Four thousand cabinets a day!

That's the current output at Armstrong Cabinet Products, a division of Armstrong World Industries.

In business since 1860, Armstrong World entered the wood products industry in 1998 following its acquisition of Triangle Pacific's cabinet and flooring businesses. Fiscal 2011 net sales for the Lancaster, PA-based corporation were $2.9 billion, with the cabinet division accounting for $136.4 million. 

Sales of the company's semi-custom kitchen and bath cabinets are driven by both multi-family as well as single-family new construction and remodeling markets, which are slowly showing signs of improvement. Armstrong sells its cabinet products through independent retailers; like American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc., and building supply distributors nationwide. It recently announced an agreement to also work with 84 Lumber for sales of its products.

Armstrong currently offers four series of cabinet constructions targeted at a variety of price points and environmental requirements:

  • Allwood Series: this top-tier series features an all-plywood box construction, hardwood plywood sides and bottom panels, six-way adjustable concealed hinges and wood dovetail drawers. Available in traditional - contemporary - transitional - and causal country styles with a variety  of door options.
  • Premier Series: with similar features to the Allwood; this series has a composite panel construction and is available in a wood grain or laminate exterior. Available in traditional - contemporary - transitional - and causal country styles with a variety  of door options.
  • Origins Series: available on most cabinet styles, this series is environmentally friendly and uses urea-formaldehyde-free, soy-based adhesive PureBond panels from Columbia Forest Products; which the company says can contribute to LEED NC EQ Credit 4.4.
  • Extreme Series: targeted for the public housing segment, with hardwood plywood end panels and multi-ply plywood top and bottom panel construction, and a pine drawer box.

Lean and Green Manufacturing

A proponent of green manufacturing, Armstrong has its Town & Country maple wood cabinets, part of the Origins Series, featured in Disney World's Epcot Vision House in Florida.

All cabinets are manufactured to order at the company's 300,000-square-foot facility, located on 27 acres in Thompsontown, PA. Approximately 450 people work at the cabinet plant. 

Panel processing, frame manufacture, drawer box construction, finishing and assembly are done in-house, with cabinet doors and drawer fronts currently outsourced. Approximately 90% of production is kitchen cabinets, with the remaining 10% for bath vanities. The majority of the product is veneered, in species that include: cherry - maple - oak birch - and plantation hardwood.

Armstrong sources the veneered panels with laminated panels laid-up, in-house. Panels are cut-to-size on one of four Schelling saws before being sent to the Andi CNC routers or the company's new Keystone Automation end panel machine for further processing.

In another area, Koch bore and dowel machines are used for frame construction. Armstrong uses a variety of sanders throughout the production and finishing process, including Timesaves, Costa and DMC.

Output at the machines is tracked throughout the plant. "With the lean process, you can see the movement of the product on the floor and know at a glance if you need to produce more. It's a very visual management tool, " says Tim Clontz, plant manager. 

Parts are finished before being married up in assembly. The company uses a combination of hand spraying and UV coating, with specialty finishes available on its higher-end lines.

Continually looking for ways to improve, Armstrong recently conducted a value stream mapping of the area, which identified a bottleneck in the door finishing process for topcoating. In a quick resolution to the problem, by early May, the company will have replaced a tow-hang line with a Superfici flatline system, which will provide significant improvements in the workflow speed and process, Clontz says. 

Another area targeted for improvement is assembly, Clontz says. Moving from three long lines to five shorter ones will not only speed production, but reduce overall handling on the cabinets, while enabling workers to "have more involvement" in the finished product. "Lean is a never-ending journey," he says. "Every day we're trying to get better."

Safety in Numbers

Armstrong also is aggressive about emphasizing the safety of its employees. Placards throughout the plant illustrate correct methods of operation. In addition, twice daily employees perform stretching exercises as part of the work routine. 

Clontz says he is proud of the recognition the cabinet plant received recently for going more than 600,000 hours without an accident. "Our best resource is our employees," he adds. 

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