Custom retail specialist Invironments uses CABINET VISION’s job-planning and automation tools to eliminate error and boost production.A leap of faith is what Bob and Mitzi Skehan call their decision to leave successful corporate careers for the challenging new adventure of manufacturing.
The pair switched gears in 2005, when they left comfortable positions in insurance and finance to acquire Invironments, a woodworking business founded in Hermon, Maine, in 1981. While its services have evolved over the course of nearly 40 years, today the company specializes in retail-store fixtures, point-of-purchase displays and custom retail millwork.
“We’re both lifelong Mainers who grew up in corporate America. We woke up one day and decided to go into business for ourselves,” explains Bob Skehan. “I have a lot of business experience and am very comfortable with analysis of all forms, so the business and financial aspects were not at all intimidating. Little did we know what we were in for.”
“We need the most direct path with what we do, and CABINET VISION gives us that. Without CABINET VISION, we couldn’t do it.”
Bob Skehan, president/co-owner
While Skehan had experience in woodworking, he considered himself a hobbyist, “not a true-blue craftsman,” and so the learning curve involved in suddenly being at the helm of the business was steep. “I had never worked in a manufacturing setting and it’s extraordinarily complex from so many perspectives. I don’t think I fully appreciated that 13 years ago.”
While the previous owners had implemented CNC machinery and software at Invironments, they didn’t fully utilize the advanced production tools at their fingertips.
“The prior owner had literally just introduced a CNC and had purchased both ALPHACAM and CABINET VISION when we bought the business,” Skehan says. “We ended up assuming those releases, but they were so underutilized. We really brought that to life over the years.”
The vast majority of the company’s products are processed on CNC machinery and programmed with CABINET VISION, though some of its jobs, particularly those that require complex profiles, are programmed with ALPHACAM.
Skehan begins projects in CABINET VISION by entering the dimensions of the spaces in which his projects will be built, and then “builds” the finished products within those virtual spaces. Design tools within the software provide him with a high level of graphic detail, which makes it easier for his customers to visualize the final look and functionality of their projects. “People dig what we do,” he says. “They love our drawings and we have figured out how to present the information for the best results.”
Invironments’ customers include a significant number of convenience stores, as well as designers and architects specializing in bank and healthcare work. “Our sustainability and growth are absolutely tied to convenience store fixturing,” Skehan says. “The convenience stores we’re doing are 3,000 to 5,000 square feet, and we’re putting furniture-grade plywood in a lot of them. This industry has evolved significantly over the years and the trend isn’t changing any time soon.”
Instead of integrating a separate CAD system to design his projects, Skehan finds that using a single system to handle all of his needs is the best fit for his business. “Having everything within one utility makes life so much easier in a small shop,” he says. “We need the most direct path with what we do, and CABINET VISION gives us that. Without CABINET VISION, we couldn’t do it; we wouldn’t even be in business.”
As the vast majority of Invironments’ jobs are custom and complex, the company needs a reliable system that provides flexible, customizable tools for project-planning and production to sustain efficiency even in the face of unpredictable demands. Mistakes with high-cost materials can virtually eliminate profits, Skehan explains, noting that a job he performed for a local bank required material with a price tag of $400 per sheet.
“You can’t be ordering three more of what you need when the material costs hundreds of dollars. The ability to properly engineer, do nested-based manufacturing and develop a proper bill of materials is so important because mistakes with materials can sink the ship,” he says. “The ability to automate and cut nearly 70 to 80 percent of the parts that we produce is huge.”
Skehan, who employs a staff of 15, notes that finding skilled labor in his region is an ongoing challenge that is mitigated by the company’s use of CNC software. The implementation of CABINET VISION has enabled him to hire unskilled team members who can be trained on the job. As CABINET VISION is able to generate easy-to-follow instructions, even novices to the trade are able to be productive without slowing production. “Having CABINET VISION reduces the need for highly-skilled and trained staff.”
CABINET VISION’s nesting capabilities deliver a reduction in material costs and a boost in efficiency, as cutting nested parts from single sheets results in greater material yield, as well as less time spent programming and less material handling on the shop floor. The reduction in material handling eliminates unnecessary tasks, which means that staff can devote more time to other duties.
“We’ve looked at other tools, but we always come back to CABINET VISION,” Skehan says. “It is stunning what you can do with this software because you’re limited only by your own creativity. What I think is super important about CABINET VISION is that, if you don’t understand the capability of the software, you continue to rely on more than one system to do what you do — but you don’t have to.”
About the Company
Business: Custom retail specialist
- Inexperienced staff can still be productive
- Increased efficiency and material yield
- High-quality drawings