Woodworking production style definitions

A Guide to understanding woodworking production terms:


Understanding terms used in woodworking or any manufacturing can be difficult. Here is a small list of some more commonly used terms and what they mean in general.

Architectural Millwork – This term is somewhat loosely used in our industry, but refers in general to a company that produces casework, running trim and items such as nurse’s stations, cash wraps or other such items that require custom engineering and production. In most cases architectural millwork is associated with commercial applications, but it can also refer to high-end residential as well. In some cases, architectural millwork is also used in parallel with the term millwork.

Cabinets / Cabinetry – A company whose primary business is building boxes that can have a variety of arrangements and or options. This term can refer to either commercial or residential work.

Casework – A modular configuration of a box or boxes typically referred to in commercial applications. A stand alone cabinet would be an example of casework. In commercial application, several individual pieces of casework are aligned to make the proper configuration for an elevation, room, etc…

Cell-based Manufacturing – Is a term used in our industry that in general is a concept of cutting part from a sheet first utilizing a panel saw, edgebanding of the parts if necessary and finally machining cut to size parts at a point 2 point or machining center.

Custom Manufacturing – This is a term used very loosely and most manufactures other than stock builders consider themselves to be “custom”. In general it means that they are willing to produce items that are non standard. As an example, if a company allows its customer to order for example cabinets in a special size or configuration, it is considered custom. This can mean other things as well such as willingness to build fixtures, diewalls, etc…

Custom One Off – An item(s) that is job specific and likely never to be produced in that exact configuration again. An example would be a nurse’s station that has specific requirement for a hospital second floor where the curvature of the front of the nurses station follows the overhead soffit.

Fixture Manufactures – There are several types of fixture manufactures, but in general to our industry we thing of those who produce retail or point of purchase “POP” fixtures (ex. Clothing displays), restaurant fixtures (ex. Booth, salad bars), or display fixtures (ex. Trade show booths). In many cases, these fixtures are complex products made of many parts, but are often produced in reasonable quantity. For example a retail fixture manufacture might land an account with a chain retail store to produce a display for their jeans which would meant that at least one fixture would be required per store.

JIT(Just In Time) Manufacturing – JIT is a philosophy of continuous improvement in which non-value-added activities (or wastes) are identified and removed for the purposes of:

Reducing Cost
Improving Quality
Improving Performance
Improving Delivery
Adding Flexibility
Increase innovativeness
JIT has become somewhat bastardized in our industry, as many think of it as simply shorter lead times and having just the right quantity of any item available for processing as needed.

Kitchen Showrooms – A term used to describe a company that may or may not actually produce their own products. In many cases, kitchen showrooms are display rooms that present products from a variety of manufactures. Housewives frequently come to these type places to pick out their kitchens or showrooms. Often kitchen showrooms use software technology such as 20/20 and or others to create a visual presentations.

Lean Manufacturing – The so called “Toyota Way,” Lean is basically all about getting the right things, to the right place, at the right time, in the right quantity while minimizing waste and being flexible and open to change. Lean has become the latest industry buzzword for continuous improvement. In order to be highly competitive in today’s market often requires companies to constantly reexamine their processes in order to achieve the most cost effective results leading to a stronger bottom line and a more competitive edge. At the most basic levels, lean thinking would replace outdated, non-automated processes or items and to replace them with items such as software or CNC machines.

Millwork – Is generally related to the production of wood moldings or running trim, turnings, windows, stairs, entry doors and or other such products generally made up of solid wood stock.

Nested-based Manufacturing – The manufacturing process of full sheets on a flat tabled CNC router. It provides the ability to cut multiple parts to size, groove and drill in one operation. This technology has become highly popular in our industry, but is best suited for small lot production or the custom one-off manufactures. On average, companies who use this strategy of manufacturing consume less than 40 sheets per day, but in some cases, larger nested-based machines allow for automatic material loading / unloading and or pendulum processing which can increase productivity to 100 plus sheets per shift.

True 32 System – A production strategy referring to modular cabinets, founded by the Europeans where holes used for things such as adjustable shelves are on 32mm center-to-center. All CNC machines in the woodworking industry with drill packs have their drill heads on 32mm centers. In most cases, the same shelf holes also act as placement holes for items such as hinges and drawer slides. With the advent of CNC machines, this strategy is less talked about, because a CNC frankly doesn’t care, but many have designed their cabinet construction around this principle.


Credit: Excerpts from the web and RSA Software Solutions