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Nucraft does what 'Simon' says.

Nucraft Furniture used to match its custom finishes by eye. Now, a computer-guided color matching system has the company finding matched samples in only nine hours.

Using the naked eye to custom match a sample finish with literally thousands of samples filed in a bank of drawers used to be a tedious and time consuming task for Nucraft employees.

"In the past, our color matching department would receive a sample and then manually try to match the samples from memory," said Eric Bennett, vice president of operations for Nucraft. "That process used to take anywhere from 15 to 20 hours before a match was found."

The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company's goal was to improve its turnaround time of matching customer's samples and to come as close as possible to matching the original sample. Since custom finishes make up about 30 percent of the office furniture manufacturer's total volume, the decision was made five years ago to find an outside expert.

So Nucraft "hired" Simon, who is not an employee but a Custom Uniformity Recognition Equipment (CURE) system from Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Megatronics. "The color lab employees named him Simon from the term Simon Says," said Bennett. "In the color lab booth in the finishing area, Simon takes a look at a sample piece the customer has sent us, and tries to find a match through his video camera eye. The computer then tells us the best color match and stain formulation through a computer printout."

The printout contains file sample numbers from the 10 closest matches to the customer's sample. Color lab technicians pull files of the company's samples which contain a finished wooden sample and written formula for duplicating the finish. Workers can also decide if slight color variations need to be made to match a customer's sample.

After deciding which formula to use, Nucraft's color lab technicians mix a small amount of the formula and test spray wooden blanks to see if the colors match. If there is a match, the recipe is written down on file cards and stored before the sample and match are sent to the customer for approval.

Bennett was quick to point out the benefits of the system. "Our productivity towards color matching has improved because Simon allows faster turnaround. Most samples can be matched in about nine hours." Bennett also added that training technicians to operate Simon is an extremely simple process.

In business since the late '40s, Nucraft originally produced office accessories. Today, the company reports annual sales of $10 million. "Conference room tables and furnishings, bookcases, shelving and occasional tables made mostly of walnut and oak veneers account for about 85 percent of our business. Computer furniture makes up another 15 percent and is growing," said Bennett. "We're strictly a niche manufacturer of complementary furnishings committed to meeting the customer's needs."

And Simon is helping the company grow by improving customer service. "The workforce in today's market is changing," said Bennett. "And the best way to meet that challenge is to talk with customers and quickly respond to their needs."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Nucraft Furniture Co.'s computer-guided color matching system
Author:Derning, Sean
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Drawers you can bank on.
Next Article:Materials put the finishing touch on products.

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