Expertise and Enthusiasm: Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Balances Excellence with Rapid Growth

Sebastien Boileau with gravity bins he designed and manufactured.

Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc. was founded in 2004. Established by Sebastien Boileau’s father, the company has grown to become an emblem of craftsmanship and innovation in Ottawa. Our interview with Sebastien Boileau, President of Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc, delved into their remarkable journey.

Sebastien’s familial connection to woodworking runs deep. He explains, “My dad founded the company, and I joined him to start the whole thing. We’re originally from North Bay, and my dad owned a cabinet shop there for 18 years before we moved to Ottawa. So, my dad’s always been in this industry.” Young Sebastien spent his formative years in his father’s workshop, absorbing the intricacies of woodworking. He reminisces, “After school, I would walk over to the shop and spend the next couple of hours there with my dad, helping in the shop.”

A pivotal shift occurred when the family relocated to Ottawa, necessitating Sebastien’s father to transition from a self-employed shop owner to working for someone else. Despite this change, Sebastien’s passion for woodworking continued to burgeon. At 17, he engaged in a co-op program, working full-time in the same shop as his father’s during his final year of high school, eventually overseeing a team of four as the head of assembly.

The company’s trajectory took a significant turn when Sebastien’s father stumbled upon their current facility, located just ten minutes from their residence. Seizing the opportunity, they set up shop, with Sebastien joining the endeavor. The initial team comprised six individuals, including two designers, and their workspace encompassed a modest 5,000 square feet.

In its early days, the company relied on fundamental tools and manual techniques for tasks like cabinet assembly. Sebastien notes, “Everything was pretty manual, like cabinet assembly with nails, screws, biscuit joints, that type of thing.” However, a pivotal moment arrived in 2005 when they acquired their first CNC machine from Thermwood, marking a significant turning point. The company experienced rapid growth, fueled by Sebastien’s father’s strong industry reputation.

Reflecting on this dynamic journey, Sebastien shares, “We quickly went from 6 people in the business to 10, then 15, and then 20.” Today, Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc. stands as a thriving operation with 30 dedicated employees, underpinned by a reputation for excellence.

The intensity of Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc’s growth journey becomes apparent in Sebastien’s account. He describes it as “a fast-paced roller coaster of growing and then growing a little too fast and then having to pull it back a little and reassess, readjust and then keep growing.” This journey has been characterized by phases of rapid expansion followed by necessary course corrections.

One of the distinctive facets of their growth narrative is their unique approach to acquiring business. Sebastien reveals, “We never went after work. We’ve never had to advertise or go after work. The work just comes to us. It’s all demand and it’s all word of mouth because everything that we do, we stand by 100%.” This unwavering commitment to quality extends to their offering of a 10-year warranty on cabinets, covering all aspects. Their support for products doesn’t end with the warranty period but can extend to providing post-warranty service without additional charges. This customer-centric approach often translates into new referrals, fostering substantial business growth.

Integral to their success is a team of subcontracted installers who have forged decade-long partnerships with Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc. Sebastien considers them an integral part of their operation, saying, “They’re basically our employees at this point.” This collaborative synergy ensures that every project is executed to perfection.

Sebastien says that Sebo is a full service shop. He emphasizes the pivotal role of installation in the final product, stating, “The install is what makes the project. It’s the joint and the crown molding. It’s the installation of the handles perfectly straight. It’s the alignment of the doors.” Good cabinet construction and a flawless finish only go so far; a botched installation can undermine all the prior efforts. Hence, installation is the visual representation of the end product.

However, this path of growth has not been without its share of challenges. Sebastien reflects on the early years when they pursued aggressive expansion, citing the difficulties in balancing production with new hires. The complexities of training fresh recruits and the uncertainty of whether they would remain with the company added to the intricacies of this phase. Sebastien recalls, “It feels like you’re just putting out fires all the time, and then you feel unfulfilled at the end of the day because it’s almost as if you don’t have anything to show for it.”

In spite of the hurdles, the company’s unwavering commitment to progress has propelled them forward. “We’re always looking for things to improve,” Sebastien says Over the years, they have implemented changes, both minor and significant, to enhance their operations. The adoption of the Kanban system for inventory management is one such example that significantly boosted their efficiency.

Throughout their journey, the company has consistently invested in cutting-edge equipment and processes. Sebastien highlights their adoption of Microvellum, a powerful software that has revolutionized their workflow. This software serves a multitude of purposes within their operations, including design, manufacturing, and business management.

Microvellum’s versatility transcends mere design; it serves as the linchpin connecting various aspects of Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc’s operations. Sebastien elucidates, “Microvellum is a very powerful software. We use it for our designers to design the kitchens and then we use it for the manufacturing. It generates our G-code for the CNC and generates all our reports for manufacturing.” The seamless integration ensures the effortless flow of information between design, production, and business functions.

What sets Boiserie Sebo Woodwork Inc. apart is their commitment to providing clients with a clear and accurate representation of their projects. Sebastien elaborates, “What you see on your plans is what you’re going to get.” To achieve this, they have meticulously integrated all molding profiles and door profiles from their suppliers into the system. This integration ensures that the design process respects the limitations of each profile, preventing potential issues in the final product.

