After cutting a lot of sheets of plywood and building my boxes, I was thinking about Ecabs and outsourcing for a one man shop (sometimes two). I do enjoy building my own cabs, but got to thinking, why not use Ecabs and outsource my panel stock? I can design, spec the way I like a cab built, right? I assemble it with the fasteners, glues, hardware, etc. in my style.
When I outsource, is it cost prohibitive? Maybe I thinking it's a magic bullet? But designing a whole job, emailing the file and picking up the cut parts, bringing it back, assembling, finishing, and out the door... Why am I breaking my back doing all the cutting? The large cab companies work this way, with Ecabs, so could I? I already outsource my doors and sometimes drawers. Saves me a ton of money.
From contributor D:
We're right in the process of doing just that for a big job (about twice the size of any individual job we've done before). It's commercial, mostly standard melamine euro-cabs... We're outsourcing the cutting of parts, doors and drawer boxes. We downsized this year because our business slowed, so we won't have to hire up our staff again, and with someone else doing the time consuming cutting, our shop just assembles and wraps, and then spends the time on the more detailed items in the build, like curved banquettes and a reception desk.
A lot of our regular business is smaller, unusual (like a combination face frame and frameless on one cabinet) high-end residential stuff that outsourcing parts cutting might not work on, but for standardized and larger jobs, it makes sense. And us buying a CNC machine right now doesn't make sense either.
One could say you're truly not a cabinetmaker then. Well, I could spend a ton of my money and hire/buy what is needed and what comes at the end. The same box.
Okay, custom stuff. The little I've used Ecabs, that isn't a problem. I just started, too. Somehow this software can build furniture too. Yes, much more learning curve. I think taking one of the e-cab classes is the first step, then onto a production CNC shop. I guess for costs I could design a past job in e-cabs and compare costs.
I've looked towards getting the CNC machine, but the cost was prohibitive for us right now (and in the not-too-distant future). My lumber supplier's in-house rep that I do all my orders from brought it up that they could do it. I'd already started outsourcing all my dovetail drawer boxes (I was the one who made them in-house - I loved doing it, but from a business standpoint, it didn't make sense), as well as some doors.
My lumber supplier doesn't have eCabs, but I do the cabinets, run a cutlist and export it to Excel, clean it up, and fax it over. This will allow us to do this really big, institutional job, but still be able to do some of the small jobs that look great in the portfolio.
Let me tell you about one of the last jobs I outsourced. I checked with my suppliers to find a reliable source. This guy was recommended. I inspected his place and felt good about the job. He waited until the last minute to start my job because he was working on his stuff first. When the deadline arrived, he was asking me to pay overtime to get the work done. Needless to say, I lost one of my biggest clients ever.
Before that, another company cut parts that would not fit together correctly. Another company stole my client.
I have tried it several times and decided to invest and do it myself. I make component parts for other people, as well as residential and commercial cabinets. You can be sure that I handle others' work with more integrity and care. But I have been burned too many times depending on others.
Don't be so naive to believe that it is as easy as Thermwood makes it sound. If it were, masses of people would be quitting their day jobs to build cabinets. And Thermwood's blind dados are not the best solution. It just fits what they want to sell.
If I were starting over again, I would strongly look at a good, entry-level router. I am not talking about a flimsy, light-duty machine. There is some software that is relatively inexpensive. Put that on your list. It will cost more than a slider and construction-boring machine, but it will be a much wiser investment in your money and time. You don't have to keep these things going 24/7 to pay for them. As you gain more experience in cabinetmaking, you will see that you spend a considerable amount of time machining parts. The labor you save with a router is incredible. And I truly believe that cabinetmakers will not be able to remain competitive without automation.
I've heard it before... "I can't afford one of those things." If you are just going to make a killing for a couple of years and get out, then you will need to keep your overhead low. If you are going to be in this for the long haul, you need to invest wisely. You need to run your shop like a business, not a hobby, and you need to make good use of your money and time. Depending on others for your livelihood is a risky proposition at best.
If you are really interested in making money with a low investment, you might consider being a distributor of a couple of lines of cabinets. The financial investment is low, and you can build some custom parts when needed. This is in no way intended to be a slight. Operating a small shop has many challenges, and the odds are stacked against the owner/operator. This would allow you to still work with your hands, interact with people, preserve your capital, and still be creative.
The point is that standing behind the saw takes time away from all of these activities. You have to look not just at the hours standing behind the saw (and edge banding) but you also need to look at the lost opportunity to work on other parts of the business while you are slicing up sheets. Yes - it makes a lot of sense for a small shop to outsource cutting.
Then there is the issue of miscut, misdrawn or damaged pieces that need to be recut by the other shop and shipped to you, which delays the assembly by a few days and adds extra charges. This can add up overtime.
There are also other things to consider. If your current supplier does not deliver to the outsourcing shop, then you need to find one that does and they may not carry the same goods that you get from your current supplier so you are then going to have a more difficult time with organizing shipping, delivery (which also adds up) and bill paying.
All in all, it is a good way to go to get the benefits if CNC without the investment. And you can without a doubt increase your workload without either hiring or investing in the equipment yourself, but it does have more logistical considerations to work out.
If you want to do production sharing, there are a couple of ways to get good results.
1. Use butt joints. This eliminates some of the issues with varying material thickness and dadoes.
2. Provide shop drawings or parts list so the vendor can compare CNC output to your required results.
3. If using e-cabs, provide the ESJ and allow the vendor to account for material thickness prior to creating the TWD.
4. Use a CAD software to make DXF parts and have the vendor cut that.
I used all three of these methods when I was a production sharing user (method 4 we use with architectural/design firms). Now I am on the other end, and would prefer our clients receive what they want/expect.