Step into the world of manufacturing with Richard as he uncovers the journey of turning raw materials into the beautiful furniture that adorns our homes. In this immersive episode, we venture into Mintjens, a custom-made cabinets manufacturer. Through an immersive tour with Philippe Smits, Mintjens' COO, you will gain a first-hand look at the entire furniture creation process – from initial design discussions right up to the assembly.
Whether you're a tech enthusiast, furniture aficionado, or simply curious about how everyday items come to life, this episode promises a captivating exploration of craftsmanship and technology in unison.
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Concept and realization: Manuèle Robin, Ludvig Auvens, Marine Louis, Cécile Collart
Recording and mixing: Lèna Noiset, Judith Moriset
Host: Richard Shall
Welcome to this new episode. Today I'm taking you on a journey through the fascinating world of manufacturing. It's a topic that may not always grab headlines, but it is an essential part of our daily lives. And we're here to shed some light on it. A few days ago, I was sitting in my living room, relaxing on my sofa, as I always do with some tasty snacks on my coffee table. When it hit me. Have you ever wondered how your favourite furniture is made? It's a question we don't often think about, but it is important. We're surrounded by manufactured products all day, every day, from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive. Everything around us is made by someone, somewhere. It's a complex production web involving machines, technology and skilled workers. So I've decided to take you on a tour of a furniture manufacturing company where the magic happens. You'll see how raw materials are transformed into beautiful furniture that you can take home and enjoy. And the best part, the fact we're visiting is using Odoo to streamline their operations and boost efficiency. We'll take you behind the scenes to show you the furniture making process. So get ready for an immersive experience as we take you on a journey through furniture manufacturing with Odoo. A few days ago, we had the opportunity to meet with Philippe Smits, who was the chief operating officer from Mintjens. He was kind enough to give us an exclusive tour of their furniture manufacturing facility. But before we begin the tour, what is Mintjens all about?Philippe:
Mintjens is a production of custom made cabinets. We used to be 60 years a furniture factory, but today we are specialized in custom made cabinets. The cabinets are made of veneered oak or solid oak. We do some business to business, or mainly just the normal customer.Richard:
Pushing the doors of the showroom. The space provides a wide variety of custom made cabinets that cater to different shapes, sizes and colours made from various wood textures. Philip explained to me that before producing anything, the sales representative needs to sit down with the client and discuss how they want everything to be customized.Philippe:
The process starts in our showroom. The customer comes to here and together with the sales person, he designs, the furniture of the custom made cabinets. We can render. We can give examples in the showroom. Which materials do you want to use, which colors you want to use. Some accessories that he can choose about. And when that is complete, we make an offer to him.Richard:
Once the client has agreed to the offer, the team goes to their home for an on There they take measurements and verify various logistical aspects to ensure a smooth delivery and assembly of the cabinets.Philippe:
Can we park there? Do we need some lift work in the rooms? Is everything available? Are there some hidden pipes or electricity that is standing in the way? That is all covered by our guide on the site. And this information is captured in some documents and goes to the department of the drawings.Richard:
The draftsman then come into the scene who will then put together the technical Bill of Materials and determine the different routes that the materials will need to take in order to finish the cabinets. They are also programming the CNC software, which is a solution that allows the production to run fully automated and seamlessly. The draftsman then prepare the project's technical aspects before launching the actual production.Philippe:
The customer has to agree with the technical drawings and after his fiat we So this is the brain of the factory here.Richard:
Now we come to the heart of everything, the actual production.Philippe:
We are now busy making some beautiful cabinets and I'm happy to show you around.Richard:
As we enter the production site, we are greeted by a loud whirring noise as needed to create the cabinet. The atmosphere is busy but organized, with each worker focused on their specific tasks. The space is divided up into different sections, each dedicated to a different stage of the production process. The first step of the production is to fetch the wood panels needed to create the different parts of the cabinets in the inventory. The different pieces are gathered thanks to the automatic panel storage machine.Philippe:
This is the inventory site or what we call it, the automatic panel storage. It's completely running automatically. And basically it takes the panels out of the storage and place it on the machine. And then this machine is labeling the parts with barcode labels.Richard:
When an order comes in and the team is informed of what is needed, the machine Walking through the wood storage area, stacks of wood in various shades are waiting to be picked up. The smell of sawdust is strong, but it's a familiar and comforting scent. Let's see what's going on next.Philippe:
The next step is cutting the panels in the automated machine or by hand in a Here you see the automated machine nesting machine. When you have the panels and they cut out the forms, the measurements, they make, the drill inside the panels. Manual cutting is most of the panels don't need any drilling. Then they can do it manually. Most of the time, there are also panels who didn't have edge banding like backs of cabinets.Richard:
