Cabinet Assembler Productivity

How many cabs should an assembler put together daily, assuming all the pieces are cut and ready? In this thread, bosses and workers offer their perspectives. November 12, 2005

I am looking for some ideas about how many cabinets per day an experienced assembler can put together. (The criteria are as follows: the cabinet parts are cut and ready for assembly, these are kitchen cabinets base and wall, the base cabinets have in integral toe, the cabinets are glued screwed and pocket holed together.) Lets forget about faceframes, forget about corner cabinets, and forget about finished ends to keep the sample more accurate. I say a good assembler can put 15-20 cabinets together per day. What does everyone else think?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor S:
There is a wide variety of variables that would affect the number significantly - tooling, experience, bench space, etc. But given the example above, if there is absolutely no milling required as you described, then I think your estimate of 15-20 might be doable under the right production circumstances. I have no idea what your production set up looks like, maybe it's perfect for all I know. But I also know that the lack of production isn't always about the guys at the bench sometimes it's about everything else.

From contributor J:
In these same circumstances I have personally assembled 40-50 cabinets a day. That includes mounting the hardware and assembling the cabinet. Over an 8 hour day that is about 10 minuets per cabinet (9.6) including things like sorting parts and moving the cabinets around. These cabinets are frameless and have separate toe kicks that were built by someone else. I was not the only one in the shop that could assemble this many cabinets but there were others that couldn't, they would only assemble 30-40 but 10-15 seems like a good half days work to me.

Every once a while I will think to myself "man they are taking forever to do that" so I pull out my tools and show them what I expect and how I expect them to do it and at what speed I expect it done. The guys that have been with me for a while will usually just pick things up if I threaten to do this because they don't like to be embarrassed. I have had them struggle with a particular process and ask me to work next to them so they could learn to do it faster or to prove that I can't do it faster but the later doesn't happen too often.

I have found that this is the best way to show my guys what I want and help them learn tricks that I have picked up over the years. It also saves me from having to hear "it can't be done that fast".

From contributor R:

There's a ton of people out there who can somehow work harder, faster and better than anyone else and who expect that everyone can work just as fast, hard, etc as they can/do without realizing that they are the exception and not the rule.

A typical day is not 8 hours hard at work. It's 5-10 minutes in the morning getting "warmed up" and work orders/schedules discussed, two 10 minute OSHA mandated breaks with 3-5 minutes afterwards to "get back to it", a minimum half hour lunch with 5-10 minutes afterwards to organize yourself, tools, and parts before you get back to work, a couple of short breaks (2-3 minutes each) for water and restroom, and a normal slowing in the afternoon due to becoming tired from working, etc. Thus, in a normal workday you'll get maybe 6 hours of production time.
10 minutes per cab in 6 hours is 36 cabinets per day in a shop. Anyone who expects more than that from an employee is unrealistic. Knowing that unhappy employees leads to unmet production schedules, I'd have to say that somewhere around 30 cabs per day, day-in/day-out, rain or shine, is more realistic for a good assembler who knows his job and is happy with his working conditions.

From contributor C:
As the owner you understand the stress and deadlines that most cabinet shop owners don't express to their employees. Yeah, for you, it may only take ten minutes to complete a cabinet under set time limits. But, unless you stress to your employees what situation you find your self in, they probably have no idea what actually needs to get done in a day. So far in my life I have spent more time as an employee than as a boss, and in the time I have put in I would have put in a fourteen to fifteen hour day with my boss if it would mean that the company would get back on schedule and help him to go home earlier.

If you have employees this dedicated to your business I have no doubt in my mind that they would give you more than everything they have, so long as you explain the situation, and when all is said and down don't be selfish with the profit you made for their hard work including yours. I know that you put your life into your business, but an employee needs to be taken care of for when he/she goes go above and beyond and sacrifices extra time for you business. This is what I have experienced. In your life take care of the employees that help take care of you and they will always be there to help carry the shop out of a hard place. Expect them to carry you and they won't be there for long.

From contributor X:
At the shop that I am at we assemble a lot of cabinets when we have very big jobs coming through the shop but to us it is more important to make sure that the cabinets are done right the first time with no blow outs or any other accidental damage because someone who is cocky thinks they can get a lot of cabinets done. But they don't like that there because it just makes a mess for the next guy down the line that would have to fix the assemblers mess. We have been able to boot out the cabinets but with a whole team working together not just one guy.

From contributor W:
We build frameless cabinets that are stapled and screwed and glued. We used to run in the 15-20 range. I did a little time study of the shop and found that the guys were spending an inordinate amount of time sorting parts. We built some new shop racks that are open on both sides and what look like letter slots on the inside. Each cabinet gets its own slot. We have also built a similar rack for doors and drawer fronts so they can be sorted by cabinet number when being bored for hinges. These 2 simple things have put us in the 20-25 cabinet range which includes hanging the door and drawer front as well as an inspection. Its amazing what a little organization will do to make things work more smoothly.