Sauk Centre, MN—Simply making high-quality cabinet parts wasn’t enough for Bayer Interior Woods, based here. Not long after founding the organization in 1994, CEO and Co-Owner Brian Bayer worked with his team to develop an innovative system of making finished products for the cabinet shops and dealers that they partner with.
In business for 18 years, Bayer Interior Woods purchases about 750,000 board feet of lumber annually from wholesalers in Wisconsin and Michigan. Its primary species include Red Oak, Hard and Soft Maple, Cherry, Red Alder, White and Yellow Birch, Yellow Poplar, Hickory and white pine – all in No. 1 Common grade (with some Select and Better and a small dose of FAS for mouldings).
“We created a CabinetPac ™ system by which we take a kitchen drawing and build all of the case parts, doors, face frames, functional hardware, and other elements needed to create a complete cabinet job,” explained Dan Johanek, purchasing manager. “We stack all of the items on a pallet and deliver it to the customer’s shop for assembly.”
Charles ‘Butch’ Gordhamer, co-owner, treasurer, Bayer Interior Woods
Johanek points out that he’s not talking about your average “knock-down” approach to assembly line cabinet manufacturing. “Everything we make is fully customized to meet the customer’s needs,” he explained. “No two kitchens are alike.” Johanek said the innovative approach has not only helped Bayer Interior Woods thrive through tough economic times, but it has also pushed the firm to explore even more customized offerings.
“During the most recent recession we decided to take a step further by creating a completely assembled cabinet line along with matching millwork,” he explained, noting that the tactic virtually eliminates the need to purchase cabinets and millwork from two different suppliers. “We also finish everything and include the hardware so that everything matches correctly.”
In 2010, Bayer Interior Woods added a showroom to its lineup and calls it a “Selection Center.” While it doesn’t sell to the general public, the showroom is open to anyone who wants to come in and see what the manufacturer has to offer. The showroom features complete kitchenettes, millwork displays, and a variety of finish colors. Bayer Interior Woods’ “open door” showroom approach also helps generate leads for the firm’s dealer base. “We give visitors the list of dealers that we sell to,” said Johanek, “and let them select which one they want to work with.”
“Our bread-and-butter product line is definitely cabinet parts and components,” said Johanek, “mostly in No. 1 Common in 4/4 thicknesses.”
Purchasing Manager Dan Johanek (far right) gets involved in a multitude of daily operations.
Johanek said he prefers lumber from Wisconsin and Michigan for its color and brightness. “As a custom manufacturer,” he said, “we find that our customers really want the bright white and blonde woods.” Finished products such as cabinet parts, components, doors, face frames, mouldings, and drawer boxes are sold to customers nationwide by a team of five sales reps who work onsite and on the road.
In addition to Johanek and Bayer, key personnel include Charles Gordhamer, co-owner and treasurer; Richard Hoge, president and CFO; and Darryl Nicholis, operations manager. Working from an 80,000-square-foot facility that employs 110 persons, Bayer Interior Woods runs a single, 8-hour shift for 40 hours per week plus a skeleton night shift. Like many other manufacturers, it’s hoping to ramp up this year as the national economy and the housing market improves.
“During the recession we cut the night shift and are just beginning to rebuild it,” said Johanek. “We’re looking to get up to 80 hours per week soon.” That wish could come sooner than later for Bayer Interior Woods, which is currently experiencing sales volume that it “hasn’t seen in years,” according to Johanek. “We were determined not to be a statistic of the downturn; we were going to make it and stick around to see the recovery.”
Bayer’s Operations Manager Darryl Nicholis
Johanek credits Bayer Interior Woods’ commitment to making life as easy as possible for its customers with helping to buoy the manufacturer through the toughest times. “We basically do everything for the cabinet shop,” he explained. “One of our biggest selling points is the combination of customization with ready-to-assemble products. Our customers just love our system.”
That love is beginning to show up in Bayer Interior Woods’ sales volume, which was up 20 percent for the first quarter of 2013 (compared to the same period in 2012). “We fully expect that to continue,” said Johanek. Not willing to rest on those laurels, the firm is currently adding new dealers across the country as it continues to “shake the bushes” and find new customer segments and geographic markets to sell to.
“While we are very strong here in the north central states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, we’re now looking to expand into other states with our innovative offerings and customized approach to cabinet parts and millwork,” Johanek added.