Cabinet Vision and Alphacam have helped one of Ireland’s leading manufacturers of high quality kitchen furniture to achieve its aim of being a “small company with big capabilities.”
With Cabinet Vision only being installed at the end of summer 2010, and Alphacam six months before that, O’Connors of Drumleck say they have gone from just having a beam saw and a CNC machine programmed manually, to having the latest technology which makes complex jobs possible and keeps the simple tasks easy.
The company is now at the pinnacle of the quality market for bespoke, individual high-end kitchens. Using Cabinet Vision Ultimate with Screen to Machine, and the Advanced Alphacam module, means O’Connors not only give their discerning customers exactly what they want, but they can also suggest possibilities that the buyer may not have considered.
Operations and Production Director John O’Connor (right) says they have recently invested heavily in machinery and technology, which means their work now surpasses many well respected and long-standing kitchen companies in Ireland. As he and his brother Peter, who is the company’s floor manager and head machinist, are 27 and 26, they have a young approach to the computer era, which he says Irish woodworking companies are generally reluctant to move into.
“While O’Connors of Drumleck have the same passion for quality woodwork and quality furniture that we’ve always had since our father, Peter senior (pictured left with Peter junior -- far left), founded the company in 1988, we’re now moving forward with new technology and the right type of software. Originally this was to increase productivity, but Cabinet Vision and Alphacam very quickly became an integral part of our whole operation, and meant we could develop as a company and are now capable of doing much more detailed and complex work that sets us aside from our competitors.” Peter senior has given his sons a free hand with developing the technology and software side of the business, while he focuses on sales and customer relations.
The combination of Cabinet Vision and Alphacam has radically changed the way they operate and means they can work at the very top end of the kitchen furniture market. Says John O’Connor: “Previously the operation was heavily dependent on one or two people. I personally used to draw up all the cut lists for the saw and the program lists for the CNC and dowel inserter. And many of our kitchen furniture parts were standard.
“Now with technology and software involved in designing, manufacturing and tracking right through the production process we can easily create anything – any shape, any width, any depth, and be sure of everything fitting together perfectly.”
Gone are the days when they manufactured a carcass and bought in doors and frames. Everything is now manufactured on site. “With bespoke kitchens every piece can be individual, needing different shapes and sizes, so we’re now constantly making what most kitchen companies would call ‘off-standard’ units. However, thanks to Cabinet Vision and Alphacam, ‘off-standard’ has become our ‘standard’.”
John O’Connor says Cabinet Vision and Alphacam means they can produce an endless variety of curved doors, cornices and skirting boards. They work with a number of top quality timbers from American and European forests, including oak, walnut and ash, along with a native Irish elm for frames, doors and frontpieces. The carcass can be particle board, plywood, or solid oak, depending on the customer’s preference. Their in-frame kitchens are manufactured with a 30 mm door on a butt hinge with a soft-close system, and glue, dowel and pressed carcass construction, with solid wood face frames.
Kitchen design is handled in Cabinet Vision, with Screen to Machine producing all the cutting lists for doors, frames and carcasses. Programs are automatically generated for their Holzma beam saw and labels are printed. Codes are also generated for drilling on their Homag CNC router, and for dowelling panels for shelves, bases and tops, on the Gannomat machine. Cabinet Vision also generates the cut lists for the solid door and frame components, which run on the Weinig moulder (right), and are then cut to size.
“Because there can be thousands of individual parts in our kitchens we use the labelling and bar coding system so everything is readily identified on its journey through the production process. The sheet material is brought to the saw, and the operator only needs to do what his screen tells him. He then puts a label on the panel identifying the piece as it goes through the rest of the factory.
For example, it’ll say which side needs edge banding and whether it’s in oak or walnut etc., at 0.4 mm or 2 mm. If the label identifies the piece for CNC work, it goes to the CNC machine and scanned again which brings up the machining program that’s already been created automatically by Cabinet Vision. The same procedure is followed on the Gannomat if it needs to be glued and dowelled – the bar code tells the operator exactly what needs to be done.”
Alphacam is also used as a stand-alone program for custom machining curved doors and frames, along with mouldings, and scribing text for their distinctive drawers. “It means we can draw up CNC codes to produce anything we can imagine.
“Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, and we’re producing bespoke kitchens with a smaller workforce.” The ten employees operate out of 30,000 square foot premises at Drumleck, near Castlebellingham, County Louth, in the Republic of Ireland.