Cabinet Door Production Rates

How many cabinet doors should a shop produce per man-hour? Depends on the set-up — advanced technology can really boost your output. July 22, 2005

I'm in charge of a cabinet manufacturing facility that has approximately 40 employees, and I'm curious about the amount of production other plants are getting. I have 13 employees in my solid woods department. They are responsible for all solid wood products including, but not limited to, moldings, face frames, stiles/rails, and raised panel manufacturing.

We have excellent equipment such as gang rip, molder, radio-press, door presses, wide belt sanders, specialty shapers, and routers. How many raised panel cabinet doors should I expect in one 40 hour week from a crew of 13? Any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor J:
I'd say you could expect on average about 1500-1700 doors a week with average equipment. This all depends if they are style-square, arched, etc.

From contributor R:
From what I can do myself and other shops in town, and what I have observed on WOODWEB, three raised panel doors per man hour is doing pretty well.

From contributor E:
If your people are preparing stock from rough out to a ready to be finished door then they should be capable of producing in the area of 900 doors a week regardless of style.

From Jon Elvrum, forum technical advisor:
There is no doubt that with the number of employees you have involved in your process, that you can find ways to increase the productivity. It is a sure thing that there are several parts of the process that need to be considered independently, and yet with an eye to how they fit together.

First is the hardwood lumber process. A gang rip saw is an imperative, a really good cross cutting system with an automated stop system, like Razor Gage, Tiger Soop or other (there are probably 4 or 5 reputable versions). When this is analyzed and implemented, you will be stunned at the amount of hand labor that is eliminated.

Then there is the area of making blanks for raised panel. There are a host of considerations when laying up the panels, and then milling them to a pre-shaped blank.

In this mix there is room for different sanding machines, wide belts with fine sanding options, orbital processing edge sanders, and sanding media integrated in the shaping process in line.
The area of shape and sand is a relatively new process, but one which has matured steadily, especially over the last five years. Much of the process involves aggressive computerization and also abrasive advances in terms of matching cut profiles and sanding profiles to finished parts.

In this process, it begins to escape from the massive reliance on hand sanding and parts manipulation by workers in favor of a machine process that achieves stunning results. I am amazed at how many checks are written for labor that never get turned into mechanizing the process.

Following all of this is assembly and then finishing. There is as much to consider in these areas, as in the others. RP doors go together mostly with cope and stick joinery, sometimes augmented with dowels, especially so in mitered doors, although I can think of one manufacturer whose machine uses a slip tenon instead of dowels on a miter. The process has undergone significant automation and process analysis in recent years.

Most of these production elements have been worked thru by companies like Unique, Ritter-Crouch, Larick and Voorwood. The technology exists and awaits your pursuit. Assembly clamps are better than hand clamps for speed and accuracy. There are accelerated glue products that cure by radio frequency or catalyzing agent, accelerating the process time dramatically; and in recent years, UV coating capability has begun to drift downward in cost, down to levels more or less equal to CNC machines for cabinet construction. Full systems are now as low as $150-$200,000 which allows virtually instant finish with virtually no VOC's, and wet recovery systems offering nearly zero waste. Every part of the door making process has been subjected to relentless mechanization, and more recently to computerized and rapid set up and change-over.

It is a great time to look at what you do and how you do it. Profitability depends on your ability to eliminate unnecessary steps and touches. I would suggest preparing to go to a major show like Las Vegas or next year in Atlanta. Get your ducks in a row and calculate what you really spend in frequently mis-directed and often poorly controlled labor. They are already paying for machines you probably already need.

From contributor C:
In our shop, we have seven people who each do their particular task. Most of our work is paint grade, and we have two people dedicated to doors when we don’t outsource. One guy starts on the door stiles and rails ripping, jointing, and shaping while the other guy does the glue ups on our one clamping table. The one on the clamping table only has the doors set for about 15 to 20 minutes, and then he removes the panels and puts in the next set of usually four panels at a time.

Between the two of them, they can knock out roughly 30 to 40 doors in three full working days. That is if they don’t get pulled to do other tasks as they tend to arise. In our shop, although everyone has their particular job, we are all expected to be able to do everybody else’s job. That keeps it fresh and we don’t get too burned out because there is always a new challenge around the corner.