Grove Hill, Ala.–As a manufacturer, when your customer list includes names like, The Grand Ole Opry House, University Church of Christ, Green Chapel AME Church, and Memorial Baptist Church, chances are very good that you’re a discerning provider of valuable components. In Dumas Manufacturing’s case, those components include the very pews, pulpits, communion tables, and tithe boxes that churchgoers use during their weekly visits to their houses of worship.
Dumas, located here, has been making those items, plus courthouse seating, pulpits, outdoor benches, and various other components, since being founded by Ivy Clay Dumas in 1928.
During its 84 years in business Dumas Manufacturing has literally “carved out” a name for itself in an industry where quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail are of utmost importance. For example, all of the company’s pews are manufactured from solid wood – not plywood or veneer – making them especially long-lasting, sturdy, and attractive.
Sycamore Hardwood panels are glued together in the 55,000-square-foot plant at Dumas Manufacturing.
“Our company has been around longer than any pew company in existence today,” said Bruce Johnson, general manager, “which is a direct reflection of our commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and service after the sale.”
Working from a 55,000-square-foot plant, Dumas’ 50 employees produce an average of 52,000 linear feet of pews per year. The company procures about 250,000 board feet of Hardwood lumber per year, primarily 4/4 and 5/4 Southern Red Oak and Sycamore in FAS and No. 1 Common.
Along with Johnson, key company employees include William Culp III, owner and president;Mickey Stephens, plant manager and lumber buyer; Mack Stephens, assistant plant manager; Joe Milstead, production coordinator; Kim Moody, director of customer service; and Cynthia Harris, office secretary.
With a combined 400+ years of experience building church pews, the team uses the latest in technologies in wood cutting and design to meet its discerning customers’ unique needs. With a sales force that’s based in its Grove Hill headquarters, Dumas Manufacturing sells, delivers, and installs its products mainly throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
Stacks of 4/4 and 5/4 Southern Red Oak await being used in the manufacturing process at Dumas, which purchases about 250,000 board feet of this species and Sycamore.
Over the years, Dumas Manufacturing has refined its quality standards by investing in modern, state of the art, woodworking equipment. It recently invested in a computerized C.R. Onsrud CNC router that cuts out and routes the church pew ends, along with other assorted church furniture components. The machine maintains accuracies within tenths of a thousandth of an inch, resulting in all church pew ends for a customer’s order identically matching each other in size and in depth of the design routes.
“The CNC router helped improve our quality and efficiency by 40 percent,” Johnson explained. “Our design routes are now more uniform, the parts are easier to sand by hand, and the overall finish looks better.” The machine also allows the manufacturer to duplicate virtually any custom-designed church pew end – an important feature in an industry where beauty and uniqueness count.
Another unique piece of machinery is the Northtech double-surface planer that has helped improved quality “by keeping the lumber at the exact thickness and reduces the times that it must be run through the planer,” said Johnson. “We can now plane both sides of large and small solid wood panels in a single pass.”
Sycamore lumber goes through the planer at Dumas, which uses a Northtech double-surface planer.
To round out its stable of equipment the company also purchased a Northtech wide-belt sander that uses a wide and flat sanding belt to sand most all of its parts to provide an even smoother surface on the parts before the employees that perform the hand sanding work put their finishing touch to the product before sending them to the finishing department.
To go the extra mile for its customers, Dumas takes its commitment to customer service and quality right into the very churches, funeral homes and courthouses where its products will be used on a daily basis. “Many other firms use independent, third parties for the actual installation process,” said Johnson, “but we only use factory-trained pew installers for our projects. It’s an investment on our part, but it’s well worth it.”
Like most woodworking companies across the nation, Dumas Manufacturing felt the pinch of the national recession. “Banks are not lending to churches as they did prior to the 2008 recession, which hasn’t let up yet,” said Johnson, who adds that banks want additional church members to sign personal loan guarantees, which most people are not willing to do these days due to their own uncertainties. “A lot of church members are out of work and can’t afford to give as much of an offering as they once did.”
This is a photo of a large pew installation completed by Dumas Manufacturing.
The challenging climate has pushed pew manufacturers to “fight for every piece of pew business out there,” said Johnson. “That makes it very difficult for us to win the business of every church, funeral home or courthouse in our service area.” But with more than eight decades of success under its belt, Dumas isn’t about to back down from the challenge.
“The recession has strengthened our company and made us leaner than we ever were before,” said Johnson. “It has also pushed our team leaders and team players to be more mindful of our production processes and to make them more efficient throughout our organization. Going forward, we’ll be stronger than ever as a result of these gains.”