Panel Processing Time with and without CNC

A CNC shop and a cabinetmaker using conventional equipment compare the labor time used to cut up and bore an entire kitchen. January 1, 2012

I have used the same system for panel processing forever. I have added some different tools to speed up the process but wanted to see how our time compares to other shops.

I just finished cutting up 9 base cabinets and 7 wall cabinets (42"). The width of cabs were all different (except two) but ranged from 12" to 39" (wide) for base and upper units.

We used about 11 sheets of 3/4" and 4 sheets of 1/2". We built these cabinets (frameless) with UV maple, cut pieces to size, dadoed for 1/2" backs, and then edgebanded all pieces. I should also note that we cut all the parts for a 6 piece sub base/toekick (attached separately) when we cut up the cabs, and we only edgeband the visible edges.

We have very little waste this way, even when upper cabs are 14" deep.

16 cabinets (cut parts/dado/edgeband)
5.5 hours labor (time to process)
= 21 minutes per cabinet (not/including line bore)
= $17.50 per cabinet or $18.33 per sheet (at $50.00 hour shop rate)

It will take about 2 hours to line bore these cabs and they will be ready to assemble. So that would be $23.44 per cabinet or $25.00 per sheet with line boring. Our shop rate is $50.00 an hour, so you will have to take that in consideration for the dollar amounts. But I am looking for time and/or shop rate comparisons to see how my method compares with CNC shops and other old school shops.

I am using an older slider saw with scoring, a small and old Brandt edgebander without end trimming, and a dedicated dado saw.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)

From contributor R:
I can't give you an exact time figure (I have never actually sat down to figure it out) but there is almost always time to be saved when you cut down the material handling. That is the biggest time saver I have noticed by having a CNC. We used to cut our material on a Streibig, then used a Maggi that we had modified to do construction bore as well as line bore, ran through table saw with a power feed for the back dado (we use 1/4 backs) then ran through edgebander.

We thought that was pretty fast, and it was, until we bought the CNC. It processes a 4x8 panel in anywhere from 4-8 minutes depending on the operations. Waste factor is extremely low. Adding a CNC was the best thing we ever did. We now go home at 5:00 with energy to spare! It was a big investment but we have never looked back. A job that would typically take a full day to cut and prepare for assembly, can know be ready in half the time.

From contributor J:
My CNC panel process is also 8 minutes. It looks like your math has been well thought out. It will help you as you grow through this. I have two fellows who will figure all in rips, edgeband all rips crosscut on a slider, shelf holes and rabbit for backs in just a bit more time, 11 sheets assembled - 4 to 5 hours. Small break rooms and such I just let them do it, 50-100 box orders and we are on the CNC.

I think of it like my motor home. If I want to go somewhere for two days with the price of gas (yep, no diesel, even though now it makes little difference), then I am better to fly and rent a first class hotel, but if I go for 2-3 weeks, then taking the motor home is a good thing.

In another post you said you needed an edgander. Get it first. The CNC will tell you when it is ready to come to your shop.

From contributor M:
My average kitchen is about 16 sheets of melamine and 5 sheets of veneer for gables, toe kicks, etc. I'm usually 8 hours to cut the veneered sheets, cut the melamine, band the parts, and line bore.

From contributor S:
Friday our operator pulled a maintenance history report on our twin table CNC router. We have run 63,000 panels during a tad over 10,000 running hours.

For schedule purposes I always plan on 7 sheets per hour. Obviously there are days we get 12 sheets per hour and others we get 3. It all depends on the nest (i.e. studs with chase holes, several bore operations, etc.).

We build frameless and custom fixtures. All processing is performed at the router (pulls, locks, shelf holes, hinges, etc.).

If I stand over the guys and have them staging materials for the next split and have the pressure on, we can squeeze out 2-4 more sheets per hour, but I think this average is adequate over the volume. Maybe not... I sure don't see ways to exponentially improve it without forcing a bottleneck elsewhere.

I disagree with using a CNC for long trips only. I can hand sketch a component and have it engineered on the fly by the operator and free up labor elsewhere. We cut anything and everything we can think of or draw at the router.

The biggest thing you will notice once you go CNC is that it frees up labor. So now you may do what you previously did with 5 guys in 25% of the time with 3 less guys. So you put those 3 guys doing another process (assembly, hangout, load truck, etc.) and you begin gaining productivity at an alarming speed.

I think for your process, your time looks good.