KT3 – Life in the Fast Lane
KT3 – Life in the Fast Lane
Based in the southern suburbs of Adelaide is a kitchen manufacturer that has found the formula for controlled manufacturing, improved product quality, increased market share and real company growth.
Just to put this all in perspective, not so long ago, Kitchens by Farquhar was a successful but typical kitchen manufacturer struggling with the usual manufacturing issues and running a beam saw, a point to point, a flow-through drilling machine and an edgebander.
Today they are a very successful kitchen manufacturer, supplying to a much wider market and running 4 x beam saws, 4 x point to points, 4 x edgebanders, 2 x 6 metre flatbed routers and are currently installing a new flow through double sided drilling machine.
They have just outgrown the 4500 sq m shed built only one year ago and are now adding a 900 sq m extension.
Mark Farquhar is the IT and Factory Manager of the Farquhar group of companies now known as KT3, Kitchens To The Trade.
KT3 is very much a family business with Peter Farquhar – managing director, Michael Farquhar – sales director and Cathy Farquhar – finance director.
Mark told us “There is no secret to the growth we have achieved in recent years, everyone here works damn hard and there is lots of businesses out there looking for reliable suppliers at the right price.”
”We decided, long ago, to be that reliable supplier. We planned our marketing offer based on quality products, competitive pricing, wide range, customised options and reliable delivery.”
“We also decided to supply not only our own sales operation, but also bench tops, routed doors and cabinets to the trade.”
“However, first of all we had to make sure we had our manufacturing under control.”
“We started by looking at ways to improve our custom MDF door production and purchased a large CNC router, but machinery was only part of the solution.”
“The correct software, to fully automate that machinery, was vital and we were determined to introduce real automation into our manufacturing.”
“For years”, said Mark, “we had struggled with various software packages and just couldn’t get it right.”
“Like everyone else, we thought we had to draw a product to make it, how wrong we were.”
“We had spent hours making drawings and then adjustments trying to get the data from the computer to the machines.”
“We had machines sitting idle while we adjusted programs trying to get it all working. The machine downtime was killing us, not to mention the inaccuracies and countless other problems.”
“We knew, if we wanted to succeed in this business, we must get serious about automation.”
“Eventually I met Peter Page of QuickCAM Systems who really understood the advantages of automating a manufacturing plant. He demonstrated to me how his software could cut down the job entry time of a large and complicated kitchen with complex corner configurations and customised components to under 30 minutes. We used to take hours.”
“It was clear that the job entry system was very simple to use and didn’t need highly trained operators, in fact any of our current staff could use it with a little training.”
With little hesitation, Mark ordered his first QuickCAM Systems automation system to run the new nested based CNC router, “We chose QuickCAM Systems MDF door software because it: has remote order entry and pricing; integrates with the existing system; allows manipulation of all door and panel properties at order entry or pre-processing stage; has the flexibility to cope with the infinite amount of variables needed for custom panel products; is an easily programmable system with a universal language that would deliver data to the new router and is easily usable by all staff.”
“Door production was running first and within weeks, production was up, quality was up and mistakes were down.”
“Order entry times were immediately reduced by half and the plant was under control by the staff with virtually no intervention by me.”
“We quickly learned that the software had no boundaries as there was nothing it couldn’t do. Because we could program it, we were in total control for the first time.”
Inside KT3’s Operation.
Cabinets packed and ready to ship.
Originally, Mark considered routing his cabinet parts using his old cabinet software.
However, it quickly became clear that making cabinets could be just as simple as making his MDF doors.
The answer was to use the QuickCAM Systems software and existing saw and point to point machinery for superior cabinet production.
“We implemented QuickCAM Systems software for cabinet manufacturing with every cabinet being entered into the system from the showroom or office.”
“This gave us the added bonus of being able to produce flat pack cabinets for the trade. It was about this time that a local carcase fabricator closed down leaving an opening in the market place for another supplier.”
“We picked up a great deal of new business, which was absorbed into our production and merely filled the unused machining capacity created by the new automation software.”
“The gross profit from this newly acquired business, of course, went straight to the bottom line.”
“On our cabinet production line, we have 2 x beam saws and 2 x point to points and the software controls all machines moving parts around to suit any situation.”
“I guess the most impressive result with our new cabinet production is the accuracy. Even with highly customised products, the parts come out perfect every time.”
Benchtop in production.
“With everything else working so well we decided to use QuickCAM Systems software for the bench tops line, this again gave us complete control. We used to use a panel saw to cut mitres and we were cutting toggles by hand. We seem to have been doing this the hard way forever.”
“With QuickCAM Systems’s QuickCAM we can enter a full bench top job in minutes including mitres, cutouts, toggles, edges and all other functions. We were able to save 2 people immediately, but increased sales meant the staff numbers stayed and production increased dramatically.”
The new QuickCAM Systems cabinet and door software gave KT3 REAL control of their manufacturing, which in turn gave them the confidence to take some major steps in growing their business.
They were successful in a bid for the Harvey Norman Renovations account in South Australia and know that a major factor in winning this business was due to HNR’s confidence in KT3’s ability to meet strict deadlines and consistently provide a quality product.
Above all, one of the most noticeable improvements has been with staff morale.
The finished product.
In a stable and reliable manufacturing system, with everything running smoothly, where all parts are correct 100% of the time, under full automation, the day to day stress to both staff and management just disappears. Our whole team is happier” said Mark “and everyone has a smile on their face.”
Mark explained how the switch to QuickCAM Systems software had been the major catalyst that changed the future of this family business.
“Over 3 years, we improved the quality of our products and, at the same time, reduced our production costs. We are more competitive in the market place and our range is much wider.”
“Our move to use QuickCAM Systems software made it possible to cut staff numbers dramatically, throughout the operation. However, the increase in business across the board has added jobs back in.
The final wash up is, we have maintained our manufacturing staff levels but our production has increased by more than 400%.”