Their dedication to precision extends to the minutest details. Sebastien explains, “The crown molding that we’re drawing is the exact profile, like taking a cross-section of the knife that they use to mill that crown molding.” This attention to detail not only aids in design but also helps clients visualize the final product with utmost accuracy.

Microvellum isn’t just confined to design, either; it permeates into the realm of business management. Sebastien’s brother, Matthew, a self-taught programmer, has played a pivotal role in harnessing the software’s capabilities. Sebastien notes, “Microvellum is very technical software. It’s user-friendly, but if you really want to dive deep into it, you can.” Matthew’s coding expertise allowed them to develop dynamic pricing models within the software, automating cabinet price calculations based on specific dimensions.

The Boileau brothers’ hands-on approach to their business is underscored by a desire for self-sufficiency and a readiness to confront any challenge. Sebastien reflects on their journey, saying, “We’re not the type of people to just buy a machine, get it installed and just hope it goes well.” Instead, they immerse themselves in understanding every facet of their operation, from machinery to coding. This commitment to technical expertise empowers them to find solutions swiftly, ensuring adaptability and self-reliance.

In The Shop

A view of Sebo’s production line in action.

At the heart of Sebo’s workshop lies a technological marvel that has transformed their production process – the Kuka Robot. Installed in February, this impressive piece of machinery has revolutionized their operations, setting new standards for precision and efficiency.

The robot is part of a sophisticated system meticulously designed and installed by Automatech Robotik. “It’s not just the robot. You have to look at the robot, the tool that it uses, the rail, and the software, the software integration. And then we have a panel flipper at the bottom.” Every element of this system has been meticulously customized to fit their specific needs.

To accommodate this innovative addition, the workshop underwent a substantial transformation. Sebastien shares that “every single piece of equipment and racking had to be moved.” The effort paid off handsomely, as the robot ushered in a new era of flexibility and efficiency for their production process.

One of the standout features of this robotic system is its ability to handle multiple types of materials simultaneously. Sebastien highlights, “We’re able to have 11 different types of material in the cell at one time.” This flexibility translates into the ability to load a job and commence work without additional preparations, ensuring seamless transitions between projects.

Precision is a hallmark of Sebo’s approach, and this extends to the robot’s handling of materials. Sebastien provides insights into the robot’s precision, saying, “When it picks up a sheet of material straight up, the pressure between the two wants to suck the other one up with it. But when it picks it up, it actually pulls the corner to introduce air in between to cut that vacuum so it doesn’t suck up the other one with it.” This meticulous approach ensures that their materials are handled with the utmost care.

One of the most significant advantages of this robotic system is its cleanliness. Cleaning up a nesting CNC machine often involves blowing dust off, which can lead to dust spreading throughout the workshop. With the robot, this issue has been entirely mitigated. “When it cleans the table off, it’s using the rig that’s connected to our dust collector, so it’s sucking up all the dust,” Sebastien says.

To manage and monitor this intricate system, Sebo relies on a comprehensive interface that displays real-time information about production, materials, and job progress. “We know even before we start the job if we have all the material that we need. So we can start the job and make sure all the material is loaded in, and we know we don’t have any issues.”

Lean and Green

In their quest for sustainability and cost-effectiveness, Sebo found a remarkable solution in the form of the Run-Dry evaporator. This innovative addition to their workshop has reformed their waste management practices, reducing both environmental impact and disposal costs.

The challenge they faced was common in the woodworking industry – dealing with wastewater generated during cleaning and line flushing. “You end up with these pails full of wastewater that you have to dispose of,” says Sebastien. This not only posed an environmental concern but also incurred significant expenses. “It’s like $1,500 per tote, which we fill up every three weeks or four weeks. We’re talking $1,500 a month.”

To address this issue, the company turned to Run-Dry evaporators, specialists in evaporator technology. They installed a two-gallon-per-hour evaporator that heats an oil-filled chamber with an electric element. This process raises the temperature of the wastewater, causing it to evaporate. Sebastien notes, “It just hardly smells because we’re just evaporating water, really.”

The outcome is a substantial reduction in waste volume. Sebastien explains, “What you’re left with is this dried-up nonsense. So, we pile this up in a pail, we let it dry, and then it just becomes waste. Like you just throw it in the bin and get rid of it.”

The advantages of the Run-Dry evaporator are evident. It significantly cuts waste disposal costs, saving the company thousands of dollars annually. It also reduces environmental impact by eliminating the need for large totes to store wastewater. Moreover, its compact footprint aligns with Sebo’s commitment to self-sufficiency and independence from external services.

Boiserie Sebo Woodwork is a testament to the indomitable spirit of enterprise in an ever-evolving landscape. As they approach their 20th anniversary in February 2024, Sebo exemplifies the power of quality, word of mouth, and continuous improvement. In this dynamic and innovative workspace, the pursuit of excellence knows no bounds.

Tyler Holt is the Editor of Wood Industry / Le monde du bois magazine. He has a master’s degree in literature and publication, and years of experience in the publishing and digital media industry. His main area of study is the effect of digital technologies on industrial and networked production.

 

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