cabnetware solution for cabinet makers in 1986 and, being one of the first to adopt CNC technology, acquired his first CNC router in 1993.
While Cabinetware has helped Fletcher and his team dramatically reduce the time spent manually creating cut lists, shop drawings and assembly sheets, the integration of CNC machines has been a game-changer.
In 2007, Fletcher switched from Cabnetware to the Cabinet Vision Screen to Machine ™ (S2M Center) solution, which offers more robust design and project planning functionality, as well as the ability to generate precise NC code with a simple click. .
“The challenge is different today than it was when my dad started the business,” said Fletcher. “For me, the challenge has more to do with the introduction of computers and software. You can tell when it’s time to change the way you do things, and today you have to use technology to stay in business.
To start a project in Cabinet Vision, the Fletcher team enters the dimensions of the space in which the final product will be installed, then virtually builds the project in that space. After the project is drawn, shop drawings, cut lists and assembly sheets can be generated based on the design.
One of the most widely used Cabinet Vision features by Fletcher Wood Products is the ability to apply one’s own object intelligence to finished designs. Object intelligence facilitates the process of design modification, including the ability to resize parts, even when they are included in assemblies. When part of an assembly is changed, the rest of the assembly will automatically adapt to that change.
“You add a room to the system and automatically add intelligence so that you can make the room bigger or smaller as the design progresses,” Fletcher said. “You can reuse it and change the overall dimension, and the other parts change with it. “
Cabinet Vision allows users to record and reuse any process, including those that include object intelligence. Reusing processes is especially useful for very similar or identical parts, but any process can be edited and saved as an additional version of a previously saved process.
Maintaining a process library makes it easy to record and select processes as needed.
“The most immediate feedback on being able to reuse parts and projects is that for 75% of projects you have to go back and change something,” Fletcher said. “The little time you have to devote to adding intelligence will save you time – without a doubt.”
For Fletcher, the proof is, as they say, in the pudding.
Having used Cabinet Vision to varying degrees to complete projects for four new 801 Chophouse restaurant locations, he recorded and reused processes for several elements of the project.
As the functionality of the solution and his knowledge of the software grew, he increased his use of the system to tackle the more difficult aspects of the project. Thus, 95% of its work on the last location of the restaurant was carried out with Cabinet Vision.
“As Cabinet Vision continued to be developed, new features were added,” said Fletcher. “I think this kind of continuous development is great and shows that they are listening to their customers.
The four 801 Chophouse projects were completed in 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2019.
Cabnetware was used for cabinets on the 2006 and 2011 projects, while Cabinet Vision was used in 2011 to produce only the panels for the 2011 job. In 2016, Cabinet Vision was used to build both cabinets and panels, and in 2019 its use was increased to include the production of cabinetry, panels, moldings, cubicle assemblies, oval bar walls, bar top, bar soffits , window shutters, wine tower panels and display units, and applied arch frames.
“In 2016, we used Cabinet Vision to create custom wine cabinets with special operations, as well as wall panel assemblies with the necessary machining operations, and we recorded everything in the Cabinet Vision library,” said Fletcher. “In 2019, we were able to build on work from 2016 and enhance Cabinet Vision’s previous work by adding moldings to wall panel assemblies to help accurately track molding quantities. “
For the 2019 project, Fletcher created complete cabin assemblies that included a wall framing, smart machined wall panels, glass panel frame assemblies, and all necessary moldings.
To design the restaurant’s intricate oval bar, the company used computer-aided design (CAD) software and imported the file into Cabinet Vision.
“We used the CAD import feature to create the oval bar and all associated parts to create all the shaped parts and assemblies, which included oval bar top, shaped bar rail, panels bar faceplate and shaped soffit panels. “
He also used Cabinet Vision to create a sliding shutter system and assigned object intelligence to its top and bottom rails, side posts, housing materials, and parametric shutter sets. The smart shutter assembly allows you to change the slat size, slat spacing, and slat angles using custom attributes.
“A big time saver for us was creating assemblies for all of the applied wall molding frames we supply,” said Fletcher. “This project had over 150 wall frames with 16 top pieces of different radius. The assemblies allowed us to take into account all the straight moldings needed for the frames.
As each assembly included a hardwood piece shaped for a curved top rail, Fletcher saved a considerable amount of time by sending these intricate pieces to the S2M center, where real-shape nesting was used to effectively nest the profiles.
“These 150+ hoop frames were optimized and code created in minutes compared to the several days it took for our previous projects to draw arches, create toolpaths, and manually create nests on different sizes of materials.” , said Fletcher.
“I can’t say enough about the power of the tool we have in Cabinet Vision and all we can do with it. You are only limited by your imagination.