Keeping Cabinet Assembly Organized

Cabinetmakers discuss ways to keep track of jobs and avoid confusion. November 21, 2006

I am part owner of a 5/6 man shop in Ga. We often have 4-6 jobs going at one time, and organization is becoming a problem. We misplaced a batch of shelves the other day, and remade the set before the originals were found. Sometimes a job gets out of the spray booth and is ready for final assembly, and we realize that, "crap, the drawers weren't made." It doesn't happen a lot and the mistakes aren't fatal, but it is definitely having an impact on productivity. How do you folks keep your jobs/components organized?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
Do you have a cad program? This prints every part for the complete job and a cutlist.

From the original questioner:
Yeah, we use KCDw, but as soon as one set of face frames is cut and assembled, another is started. Sometimes the carcasses are fully assembled before the doors and drawer fronts are made. We are bursting at the seams with business, which is great, but our inefficiencies are becoming more visible because we are so slammed. Maybe we do as well as any cabinet shop. I have nothing to compare us to. I was just wondering what other folk's systems were.

From contributor B:
Just an idea based on some things I've seen at other shops, but haven't implemented myself. Get a big dry erase board and set up a chart with job name down the left side, and "doors", "drawers", "drawer fronts", "shelves", "molding", "finish" across the top. As each thing is completed, check off on the dry erase board. You can see at a glance where you are on each job.

From the original questioner:
You know, I was considering a very similar method, only I was picturing a paper checklist, but I believe the dry erase is a better idea.

From contributor B:
I also do something with my KCDw drawings. When the face frame is built, I put a check mark on the cabinet number in my drawings. When the box is built, I circle the number. I've built multiple face frames for the same cabinet, and built boxes more than once. This system solves that problem.

From contributor M:
Are your men specialized? Do you do most in house? I have seen a shop about twice your size have everyone specialized and then they just receive their orders. With the amount of business you are doing, I would think that you would have your workers specialized. If not, maybe something you would consider.

From the original questioner:
I already mark the pages when I assemble the frames, but do not mark a second time after building boxes. I will try it.

We are specialized to some degree. One guy is a dedicated sprayer, one meets customers, measures, installs, and draws... he isn't in the shop very often. There is a helper who mainly helps in the spray booth, and then two builders. The builders start with the raw stock and work it all the way up through filling and sanding... ready for finishing. The way it has been going lately, one builder is working on a completely different job than the other with little interaction or help. I think that is where the problems are coming from. Out of 5-6 people in the shop, only one knows what is going on with his particular job at the time. I think that dry erase board checklist is a good idea. That way everyone knows where a particular job stands.

From contributor I:
Instead of having 4 to 6 jobs going at one time, you might try cutting it down to 2 or 3. This will certainly free up some shop space, but will also cut down on the management costs. With a smaller amount of work in process, it will be so much easier to identify what is complete and what remains to be done. Other than the white board, this won't even cost you any money.

From contributor H:
I print out labels with my panel optimization program. Each part gets a label at the saw after cutting. Extra labels and we look for the part. Extra parts and we hang the guy who is cutting the parts. (LOL.) Actually, I do all the cutting, as I am a one man shop with one helper to assemble, but this still keeps me organized, and when I am working on two jobs at once, the label has the client's name and description on it.

From contributor J:
I wonder what happened to the old system of job number, elevation number and part number written on each piece, on a not visible face. It works. Why isn't this method used anymore?

From the original questioner:
I have always labeled the frames, and have recently started labeling shelves and backs also. I am thinking about using sticky note to label the whole batch, rather than every piece. That will be quicker and won't have to be sanded off.

From contributor T:
I have a 6 man shop. One cuts all the lumber, rips, planes and sands all the face frame parts. One man cuts all the ply on a CNC, builds the boxes and face frames, then assembles. Two men cut, make and assemble the doors and drawers on the cabinets. One man builds all the drawers and helps the 1st man out in the rough cut area. One man delivers and installs. I prefer this production method because they do the same job day in and day out, making less problems. But I only have one job going at a time.

From the original questioner:
That is more of an assembly line operation, and one we are considering. Seems efficient. Thanks.