I'm looking for any advice or wisdom related to starting a line of high-end (?) modular cabinets to be produced in our shop for local designers and retailers to sell. I believe it could be done fairly simply and we could run this in conjunction with our normal workload. Basically, I would convert my normal product lines into a totally modular system and market it to design and retail shops.
I would think that to do this and really make money at it you would want to build frameless cabinets with melamine or possibly prefinished maple. Everything would need to be cut on cnc and dado construction or a drill and dowel machine with a case clamp would even be better. To start out I would build them to order but only offer certain sizes. I think it would be hard to stock inventory with it being new and just see how it goes.
Isnt this pretty much what every stock cab production shop that is aggressively watching production is doing now? Im not sure what you mean by "modular". Perhaps thats what your thinking your niche is.
When I think of low inventory, fast turn, "modular", I think of Ikea or very standardized production. In our market that doenst usually jive with "high end" though I do see a lot of cabinets going into high end homes that look identical to what I see when waiting at the dentist or the doctors office. Great marketing can get you anywhere.
MarkB, Yes I do mean "standardized production" but I think that is not necessarily IKEA. I assume when talking to a bunch of cabinet guys we all know what modular means, but maybe not so let me define this term. I mean a standardized product line of cabinets that can be sold through dealers. Basically standard sizes and other components that can be produced and reproduced in my shop. I would offer different finishes, cabinet sizes, and specific components. This would create a modular system, different modules that fit together to make a kitchen.
This is different from my custom offering because.
1. I would not be dealing directly with the customer.
2. As a custom shop, I bid on anything. The sky is the limit. If the designer can think it up then I will find a way to make it. For this product line, I would only offer a select number of items.
3. I could maximize efficiency through repetition.
3. I could maximize efficiency through repetition.
Building any cabinet is repetition. If you are using software and a CNC, how can cutting a few pieces to a custom size going to change speed of anything? In the days of Unisaws and mortise and tenon face frames, I could see a benefit. Not today with CNC equipment and frameless construction. You'll need to do some very accurate time studies to prove your concept.
We are a high end shop and like you said we will do anything the sky is the limit but we were loosing a lot of business because being a high end shop you have to price accordingly. We just started building cabinets exactly as I described in my first reply. We are offering about 10 door styles that we can order cheaper than most with about 8 paint colors and 3-4 stains. But with a design program and a cnc who cares if they are standard sizes it doesn't matter and its easier to design than trying to use fillers. At this moment we are selling them all ourselves but they have sold good even in high end homes in the secondary areas. This gives the customer more of their budget to put into the kitchen, master bath and other places of the home that will be seen by guest.
So exactly to my point? The word "modular" doesnt really mean crap with regards to the word "modular" it means "wholesale".
I understand this completely because my entire business model is wholesale. Ive spend 30 years dealing with the end customer where 20% of the profit of the job lies in the 40% of the hours you spend jibber jabbering, tracking down and getting samples, reworking the latest idea they saw on HGTV, Pinterest, or Houzz,.. Its a lot of work.
Im not trying to sound pessimistic but I just wonder what that offering offers up above and beyond lowes, home depot, and the myriad of other small kitchen design shops that just order in from a wholesale manufacturer.
The question would seem to be if your going to stay in the retail-sell-to-end-user game will they respond to a cost and customization downgrade and will it result in less headache to you? Or are you better served chopping your numbers drastically and just courting wholesale outlets for your current production?
How much do you calculate handling the design, and customer interaction, part of your business costs you? Maybe you would be better off partnering with a local high end designer who will push your line and take on that responsibility for the same, or perhaps less, than it cost you?
I personally abhor the retail transaction. The work, the calls, emails, ideas, questions, back and forth, sales tax, on and on. Having a local shop cover that would be worth a fortune to me (and is, because thats what we do).
Charlie- We did it! Although, it didn't end up exactly how I had envisioned it, I can tell you the pains that it took to get it up and running were 100% worth it. Let me know if you want to discuss further.
Once up on a long time ago I did kitchens, took more time to figure out what Ms. housewife wanted than to make them. Sure glad you guys like to do them. Not that similar issues don't come up with the decorator crowd. Just define what you want & I'll do it. Simple, really it is, should be. I'll even put the racing stripes any place you want.
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