Dealer Demand for Casegoods Spurs Addition of Lines to Increase Production Capacity
LEOMINSTER, MASS. | Today AIS announces the completion of the installation of two new laminate casegoods manufacturing lines at its Leominster factory and headquarters. The new lines join the four existing production lines installed six years ago. This addition is the third phase of the planned ramp up of laminate casegoods production and is another step in the company’s commitment to implement actions that support its valued dealers and position it for success in casegoods leadership. A fourth phase is slated for 2024 that will more than double the company’s casegoods manufacturing capacity.
“Casegoods is a large part of our existing business and we’re committed to support the growing demand from our dealers” stated Nick Haritos, the company’s president and CEO. “We’re good at it. Designing and manufacturing products with laminates is our sweet spot and our expanding product portfolio reflects a continuous evolution with new designs and lines to meet customer needs.”
The significant capital investment is a strategic move that will benefit AIS dealers, their customers, and ultimately, the entire company. The installation and implementation of the new lines involve many company resources, multiple partners, and a well-thought-out timeline. The expansion effort is being led by Haritos who understands what the market is looking for and how AIS can effectively meet and exceed those needs.
In addition to increased capacity, there are multiple benefits to the addition of AIS’ new multimillion dollar investment. They include reduced lead times, more sophisticated software, increased career growth opportunities for current workers along with the creation of additional jobs in Central Massachusetts, and most importantly, even more satisfied dealers and customers.
In line with AIS’ lean, agile culture, the production team designed the new lines for optimum performance and agility. The automation enables the teams to process and build custom specials with relative ease. Complex products can often be produced more quickly than other manufacturers, providing AIS dealers with a competitive edge.
AIS’ growth is a clear indication that the products and services offered by the company are in demand. While the industry is relatively flat, AIS had record casegoods and overall sales in 2022 despite the many challenges the entire industry faced on key fronts.
The first phase of laminate casegoods manufacturing was installed in 2016 and in the intervening years, quickly hit capacity. With the addition of the new lines, the company’s chief operating officer, Steve Savage says, “the entire team – from production to sales to shipping – is looking forward to providing our dealers with increased casegoods options, more capacity, and faster lead times.” The new lines also position AIS for exploration into new and under-tapped markets, such as healthcare and education, with new products and new uses for laminate.
Savage, a firm believer in lean manufacturing, stated, “We’re a proud Shingo Prize recipient and have consistently operated our business with those world class principles at our core. A culture of excellence is fostered at all levels of the organization by focusing on developing systems that create value for our customers, ensuring quality and process refinement through continuous improvement, respect for workers, and value for individual contributions.”
As laminate casegoods become more and more popular with dealers and end users alike, AIS’ engineering team, led by Bill Stewich, executive vice president of design and innovation, is excited about the possibilities.
“Casegoods are an important segment of our business, and these new lines will help us take more products to market faster. During the years since our first lines were up and running, there has been a seismic shift in storage needs. Between so-called paperless offices and remote working, storage has become more about room for personal items and not files.”
Stewich continues, “The development and construction of casegoods from laminate is a process that allows for specialization and creative uses of the material. The requests we see from the marketplace, combined with our current product line offering, gives us ample opportunity to create and integrate new solutions for customers.” As employers continue to respond to worker desires for a warm, welcoming workplace, AIS has been eager to respond with new and relevant options.
What the New Casegoods Lines Mean to Our Dealers
AIS is known for its responsiveness to the dealer community and for providing quick turnaround times. Solutions that meet workforce and budgetary demands are a hallmark of the brand. Another well-known advantage of working with AIS is the company’s ability to provide highly engineered specials in a timely and cost-effective manner.
“The new lines will go even further in providing dealers with more choices, a seamless business process, and shorter lead times. All these advantages result in better cash flow and greater profitability for our dealers. Facilities managers and buyers get their teams moved in and productive quickly while paying close attention to every dollar they spend. And for the end user, it means functional and beautiful furniture with the finishes and warmth that employees now expect in their workplace,” commented Haritos.
In addition to meeting the needs of end users, dealer requests often provide an early indication of where the market is headed regarding demand for new products. By listening intently and paying attention to how dealers and end users are using products, AIS can respond with new solutions. The company recently expanded its casegoods line to include Calibrate® Dry Planters and Calibrate® Wall Panels based on market demand.
Stewich concurs, “the AIS business model, along with the new lines, position the company to be even earlier to market. With our ear to the ground and inherent flexibility built into the business model, we can get new ideas to market faster than many other manufacturers making us the ‘go to’ when a short turnaround time is needed.”
When the AIS engineering department develops a new product, the team works to create convenient, streamlined casegoods that have multiple uses. One example of this is its mobile pedestals. “Not only does the piece serve as storage, but it is also seating on the fly for collaborators, and can be easily rolled in and out of place. Additionally, our dry planters serve multiple purposes including as a room divider, providing privacy, anchoring workstations, and adding a green element to the floorplate,” stated Stewich.
As the world continues to sort out whether remote work is here to stay, or if a full return to work or a hybrid model will prevail, “we will continue to position AIS as a flexible, adaptable, lean manufacturer committed to supporting our dealers’ business – and these new casegoods lines clearly reinforce that.”
“Our world-class culture, world-class machinery, and lean manufacturing expertise has positioned AIS for continued success and ensured growth for our dealers. Our commitment to adding laminate casegoods lines will continue to leverage our legacy of flexibility, technology, and responsiveness” remarked Savage.
Opportunity Abounds for the AIS Workforce
With expansion comes jobs. According to Savage, “Last year, we added more than one hundred manufacturing jobs, and we expect to do the same in 2023. With those additional jobs comes opportunity for our teams to take on new roles, learn new skills, and advance in the company.” AIS plans to employ additional engineers and technical teams along with machine operators and other factory personnel. “It’s a win for our dealers, a win for our workers, and a win for AIS.”
The company culture, based on trust and respect, encourages workers to accept challenges, push through obstacles, and work together to deliver on promises. As more machinery is added, workers in the factory are becoming increasingly excited to ramp up production.
“AIS has always been about rewarding hard work with opportunity and this expansion will continue to provide career paths for our team members. We’ve already promoted hourly workers in the factory to supervisory roles,” stated Haritos. “The opportunities are across the board, from our production teams to our office staff, there are multiple career paths, training experiences, and educational benefits that allow individuals to grow.”