by moving cross-trained team mem-
bers where needed. With the schedule
system we can now see the workloads
ahead into the future and manage the
workloads across multiple work centers,
resulting in smoother and more ef-
ficient workflow, shorter lead times, and
jobs completed on time consistently.”
Before, the formats and methods
for managing the Excel sheets, created
individually by each department fore-
man, were not consistent. Manually
maintaining the multitude of different
Excel files and worksheets was not only
inefficient but also created a risk of
costly rework due to data inconsisten-
cies and miscommunication.
“Scheduling became a full-time
job,” said Kurtz. “There are so many
variables that affect a job’s start date.
Subsequent customer design changes,
parts not passing incoming inspection,
or a customer suddenly bringing in a
piece they’ve damaged resulted in new
Flow of work
At Dutch Design, the flow of work
starts at drafting where a blueprint is
made according to customer specs.
Then parts are ordered from the company’s vendors (all of the artisans from
the surrounding Amish community).
When the parts arrive they are placed
on a cart. Each cart holds all the
needed parts for a single job. These
carts are held in a staging area until all
parts have arrived, then are released
to a prep area where a team member
preps the parts for assembly. This may
include drilling, grooving, edgebanding, sanding and shaping.
Upon implementing the production
scheduling system, the process became
clear enough to see that the work
center priorities needed adjustment in
order to smooth out bottlenecks, for a
more even process flow.
No job is started unless it is believed it
can be turned around in the one- to
five-day range, other than finishing,
for the purpose of keeping inventory
out of WIP. Inventory other than small,
mainly universal parts such as hinges,
knobs and nails are brought in basically as immediately kitted.
After being prepped, the cart will
then move to a craftsman who will
assemble the piece using a variety of
joinery methods and techniques. After
being assembled it moves to the finish
room prepping area for final prepping
before being stained or painted.
“Every craftsman doing the construction has their own cell, complete
with all the hand tools, routers, cutters,
and drills needed to complete each
project,” Kurtz said. “Individual jobs are
normally assigned to a single craftsman
unless multiple craftsmen are needed
to complete within the needed time
In the finish room the process is
dependent on the color and type of
finish. After the finish is cured the
piece is moved to final assembly for
installing doors and drawers. The com-
pany does all kinds of distressing and
finishes and has their own color lab
and produces their own proprietary
colors, techniques, and finishes. Then
it is moved to final inspection/quality
control and staged for shipping.
Kurtz said the machines being used
Dutch Design sought to expand the
company’s competitive edge. They
concluded that a product mix more
evenly balanced than the current 80
percent custom and 20 percent standard was needed, and researched
new technologies that supported the
company’s commitment to the Kaizen cell method of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement in
At Dutch Design, what typically happens is that a custom piece
becomes desirable by others. So
occasionally the business decision is
made to make it a standard offering.
They will make two or three pieces
as offerings in the Homestead store.
As one or two get sold, they make
another one or two to replace.
Since the standard furniture is
made-to-standard, but not made-to-stock, the process is the same for
both custom and standard because
there’s a delta of only one or two
pieces. This keeps the retail side of
the business lean as well. In that
way, they don’t stock any more
parts inventory for standard pieces
than they do for custom. Increasing production to one or two more
pieces doesn’t justify changing
out of the Kaizen cell method to a
mass production scenario.