by William Sampson
email@example.com SMART FACTORY
Envision a cabinet plant where robots move most of the parts, including a self-guided parts trolley that rolls all around the shop floor by itself. Envi- sion a computer tracking system that knows where very single part is at every moment, from manu- facture to loading on the truck for shipping. If that sounds like the so-called “smart fac- tory” of some futurist’s dream, you’d be wrong. That’s just the routine way they make cabinets at
Muskoka Cabinet Company in Ottawa, Ontario,
Luke Elias, president of Muskoka, has given
presentations on his innovative approach to
cabinet manufacturing at WMS in Canada and
the Woodworking Industry Conference in the
U.S., but the reaction of many in the industry still
borders on incredulity. Many still believe these
kinds of technology leaps are out of reach for most
From business, not wood
Perhaps one reason Elias and his brother Eric,
who joined him in the business, have had such success is that they have no preconceived notions of
how to do things. Neither came from a woodworking industry background. When Luke bought the
business in 1989 he came from a business background, and his brother, who joined the company
in 1992, came out of the banking industry.
They became early adopters of new technology,
starting with design and manufacturing software,
nested based CNC manufacturing, and then onto
enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and
eventually robotics and radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems.
All these advances have helped the shop com-
pete with much bigger operations in both plant
size and numbers of employees. Of the 75 em-
ployees at Muskoka, only about 25 are in factory
production. Most of the rest are in administration,
Pioneering Canadian manufacturer uses robotics, RFID chips, and sophisticated
software to maximize efficiency and compete with bigger players.
Muskoka developed automated guided vehicles (AGVs) tailored specifically to their factory’s needs for moving parts
around the plant without a human operator.