Planning Ahead

Grace Tatigian

From their modest beginnings in 1999 as a small carpentry shop, Netley Millwork started in an 8000 square foot facility near Petersfield, Manitoba. Now, to keep up with the continued demand in the industry, they are planning a 30,000 square foot building expansion onto the existing manufacturing facility. This area will serve as the main shipping and receiving area, warehouse, finish assembly, cabinet assembly, and production offices. It will almost double their current footprint.

“This has been a long time in the making,” explained Stanley Walter, Netley Production Manager. “This will be our third expansion in twenty years.”

There’s a big demand for renovations and new builds in the surrounding area. Netley is well located, only 40 minutes from Winnipeg and only half an hour from Gimli – booming cottage country. So they need to expand to keep up with demand.

On top of the building expansion, they will also be adding a new higher capacity panel storage, retrieval system, and two new CNCs from Holz-her. This new setup will allow Netley to increase its production capacity significantly with an expected 50% increase in sheet processing on the two new machines.

“This adds value somewhere else in the shop,” he explained. “Because the sheets can feed automatically, we don’t need to have a person feeding sheets in and out of the machine. That way, they’re not sitting around waiting for ten minutes while the CNC is cutting. They can be somewhere else in the shop doing a job that can’t be automated.”

The panel storage system has a 4500 sheet capacity, four times more than the existing system. This increase in capacity will allow them to hold and process significantly more inventory which will help further reduce lead times going into the future.

Another upside is that a double machine like this still only requires one CNC operator. This means that they will have double the capacity without needing to double the staff, something that’s essential with the skilled workforce shortage and the huge increase in work coming their way.

“We’ve been planning for this for a year. Realistically, we’re hoping to have the new facility up and running by Fall 2022,” said Walter. “Right now, we’re working on the foundation, the footing. As of right now, we’re ahead of schedule.”

During Woodworking Technology Days, I kept hearing from machinery suppliers how long the lead time can be on new machines. So I was curious how this factored into the project. 

“If you plan far enough ahead, it’s not a problem,” he explained. “We try to schedule it so that they can deliver the machines to us when the building is done. That way, neither the building nor the machines are sitting around.”

Like everyone else, they are dealing with supply chain disruptions. This space will further improve their logistical and inventory control to serve their customers better. Lead times have gotten considerably worse across the entire kitchen cabinet industry. This is their first step towards alleviating those delays and helping their customers stay on track with their project timelines.

“The supply chain is a mess right now,” said Walter. “We want to work with people and companies who can complete the project. That way, we can be reliable for our customers.”

This new setup will do wonders for their bottlenecks, making them more efficient. They’re moving assembly, packaging, and shipping to the new facility, allowing three times the capacity. Every department will have more room; some will have double their current space.

“We know from experience when you expand, you look back, and you say how did we ever fit all of this in that small space? You don’t realize all the benefits of a new facility until you’re in it.”

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