Volume 12, Issue 7 - September 2011


Moulding and Millwork Inc.: Cut from a Different Mold
by Tara Taffera

Moulding and Millwork Inc. (MMI) seems to have a few philosophies that differ from other moulding companies. The company added new product lines when the economy and housing starts were at their lowest. It changed its distribution model in response to changing customer buying patterns. The company now serves as a distributor of sorts, in addition to being a moulding manufacturer. It wasn’t always this way, according to Derek Daly, general manager of the company’s hardwood manufacturing group, and employed at the Doswell, Va., manufacturing facility.

“At one point, we were a one-note singer,” says Daly.

The company now sings to a variety of different tunes. With eight manufacturing facilities and 37 sales and warehouse facilities, Moulding and Millwork Inc. is a company with a national presence.

At the Virginia location, it’s all about manufacturing mouldings made from materials that are indigenous to the area—in this case, oak. The maple is procured from Northern Pennsylvania and New York. The plant leaves MDF production to its other locations on the West Coast.

“We can’t ship MDF very far due to weight and cost,” says Daly. “For MDF you want to stay as close as you can to MDF plants.”

Sales manager Patrick Hamill adds that the company uses a vendor-managed inventory system to keep lead times to a minimum. He points out that the product can be turned around very quickly, but it is the shipping that often takes time.

“Depending on the urgency we can turn product around in a few days,” he says. “We keep inventory on the floor here, but it depends on where they are … Richmond or Seattle. We also ship to Alaska so that takes a while.”

“We have trucks that go to the West Coast every week so we have tremendous flexibility,” adds Daly.

"People don’t buy like they used to.
They don’t buy full truckloads. Some is due to demand but some is simply due to changing buying patterns."
—Derek Daly

Diversifying into Flooring Accessories
Sixty employees work two ten-hour shifts Monday through Thursday at the company’s 110,000- square-foot plant to produce a variety of products—namely mouldings and flooring accessories.

Flooring accessories is an up and coming product line, which Daly acknowledges is completely different than mouldings.

“It is going exceptionally well,” he says. “We added this product line three years ago as the market was going down but the reason we did it was to be a better supplier.”

The company noticed a void in this market to fill.

“The challenge to flooring distributors is [customers] don’t need 10,000 feet of one accessory,” says Daly. “So we sell in smaller shipments and we ship by the bundle.”

However, the company still manufactures the flooring accessories in larger quantities, then stocks the products and passes on the cost savings to the customer.

“To gain maximum efficiencies we need to run 100,000 feet of it. A customer doesn’t need all that, but they gain the advantages,” says Daly.

Through the company’s quick ship program it sells these commodity products.

“This helps us take on a distributor flair,” says Hamill. “We found out we were really good at this, too.”

Daly says the flooring accessory business helped the company weather the downturn.

“When the market picks back up this will go up with it,” he says.

“We picked up a whole bunch of new customers and are a major player in flooring accessories as we were just dabbling in commodities five years ago,” adds Daly.

The company attributes this rapid growth due to the fact that it listens to what its customers need.

“People don’t buy like they used to,” says Daly. “They don’t buy full truckloads. Some is due to demand but some is simply due to changing buying patterns.”

“Some competitors have resisted these changes and still sell by the truckload, thus raising the costs for that particular customer,” adds Hamill. “We are telling customers they don’t have to buy this way.”

Moulding and Millwork provides just-in-time deliveries on a regular basis. It sells to a variety of different customers and pools the various orders. It also has flooring accessory bundles that give a representation of the different lengths.

“We are continually changing the recipes to get what a customers need in a bundle,” says Daly.

Selling More Mouldings
Company-wide, the focus is geared toward mouldings. Daly says that 1-x-6 red oak S4S is the number-one product produced at the plant by volume in board feet. Daly explains that each of the company’s plants manufacture S4S in their respective species—in Virginia that is red oak and maple.

“One of our focuses is to sell more S4S,” says Daly.

With many companies vying for a share of the moulding market, what sets the company apart?

“We make a better board,” says Daly. “From a manufacturing standpoint we sand four sides and the majority of the competition sands one.

“You can get into moulding manufacturing at little cost but the product will be deficient as it relates to ours,” he adds.

When it comes to mouldings the company thinks strategically when adding more offerings.

“It is very difficult to sell one narrow product line,” says Daly. “We added maple to sell more oak. We added S4S to sell more oak mouldings. We offer white oak to sell more red oak. We do what we need to meet the needs of our customers so they don’t have to rely on numerous vendors.”

Producing the Product
While the economy was diving a few years back, the company was investing in new equipment, and Weinig has been the company’s moulder of choice.

“At any of our facilities Weinig is ever-present,” says Daly.

Again, he points out that anyone can buy a moulder and run equipment, but it is the attention to detail that sets the company apart.

“Anyone can buy a moulder and run it, but it’s how you get it in and out,” says Daly. “Material handling equipment is also the key to successfully running a facility. You need an efficient way to get in and out of the moulder.”

For example, Daly points out that maple and oak S4S are hard to machine.

“To get a furniture-quality finish it needs to be sanded. That is why we went to that extreme [to sand both sides]—and it is an extreme. We have attracted many new customers due to this sanding process,” he adds.

The company has a custom made-side six-head sander to sand the edges of the boards.

The “Stickly” machine sands the top and bottom, and there are not a lot of these, according to Daly. It’s a big machine that is custom built and has three heads on the top and bottom. It runs batches of boards that are four feet wide at 30 feet per minute.

“The goal is to run without handling and to build finished units as you go,” says Daly. “You are getting a product that is stain-ready and consistent. To have a four side sanded finished is very, very, very rare.”

All this care is taken to prevent machining defects. “When stained, machining defects will stand out,” says Daly.

The company trims the boards and produces both random and spec length units.

“In the past we couldn’t do spec lengths. We have really evolved. This all comes as a result of customer intimacy and learning what they need,” says Daly.

To make room for one of these board lines the company had to create space so it has sheds outside that store the highest-moving oak. The plant also has two dust collectors and the board line can run off of either one.

Other machines in the plant include three rip lines. The main line has a variable saw that scans the board, but Moulding and Millwork doesn’t always rely on this machine.

“It has auto defect detection but we don’t use it as it doesn’t do as good of a job as the human eye,” says Daly.

“We have another dust collector ready for our next phase of expansion,” hints Daly.

Moulding and Millwork invested during the recession and it continues to make purchases. It currently is considering a new scanner and optimizing edger style rip saw for its next major machinery purchase.

“We are looking at bolstering capacity and yield,” says Daly. “We don’t want to hurry up and wait for wood at our other machine centers.”

In addition, the company is looking at making the Virginia plant even more efficient. For example, Daly says bottlenecks sometimes occur in its trimming area and he says the company is working on eliminating that for a smoother flow. The company also looks to be more efficient when it comes to waste.

“We sell the cut stock to other manufacturers who may need it as opposed to before when it would get chopped off and go to the chipper,” says Daly. “Especially with our more expensive lumber we don’t want any waste.

“We operate our business to be lean,” he adds. “Our distributor partners are very important to us and we are always looking for ways to take waste out of the process.”

In fact, Daly says, “We are in search of the blue ocean.” It seems if the company keeps swimming it will reach its final destination.



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