Organizing Cabinet Door Production

Cabinetmakers offer advice on how to set up the workflow for making doors in a three-man shop. October 13, 2008

Let's say you have a standing order for 500 cabinet doors per month. Do you set out each day to complete 25 doors from rough lumber to finished product, or just mill out the amount of lumber for 500 doors, then when all this is done, start the assembling of doors? I am trying to work out a daily routine.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor V:
There are a wide range of variables that will affect the answer - things such as shop size, layout, manpower, shipping and other timetables, material storage, etc. If you are talking about a specific number of doors to the same client each month, pick the number of doors you can safely work at one time given the amount of space and material carts, etc. and go from there. As to start to finish numbers per day, not necessarily. Depending on the above variables you could be best off doing each stage start to finish before moving on.

From contributor L:
If you have a bunch of employees, you should do it production line style. You just keep making parts and feeding them to the next guy down the line. You'll be producing parts and doors at the same time. When you discover where the bottlenecks are, dedicate more manpower or tooling to that area.

From contributor J:
We don't really do more than 60 doors in a batch. Our assembly rack and conveyor for our sander won't hold more than that. We would probably just do 8 to 10 batches. This way we could put other jobs in if we needed to. This batch size is really only for our shop. Other shops might be different optimum batch sizes depending on your setup, machinery and how many employees you have.

From contributor W:
We make a lot of doors, and each of the preceding answers is absolutely correct. If there are a lot of size variations, this will reduce your lot size. On custom kitchens, 120 doors becomes difficult to manage, 60 is a very good number. If there are 120 of one size, that is no problem for a single lot. Even if there are 500 of one size, it will still be easier to do them in lots of 100.

Here's some unsolicited advice. Your rolling carts should be 3' x 3', with a top and 1 shelf, so they can roll down your walkways, with large 5" or 6" wheels so they can roll over sawdust. This gives maximum combined storage and mobility. The assembler puts assembled doors on rolling conveyors, and they ride on conveyors until they are put in storage or on the truck or boxed up.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your swift replies. I neglected to mention a few important aspects.
1. There will only be three persons working.
2. It is just one customer for now.
3. The size of doors is all the same.
4. Floor space is 1400 sqft, 20' x 70'.

Contributor V, I like your suggestions on doing each stage start to finish. I think with this way there is more order. It would be good to do as contributor L says and go production line, unfortunately as mentioned, it's only three of us with not that much equipment, so production line is out for now.

Contributor W, thanks for the tip on the carts. This is something that I completely forgot about, but will definitely have a couple rigged up.

So I guess batches it is. I'll aim for 125 a week and see how it goes.

From contributor W:
25/day will be difficult without the right equipment. Do you have a wide-belt sander? Weaver shapers? A glue-line rip-saw? If you are doing this with a table saw, routers, and 21"x3" belt sander, you might want to reconsider. You will not make money with this equipment.

From contributor I:
With that space and 3 guys, that is perfect - you divide the work this way for each guy:
1 Rails and stiles
2 Panels
3 Assembly

If there's a finish, then you can all pile in and start 3 more procedures for that, since they are all the same size. Also if you are doing this many, you should consider ordering the material for the rails and stiles precut if possible. Right now we have one guy that does around 2-300 doors a month or more depending on door style.

From the original questioner:
This is the equipment that I am working with.
1. 15" planer
2. 6" jointer
3. Table saw
4. Weaver tenon shaper
5. Weaver panel shaper
6. Steelcity shaper for stiles
7. Router table for door edge
8. 22-44 drum sander

9. JLT door clamp
10. Jet Parallel clamps for gluing 39" x 48" panel blanks. Will get six door panels from this size.

Doors are sanded finish. Thanks for the info on work order assignment. I will look into having the material for rails and stiles precut. The doors are just one standard size for now.

From contributor U:
To begin, I would suggest sourcing your lumber S3S to whatever thickness you need. The straight line edge will let you rip much more easily to get rail/stile stock and panel staves. You might even be able to specify which edge they SLR. We normally rip the edge with the more vertical grain for door frame parts.

After that, I would batch for whatever amount of parts you can assemble in a day. More than that and you start tripping over parts. So 2 assembly days per week at 65 doors per day should work fine. With 3 guys, you should be able to keep things flowing pretty well with 2 guys making parts and the third doing assembly, sanding, edging, QA, and staging.

What are you planning for a finish grit? Can you do it in one pass per side? I think that the sooner you upgrade the sander, the better. The Performax does okay considering the cantilever flex, speed limits, wrap changes, and single drum finish, but even a bigger double drum will cut sanding time in half.

Most importantly, work safe!

From the original questioner:
Thanks. Getting S3S lumber might be a problem, so it will take me a little more time to prepare stock for stiles, rails and panel staves as I will have to start from rough lumber with just S1S.

I'm running assembled doors through the sander with 80 grit, then switch and finish at 120 grit. Hopefully in a year's time I can upgrade the sander to a double wide belt and complete all in one pass per side.