Maple, Oak Among Species In Klise Products (pg 28)
By Matthew Fite
|Klise Manufacturing, of Grand Rapids, Mich., has provided wood products for trains, airplanes, ships, yachts, cars, motor homes, mobile homes, furniture, cabinetry, ceiling crowns, picture frames, musical instruments and more. Pictured is a display of product from which to choose.
Grand Rapids, Mich.– Klise Manufacturing Company, located here, is a high-end, custom manufacturer with an ever-broadening product line driven by customer needs. That description comes from Phil Veen, president, who grew up as part of the family that has historically owned the company.
He has researched the company and found that, in the past, Klise Manufacturing worked on prototypes for the early “woodie cars,” modified B-29 bomber propellers during World War II, supplied wood products for the U.S. Supreme Court building and worked on a proprietary line of furniture approved by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Since¬ the 1950s, Veen said, Klise Manufacturing has been “one of the premier moulding companies in the country.”
Today, Klise Manufacturing makes decorative wood moulding for kitchen cabinet, furniture, architectural and design-build customers and for other clients.
Klise Manufacturing buys 250,000 to 300,000 board feet annually of Soft and Hard Maple, Red and White Oak, Alder, Basswood, Aspen, Cherry, Walnut, Poplar, Birch, Beech, Ash, Hickory, and imports Sapele and Mahogany. Klise buys this lumber in No. 1 and 2 white, FAS, Sel/Better, SAP/Better, 4/4-12/4, 6 to 8 percent moisture content, rough and surfaced.
About 85 percent of the work Klise Manufacturing does is with wood, and they also manufacture metal hardware products for cabinetry and furniture.
|Klise Manufacturing has a gang-rip, two resaws, an optimizer and moulders.
The moulding that the company produces does not fall into the category of simple profile. Klise Manufacturing’s moulding receives carving and embossing. “So ours are highly complex mouldings with a lot of historical background from all sorts of eras and with different designs,” Veen said.
An example of such a sophisticated moulding design is classical egg and darts. “We’ve got thousands and thousands of patterns,” Veen explained. “We usually represent ourselves as having the broadest line of custom mouldings made in this country.”
With rare exceptions, Klise Manufacturing’s customers are companies. These clients include businesses from “just about every industry you could name,” Veen observed.
Klise Manufacturing has provided wood products for trains, airplanes, ships, yachts, cars, motor homes, mobile homes, furniture, cabinetry, ceiling crowns, picture frames, musical instruments and more.
|Klise Manufacturing buys 250,000 to 300,000 board feet annually of Soft and Hard Maple, Red and White Oak, Alder, Basswood, Aspen, Cherry, Walnut, Poplar, Birch, Beech, Ash and Hickory.
Veen said his company has actually picked up additional customers during this economic downturn. However, orders for each customer are smaller than before the recession.
How has Klise Manufacturing weathered this economic storm?
The company has redoubled its sales efforts and cut costs internally, Veen explained. “We’re still here. That’s the only measure of success today.”
Not only has the company kept its doors open and its products flowing to customers but also it has 35 employees that Veen would describe as more craftsmen than production line people.
These include engineers and machinists who can reconfigure Klise Manufacturing’s equipment to do tasks far different than what the manufacturers dreamed of.
Klise Manufacturing prefers to hire people without experience in this business niche so that they can be trained according to this company’s needs and so that re-learning will not be necessary.
Veen said Klise Manufacturing hires people who are intelligent, who can think and are flexible.
Klise Manufacturing has a Tyler Gang-Rip, two Tyler resaws, a Paul Optimizer, and moulders from Vonnegut, Diehl, Wadkin and SCMI.
“We have a broad range of equipment – in fact many more machines than employees,” Veen commented. “All of our machinery is optimized for a specific subset of our production, and organized by the primary carving mechanism.
Machines range from 100-year-old specialized carving equipment to state-of-the-art computer driven carving machines.”
|Not only has Klise kept its doors open and its products flowing to customers but also it has 35 employees that Veen would describe as more craftsmen than production line people.
Klise Manufacturing constantly turns out new product lines. “We’re always driven by customer needs,” Veen said. ‘“Can you do this? Can you do that,’ the company constantly hears these questions. And, we figure out how to do it.”
Besides Phil Veen, key personnel include Allan Veen, vice president; Philip Tomasello, national sales manager; and David Delany, logistics manager.
Klise was founded in 1910 by John A. Klise, who purchased an existing moulding company and, over a few years, bought out several specialty shops, consolidating them all into one large company in Grand Rapids. The core product line has always been decorative wood products, but Klise has also done a considerable amount of business in sheet plastic forming, plastic resin products, skylights, and more recently, in decorative and industrial metal products.
The Veen family became involved when James C. Veen, Sr. was hired in 1916 as an office boy, rose to become the general manager, and eventually was given the opportunity to buy out the major portion of the company. Klise was re-incorporated in 1955 and the current owners are the third generation of the Veen family to operate the company.
Besides the historic projects mentioned earlier in this story, Klise Manufacturing also has done work for nearly every American production furniture company, for ocean liners and cruise ships, for Macy’s and J. C. Penney and it once made gun rammers for the U.S. Navy.
|This is Klise’s tooling department. Moulding that the company produces does not fall into the category of simple profile. Klise Manufacturing’s moulding receives carving and embossing.
With a storied past, Klise Manufacturing continues to make high-end products today and to look to the future.
Klise Manufacturing is FSC Chain of Custody Certified. The company also employs environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal and water usage.
The company is a member of the Wood Products Manufacturers Association and the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
For more information on Klise Manufacturing, call (616) 459–4283 or visit www.klisemfg.com.