The Boston regional event was held June 15-16, 2016. We were right around our limit of 30 attendees, and the group was a good mix of veteran members, soon-to-be members, and a handful of associate members. The hotel was an historic inn in Plymouth, Massachusetts, within walking distance of the Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II.
We began early on Wednesday morning, since we had four shops to visit that day. The first stop was Mystic Millwork, which is a full-service fabrication company. Their specialty is creating sets and backdrops for TV shows as well as opera stages and the like. Their employees are truly talented, real artists. Also the scale of some of their projects was incredible.
We then split into two groups for the next two visits: Case by Case Cabinets and Kochman, Reidt & Haigh (KRH). Case by Case is a one man shop, which felt more like home for many attendees. We had a lot of discussion about marketing and CNC software with the owner, Erik Bittner, who is an active CMA member. KRH produces high-end residential cabinetry, and they do so with a clever use of their manufacturing space.
Our final stop of the day was Metropolitan Cabinets, where we first enjoyed a much-needed lunch break then toured the facility. Stuart Elfland, the owner, encouraged the group that they can learn things from seeing other operations, and invited them to borrow any idea and make it their own. In addition to residential cabinets, they also do the countertops too.
The day concluded with a group dinner back at the hotel. We had a traditional Thanksgiving menu, since we were in Plymouth, after all. After the meal, conversations continued late into the evening.
On Thursday, we met at Colonial Saw in Kingston, Massachusetts, for a full day of educational seminars and demonstrations.
The day began with “What to look for in a saw and tool sharpening service”, which was presented by Doug Pelligrini (Needham Saw & Tool Service) and Dave Rakauskas (Colonial Saw). Attendees learned what happens to blades when the saw guy takes them out the back door. Discussion points included what questions to ask, how to know if they are doing a good job, what is fair market pricing, and how many sharpenings to get. Finally, they sharpened a blade live so attendees could see a CNC carbide saw grinder in action.
Next Greg Larson, the director of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (www.nesaw.com) in western Massachusetts, showed the group a SketchUp based parametric design software. As part of their curriculum, students build high-end custom kitchens for people in the local community. The students cut list, build, spray finish, and install the kitchens based on plans. Like most small shops, Greg was looking for a software solution to design cabinets faster and more efficiently, that wouldn’t break the bank.
Greg met Joe Zeh, who started teaching SketchUp classes at the school. He had also written a number of plugins for SketchUp, including one called Cutlist Bridge that allows users to export a cut list from any Sketchup model to either Excel or a program called Cutlist Plus fx (www.cutlistplus.com), which allows users to do advanced cutlist/estimating operations plus optimize plywood cut diagrams. Over time, Greg and Joe started to think about another plugin that would make it easier to draw cabinets in a parametric fashion, which would work in conjunction with Cutlist Bridge.
The new program is called CabWriter, which they’ve been working on now for about three years. It’s currently in the beta testing stage with a number of small to medium shops across the world helping to test it. The program is fully integrated with SketchUp and can not only can cabinets parametrically, but with SketchUp Pro, you can generate professional shop drawings, with full sections and quickly export a cutlist using Cutlist Bridge which is included with CabWriter.
Dave Bull (Colonial Saw) then talked with the group about the advantages of cutting on a vertical panel saw, and also performed a demonstration on the machine.
After lunch, Norman Fink talked to the group about the value proposition of implementing a Project Management Software solution for project based custom woodwork manufacturing. Norm is President and founder of NPF Consultants, a software sales & consulting firm that specializes in custom woodwork manufacturing solutions. Norm has been intimately involved in custom woodwork project based manufacturing his entire life, going back to the years spent in his family’s business, representing its third generation. In 1980, Norm and his brother left the family business as they founded Keytrix Systems, and introduced the industry’s first software solution specifically developed to accommodate complex project based estimating, material and labor forecasting, cut listing, optimized material yielding analysis and shop drawing submittal assistance. Today, NPF Consultants exclusively represents Crows Nest software, which empowers companies to manage and monitor projects by deploying critical project management and ERP functionality such as: project scheduling, task management, job costing, labor tracking, work order management, and much more.
“Alternative joinery methods with mechanical connectors” was then presented by Chris Hofmann (Colonial Saw). Chris talked about innovative new mechanical connector options available to woodworkers, store fixture manufacturers, exhibit builders, and more. The woodworking supply industry has lately been seeing an influx of a variety of solutions in the marketplace, which may confuse some customers. He took the attendees through an easy-to-understand tutorial on the latest line of new connectors from Lamello. Finally, there was a hands-on opportunity for the guests.
The day progressed with a few more software presentations from Paul Corey (Cabinet Vision) and Ken Frye (KCD Software). Finally, Tony Asprinio (Cabinotch) informed the group about a solution for the ebb and flow of production schedules: outsourcing boxes. We all recognize the finding good help is next to impossible, so instead you can have Cabinotch make your boxes when your workload demands.
It was a long day, and a lot of material was covered, but attendees seemed to enjoy learning and stayed after the presentations concluded for one-on-one discussions with the presenters.
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