And that is when the magic happens. Thanks to the CNC drawings provided by the draftsman earlier, the machines know where to cut and drill the parts with extreme precision. Each piece of the cabinet is then labeled with a barcode that follows it throughout the assembly line, ensuring it goes to the correct workstation and is worked on according to the correct instructions. This is crucial for the production process because it ensures they have the right panels in hand to move on to the cutting and shaping process. A large machine then cuts the wood into the shapes and sizes needed for each cabinet part. It is a fascinating process to watch.Philippe:
Every part has a label and there are barcodes on it and on the right machine you So every machine has its own barcode. If you see three barcodes, it needs three machines with CNC programs.Richard:
Once each panel has been collected, cut and drilled to its specifications, the The edge Bending Machine.Philippe:
How does this process works? We have a veneer band that we place, glue it, on the sides of the panel. The panel goes inside the machine, the edge is glued, then pressed with a band and then cut off and trim the band. That's the whole process of the machine. Then it returns to the start and we can do it again for the other side. After this. The parts are just put back in the trolley and the trolley goes to the next station and some parts need some second CNC working.Richard:
As we are walking to the next step, I see some wood lying around. These are the additional solid oak parts sometimes added to the veneered ones. It is a second smaller inventory for this particular piece. Philip is explaining to me that everything is handled through Odoo.Philippe:
Like you see, we have two inventories, we have the automated storage panel Odoo.Richard:
As we continue our exploration of the production line. A huge machine stands to our right. This flexible machine is for special and more detailed operations. When some of the parts need extra attention and customization.Philippe:
We can sew at an angle we can trim, we can make some grooves, things like that. We have also a drilling head on it. So we can also put drillings, for instance, on the other side of the panel that is needed, about 50% of the parts needed an operation here.Richard:
As we follow the trolley along the production line, it is clear that every Now that the panels have been through several cycles of cutting and edge banding, they are nearly ready to move on to the coding line. But first they have to be sanded. In the sanding area, workers brush and sand, each wooden piece to create the perfect finish, making each panel look flawless and professional. Once the process is complete, the trolley holding the finished parts is inspected and quality controlled, ensuring all necessary components are present before moving on to the next stage.Philippe:
The last step of our parts production is sanding. It's a very important step because the surface has to be clean before we coat or put any varnish on it. You see here two machines. One is the sanding machine. It's flattened and make the surface very clean. The other part of the machine is a brushing machine. It makes a little bit roughen up the surface so that you have a special wooden look of it. It adds some texture to the products.Richard:
To prepare the pieces to go through the coating and the surface treatment All panels are placed and hung on racks and the buffer system. This installation is a waiting place for pieces to move onto the coating line. When the previous operation is done, the buffer system will automatically send the next one into the coating line.Philippe:
When the parts going out of the buffer, they go on the coat line. There are four working stations. You have first the coloring in the coloring. Working stations are immediately two steps. First, we spray or bring the color on the parts, and the second step is wiping off the panels. It's important that we do it in a time frame because too long or too short gives another color. After that, it goes through a drying tunnel and we go to the second station, the ceiling. It's more or less a varnish layer. After that, the same tunnel drying tunnel. And then we going to sand a little bit the surface of the parts. After that, we have the varnish layer and again, a drying tunnel.Richard:
The coating line is mesmerizing. Each workstation has a specific purpose, bringing out the natural beauty of the wood lacquering it to the smallest inch to make it look flawless. As we leave the coating line, Philippe guides us to a vast warehouse where skilled woodworkers touch up the last details of the pieces.Philippe:
This is the last step in production. It's finishing the furniture or preparing for delivery. What we see here is an area where we can finishing furniture like putting doors on hinges, putting the shelves inside the cabinet, putting the drawings inside the cabinets, but also prepare for shipping. We put some packing material if needed to the furniture and we can see that everything is complete and everything is okay. There is also a quality control here. Every part is checked and if it's something wrong, then we have a small reparation site where we can do the necessary reparations. When it comes to repairs today, we have a small amount of defects, about 15% of our parts. That's because we work a lot with skilled people inside the factory, because today we do a one piece production and make the order production so we cannot afford a lot of damaged parts.Richard:
The cabinets are now waiting to be delivered to customers and are stacked in a As we approach, I can glimpse a series of big shipping gates.Philippe:
So we are now on the shipping gates. Every morning the truck loads the different parts for the different customers. After loading, they go to the customers mostly locally, but sometimes further on.Richard:
Well, this was really insightful. Hopefully this visit to Mintjens has shed some light on how furniture is made. I am grateful to Philippe for taking his time to show us around, and I don't know about you, but I will never look at my coffee table the same way again. Thank you for tagging along with us during our exploration of the manufacturing industry, from designing products and sourcing raw materials to managing their inventory and coordinating logistics, managing this entire process is no easy task, and I hope you found it as fascinating as we did. And if you'd like to dive deep into other industries, go check out our other episodes. Thank you again for listening and as always, stay awesome.