CNC routers followed.
“Technology is huge,” he said. “We
can do so many things we couldn’t do
before.” He estimates technology improvements have cut man minutes by
at least 70 percent. Their efforts were
recognized by the industry in 2015
with a WMIA Wooden Globe award.
Next, he’s looking into robotic finishing operations to more efficiently
achieve the high-quality finishes
required by the industry.
A key factor in New England Casket’s
continued success is its ability to supply
product for specialized markets. For
example, not only does the company
make all-wood caskets for Orthodox
Jewish funerals, they supply similar
all-wood products for other religious
groups with similar concerns such as
Muong communities who have immigrated to the U.S. from Southeast Asia.
The all-wood caskets are made with
no metal hardware or fasteners at all.
Dowels and wood hardware substitute
for nails and conventional hardware.
The company offers specialized
styles and sizes. One casket features
camouflage print interior upholstery
to appeal to outdoor sportsmen. “
Rental” caskets are designed for multiple
use in the case of people who will be
cremated but want a casket for a public
viewing, memorial service, or wake.
Tobia does express concerns about
trends away from casketed burials and
even online buying of caskets, bypassing the supply chain of manufacturer
to distributor to funeral home.
As an 80-year-old, three generation
company, tradition and the family
legacy are important at New England
Casket Co. Founded by an Italian immigrant (the grandfather of Tobia Jr.)
who came to the United States in 1912
from Italy through Ellis Island. He was
only 18 and had been a carpenter in
Italy. “We think he made at least one
casket there,” says Tobia Jr., explaining
how his grandfather started to work
for the Astoria Casket Co. in New York
before setting out on his own.
The big brick factory building that
currently houses New England Casket
Co. was built by the founder. It’s low
ceilings and two floors hamper some
of the current generation’s attempts
to be more efficient. “I wish I had the
same 100,000 square feet on one level,”
says Tobia Jr. But both he and his
father are confident about the future
of the company. “We’re survivors,” said
They see efforts to apply lean manufacturing as key to their future success.
Currently, they are working to reduce
batch sizes. “We want to make things
on demand,” says Tobia Sr. “That’s
This custom Doucet CSS Casket Side Saw
and Router handles a variety of specialized
operations from cutting sides to length
to pneumatic nailing. A barcode system
allows the machine to change on the fly to
whatever special dimensions are required.
New England Casket Co. uses nine
different species all processed through this
automated rough mill area using equipment
from Stiles, Cameron and Taylor.
Father and son, Louis Tobia Sr. and Louis
Tobia Jr. run the company founded by their
father and grandfather 80 years ago. The
pair is on the production floor daily.
Scan the code or go to woodworkingnetwork.com to see a video about
New England Casket Co