Cabinet business in Manitoba religious community uses modern techniques and equipment.
The Springfield Hutterite Colony values tradition, but its cabinet business embraces technology.
Both modern farming equipment and the latest woodworking technology are evident in the colony. “We’re not afraid to spend money on technology,” Pauly Kleinsasser, general manager of Springfield Woodworking, said.
More than 110 people live in the rural community, located east of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It also has a large-scale chicken operation, a hog farm, and raises soybeans, wheat, canola and barley on 6,000 acres. Everything is owned by the community.
(There are 130 Hutterite colonies in Manitoba, with others in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and in the northern Great Plains states in the United States. See www.hutterites.org for more history.)
The wood operation here started in 1996 in hand-made furniture, then moved into cabinets, which were the complete focus by 2002.
Springfield has 60 employees working in two connected buildings with 70,000 square feet of space. Twenty-five community members work in the shop. Other employees are hired from outside the colony.
The shop produces 100 to 150 cabinets per day. Two Anderson CNC routers, (one a Stratos 3713) cut, drill and optimize all parts. Springfield also has a Timesavers sander, Unique shaper/sander with Doucet return conveyor, SCM T130 shaper and JLT Clamps clamp carrier.
In another area there is a Mereen-Johnson ripsaw, two Martin sliding table saws, and one Altendorf table saw. A TigerStop optimizing saw with defecting system was also added recently.
IMA’s Canadian representative visited Springfield one day from Toronto. “We didn’t need an edgebander, but then we start having problems, so we called him,” Kleinsasser said. “We flew to Toronto, looked at one, bought it and had it here up and running a couple weeks later.
“It is simple to operate. We don’t have to do much maintenance on it. About once a year we get IMA in from Toronto to do a full checkup. One time we had a motor go. They had someone fly in from Toronto next day, awesome service. If I need an edgebander tomorrow it will be IMA.”
Springfield also has a Gannomat Index 130 dowel inserter, which uses a barcode system to select the drilling pattern. Also used are three Gannomat Concept 70 ECO case clamps in the assembly area.
Kleinsasser was part of an IMA tech tour several years ago prior to the Ligna show in Hanover. And he has also visited plants and trade shows in China. He also goes to IWF and has been to AWFS. The tech tour also gave him a chance to meet other cabinet manufacturers and talk about how they do business and solve problems.
A new Cefla line was up and running in April 2013 when the new building was opened. Springfield offers a durable water-based UV finish. The line applies stain, sealer and then UV finish.
“Before we had this line, we had a problem spraying in July and August when it is so humid here the spray would bubble,” Kleinsasser said. “There were days we couldn’t do anything. Now, it doesn’t matter.” Coatings are all Chemcraft material. The UV finish has provided a harder finish with fewer surface scratches.
A separate operation is making countertops from solid surface quartz material over a lightweight core.
Many customers come from word-of-mouth referrals and include retail, contractors, homebuilders, renovators and a few dealers. A retail showroom in nearby Winnipeg has been open for several years.
In the plant, an outside consultant comes in periodically, walks the shop and looks for areas to improve. Kleinsasser has also set up 18 cameras around the building, watching and analyzing different operations.
“We’re always trying to improve and make customer service better,” he said. “In a Hutterite colony you’re assigned to a job, and I take care of this operation. When I see something at a show, something in a magazine, I come home and propose it to the (community). They trust my business sense.
“(We are) always sourcing better machines. We go to most machine and hardware shows.” Now, the company is looking at new widebelt sander technology from Europe and they plan to add a moulder.
“Growing pains will always be (a difficulty), the biggest challenge is we are outgrowing our plant size which we just in the last year have added on too.”