Quality Woodwork

Elias Woodwork
Written by Claire Suttles

Elias Woodwork has been manufacturing cabinetry and millwork components since 1983. The Winkler, Manitoba based business supplies products for a wide range of industries, with a specialization in the kitchen sector.
“What sets us apart from much of our competition is our vast product selection, high quality finishes and competitive prices,” says Sales & Marketing Manager Jeremy Funk.

From cabinet doors, drawer boxes, mouldings, and veneers to ready to assemble cabinets and a variety of decorative accessories, Elias Woodwork can manufacture virtually any wood product found in the kitchen or bathroom. The company also offers a wide range of cabinet refacing products as well as wood products for the recreational vehicle industry.

“We strive to be able to supply all products needed for the industries we serve,” Mr. Funk says. “This means manufacturing not only a huge variety of wood products in both raw and finished states, but also manufacturing products using other materials such as Rigid Thermofoil, Decorative Laminate Veneer and High Gloss Acrylic. This product selection allows our customer partners to be able to save time by dealing with one supplier, and save money by consolidating shipments.”

Elias Woodwork has recently added even more items to their product offerings, including custom Ready to Assemble (RTA) cabinet boxes, a polyester-saturated paper on MDF cabinet door line (DLV), a high gloss acrylic line of cabinet doors and many new Thermofoil colors, as well as a greatly expanded wood species selection. The company’s specialty offerings – such as a full selection of bamboo products – set the company apart, as does the team’s ability to manufacture curved cabinet doors and components in any door style and custom radius.

Manufacturing in Canada can be challenging, and the company relies on a top-notch facility and efficient systems to remain competitive. “Our company is focused on implementing the most technologically advanced machinery possible, along with smart, lean manufacturing,” Mr. Funk explains. “This way of thinking originates with President Ralph Fehr, who has a background in engineering. Our state of the art machinery ensures precision cutting which results in some of the highest quality manufactured wood products in North America.”

Manufacturing market leading wood products requires expert talent in addition to advanced machinery. “Of course, human attention to detail is still key, especially when working with wood,” Mr. Funk points out. The company relies on regular quality inspections to ensure that machinery and craftsmen are producing the best possible product every time.

In 2011 the company acquired a second facility to allow for continued growth. “The key to this addition was that it created an opportunity for us to separate our Coatings Departments and utilize the new facility for our Solid Color finishing department,” says Mr. Funk. “This change drastically increased productivity as color changeovers decreased. It also raised the quality level on all of our finished products.” Elias Woodwork’s manufacturing operations now cover 255 000 square feet, including 28 100 square feet of staining, lacquering and painting.

After just six years in operation, the expanded facility has already shown its worth. “The demand for finished wood products over raw wood products continues to increase, so this visionary investment is already paying off. The second facility also creates an opportunity for our Production team to be very nimble and efficient by utilizing the strengths of both facilities, while providing an instant backup plan in case of disaster.”

The company’s location in the geographical centre of North America is another plus. “Our central location allows for quick and easy distribution of our products all across North America,” Mr. Funk points out. “This is key as lead time is critical to most of our customer partners.” The team hopes to slash lead time even further. “Reducing lead time in our manufacturing process is also a focus in our efforts to increase customer satisfaction. The key to this initiative is to make sure that our high quality levels are not negatively affected.”

After 33 years in business, Elias Woodwork continues to enjoy strong growth. “Our company has enjoyed significant growth for the last six consecutive years, including double digit percentage growth the last three consecutive years,” says Mr. Funk. “We believe we are achieving this through great customer service, a focus on reducing lead times and offering an ever increasing selection of products combined with strong marketing strategies.”

A positive company culture helps drive the business forward. An emphasis on teamwork has been a critical component of success, as has the ongoing, conscious effort to “earn the trust and respect of our customers every day.” Satisfied, well-trained employees are key to delivering the level of service required to earn this trust and respect, Mr. Funk points out. As a result, everyone at the company works together to create a constructive, encouraging work environment that will breed success.

Elias Woodwork is well positioned to take advantage of an improved economy. “Our industry is quite strong today as it is recovering from the hard times in 2008 – 2009,” says Mr. Funk. “Since then we have noticed the industry continuing to gain strength and we believe that will continue for the next few years.” Challenges remain, of course, and the team is working hard to stay ahead of industry pressures. “Our two main challenges today are continuing to execute efficient growth, and continuing to satisfy the increasing quality expectations of our customer partners, and ultimately the end user.”

Armed with three decades of experience and a new, leading edge facility, Elias Woodwork is all set to overcome these challenges. Now, the team is zeroing in on employee retention and training to secure continued growth. “Since we set ourselves up by acquiring an additional building and machinery a few years ago, executing efficient growth for us mostly means increasing employee retention, and making sure that existing and especially new employees receive great training,” Mr. Funk reports. “We have developed intensive training programs to ensure that people are productive very quickly, and they understand our culture of quality and timeliness.”

Maintaining a high level of quality is imperative for future success. “We have focused on increasing our quality to exceed our customer’s rising expectations. We have implemented better systems to track quality issues, both for warranty issues and quality problems discovered in house during inspection. Measuring and analyzing these issues has brought great awareness to our entire staff. Management also welcomes all of our people to contribute ideas and solutions… I know that providing consistently high quality products is a vital part of ensuring customer loyalty, as quality products are expected in our industry.”

The team expects the company will continue experiencing “significant” growth for the next several years. “We believe there is a great opportunity to grow our business, both through gaining market share as well as simply growing with the industry,” says Mr. Funk. “We have some outstanding customer partners who also are aggressively growing, so we intend to continue to work closely with them and help them achieve their goals.”

The team believes that the company’s upcoming growth will take Elias Woodwork beyond Canada and the United States. International expansion is on the table and the team is eager to take advantage of our shrinking world to develop relationships with clients around the globe.

In the meantime, the team is busy installing additional machinery in its expanded manufacturing facility. They also expect the company’s new Ready to Assemble cabinet program “to have a break out year in 2016. [It] is an area of great opportunity and is fairly new for us. We know that all this growth will not come without hard work, however the people at Elias have been familiar with that for the last 33 years and are not prepared to shy away from it any time soon!”



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