Sweetheart Cabinetmakers augments craftsmanship with technology. (Advertisement).
The company ranked third in Wood & Wood Products' WOOD 100 last year with 86.1% growth between 1999 and 2000. But those numbers do not tell the whole story. Crunched for additional capacity, the company was forced to walk away from several millions of dollars in work over the past few years, says president Rand Moeller. "It's appalling to turn away that many people," he says.
To remedy its capacity problems, the 24-year-old Rohnert Park, CA, company moved into a 54,000-square-foot facility in June, nearly tripling its space to serve more customers. Moeller predicts Sweetheart Cabinetmakers' annual sales will grow during the next few years to $10 million.
A Sweetheart cabinet may feature a round radius, a high-tech finish or doors with veneer inlays. Styles range from ultra-contemporary to Old World traditional. Moeller describes his company's products as the BMW of cabinets for homeowners who appreciate high quality and value.
Sweetheart Cabinetmakers' average kitchen costs $30,000 to $60,000. The company has done whole-house projects costing up to $1 million. Customers range from celebrities and corporate executives to flight attendants and teachers.
The company was an early adopter of technology. Moeller points to automation as a key component in achieving production growth and product quality. Equipment from SCM Group USA runs extensively throughout the plant.
"We have to rely more and more on machines for our products," Moeller says. "We produce the ultimate in kitchen cabinets and we do it with SCM equipment."
Cornerstone machines include a Morbidelli Author 504 CNC machining center, an SGMI K208 edgebander and three SGMl T150 class tilting arbor shapers. The shapers and edgebander allow speedy changeovers to new tooling setups. The machines are versatile, reliable and accurate, helping Sweetheart increase production and satisfy customers.
Also greatly aiding production are an SCMI Superset XL computer-controlled planer-moulder, DMC widebelt sanders, an SCMI sliding table saw, an SCMI S630 thicknessing planer and an SCMI S520 surface planer.
"SCM gives you tremendous value for the money," Moeller says.
Making the most of every production asset -- including the company's 30 employees -- is Moeller's guiding principle. "You can only put so many master craftsmen in a shop," he says. The pool of craftsmen to draw from is small, their abilities command higher pay and they can produce only a limited number of high-quality pieces, he adds. With user-friendly equipment and a decimal chart, Moeller says, "My daughter can cut as good a block as a master craftsman."
Doing More with Less
Finding and keeping workers is his biggest challenge. Not only are prevailing wages high -- $30 to $35 an hour -- but the area has a correspondingly high cost of living. Doing more with less is a survival necessity.
Automation allows fewer employees to turn out more cabinets, Moeller says. "It's increased our capacity tremendously and allowed our company to grow. We're learning that we can train people to sit in front of a computer and punch in the proper codes, and they don't have to be master craftsmen to get a perfect cut," Moeller says.
He emphasizes results and chooses tools that help build high-quality cabinets more efficiently. The new plant incorporates a 30-by-40-foot heated spray booth that will produce a higher-quality finish in less time; where it once took three to four days to complete a kitchen order, now only takes one shift to turn the job.
Sweetheart Cabinetmakers has grown and shifted focus considerably since its beginnings in a cleaned-out chicken coop outfitted with a $500 table saw and a $1,000 loan from Moeller's grandfather. These days Sweetheart sells design services as well as cabinets, providing increasing value to customers.
Sales remain mostly regional, although jobs trickle in from outside California via advertising in national kitchen and bath publications. Moeller says he hopes to increase his company's reach by adding a small network of dealers around the country.
The type of buyer won't change, however. "They see the value in it," he says. "We might still be high in costs but we're a good value."
Maple is popular, as is cherry. Sweetheart also uses alder with a painted and glazed rubbed-through finish, and walnut that's bleached, then stained and glazed to achieve a patina. Cherry veneer is common with contemporary styles, as is quartered and figured ash, alone or in combination with stainless steel.
What constitutes quality is a shifting target, Moeller says. Five years ago a dovetail drawer in a cabinet was a sign of quality construction; today, home centers sell cabinets with dovetailed drawers.
"We're constantly educating people," he says. "We have to explain why our product is a $40 upgrade."
The difference lies in materials and the amount of work that goes into a Sweetheart cabinet, Moeller says. "The homeowner right away can see the difference," he says.
For more information about products offered by SCM Group USA
SCM Group USA salutes the outstanding achievements of Sweetheart Cabinetmakers Inc. of Rohnert Park, CA. Sweetheart Cabinetmakers was one of many SCM Group customers featured in Wood & Wood Products 12th Annual WOOD 100 Report published last September. Look for further installments profiling SCM Group USA's fast-growing clientele in upcoming issues.
Sweetheart Cabinetmakers' Growth Record 2000 $2,870,000 1999 $1,542,000 1998 $1,398,000 1997 $790,000
WOOD 100 Rankings
No. 3 in 2001
No. 4 in 1999
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|Title Annotation:||corporate strategy, products, financial data|
|Publication:||Wood & Wood Products|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2002|
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