Painting Equipment - Machines and Tools - Sanding - Furniture Production Machinery

Flexible production line has supported rapid business change

Front-painted is a relatively recent arrival on the market for painted furniture doors. In early 2019 the management team decided to move away from furniture production and focus on fronts. They discovered a gap in the furniture door market for custom fronts. The collaborations they had with architects and interior designers during furniture production helped them to discover this opportunity and to notice that the demand was high. We met Alexandra Panfil, Strategic Consultant at Painted front, who talked about customising furniture with painted fronts, the long-standing partnership with Nika Machinery, which made the transition to front-end production simple, about customers and online sales and plans for the future.

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Alexandra Panfil (Painted Front) and Adrian Broșiu (Nika Utilaje)
The need for customised fronts

They started years ago with the production of custom furniture and frequently collaborated with architects and designers. They were targeting a market segment of people who wanted furniture that represented them. They quickly realised that "the secret to beautiful and elegant furniture that turns furniture into a unique piece is custom doors".

But at the same time they have discovered the lack of these doors on the Romanian market, often having to resort to those brought in from abroad. That's how the idea of producing them came about. They knew the market, they knew that there were big producers of painted doors in the country, but they wanted to go for a niche production, basically starting from what their customers wanted.

"We are one of the few who make custom and 3D models. That is, if a customer has seen somewhere a door model they would like for furniture, they contact us and we tell them if it can be done or not. So far, however, we haven't had a situation where we couldn't fulfil a request. We have oriented ourselves, in terms of the capacity we have in production, i.e. human strength, technology and machinery, towards this niche of custom, 3D, in a word, personalised. Our customers are mainly architects - architectural offices and interior designers."

What gave them courage was the impact they had on potential customers right from the start and the flexibility of the production lines designed together with Nika Utilaje.

"Last year (2019, n.r) we attended Design Hub with 3D door samples and the feedback was very good. Two architects came and told us they were glad that finally there was someone in Romania who could do what they only saw at furniture shows in Italy. This doesn't mean that we want to make an expensive, unattainable product. Our goal is to make a quality product, otherwise, to meet the designer, the architect, the end customer so that everyone is satisfied."

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MDF samples processed and painted
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Kitchen with CNC machined and painted fronts
To obtain quality fronts you need high performance machines and trained people

In order to obtain doors that meet both quality and customization requirements, they rely on the team at the factory in Drăgănești, Olt. There works the factory manager, who has more than 15 years' experience in furniture manufacturing, and the CNC engineer, also known as the Wizard (the wizard). He is the one 'guilty' of customising the fronts with special and diverse designs. The skills of the "Wizard" and the performance of Nika Machine Tools' Masterwood CNC result in unique fronts.

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Also very important is the team of women who are in charge of both the perfect sanding of MDF or engineered wood and the sanding between coats of primer. Their attention to detail means that, in the end, the doors look and feel great.

They didn't want to use experienced people to apply primer and paint. They were afraid that this experience would do more harm, that they had learned some operations wrong and that they would have to put them into practice. They chose to train young people, eager to learn a trade. With all the problems inherent with the Romanian workforce, they have managed to find people in the area with whom to form a team of which they are very proud.

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A long-standing partnership that has enabled the transition to another business and its development

The team has also succeeded in making optimal use of the processing machinery, thus further increasing the quality of the fronts produced. Painted Front and Nika Utilaje have a long-standing partnership, the collaboration being based on projects designed together so that maximum benefits can be achieved.

Their first project was when they were producing furniture in 2013. The requirement was for a furniture production line that was as flexible as possible to allow the business to grow in different directions. This helped a lot when they decided to move into furniture front production. They then bought a CNC Masterwood by Nesting, with C-axis and aggregates allowing horizontal machining even if it has a nesting table, a thermoforming press with integrated composite heating furnace, edge banding machine and a circular. They also took smaller cars - drilling machinesof applied cant on curb - for the production of wooden furniture, wood-based panels or composite materials. The equipment was quite advanced for that time and they made highly valued furniture. This equipment made the transition from furniture production to custom CNC front production effortless. The backing machining machines alone were not enough.

As the collaboration with Nika Utilaje was very good from the beginning, when they had another investment project they also turned to them. The second project they did together was for spray booths. They thought of manual spraying, with pumps and guns, because it requires human touch in this type of business. They took a 2-seater suction front with dry filterfor applying primer and a front with a spray station and water curtainfor applying the final coat of paint. They solved the dust problem by pressurising both booths, a dust extraction airlock before entering the spraying area and appropriate quality equipment for the operators. And when a stray speck of dust gets on the painted surface, it is solved by polishing.

Now I'm on the verge of my third project - mechanical grinding equipment. Intricate patterns milled into the surface of panels are sometimes very difficult to sand by hand. They have come to the conclusion that to deliver the quality their customers have come to expect they need to invest in sanding. They contacted their partner again and started setting up the project. They hope to complete this investment by the end of the year. That doesn't mean they won't need their existing people. The team is very good, the future projects are also many, so the equipment will not mean redundancies.

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Sample small scales
Online orientation - fast delivery and satisfied customers

One of the company's projects has been to develop the online sales side, to make it accessible and easy. Here too they have been supported and backed by Nika Utilaje, with whom they have been in discussions for software solutions on the factory side.

"What we want to do with this business model is also to educate the market, to show them that it is possible for them to measure their own fronts and order them. They get rid of a lot of the hassle and can even get a better price."

They have developed a very simple and easy to use online form. Once it is filled in with the dimensions of the panels, the price is automatically calculated and the proforma is sent according to the chosen payment method. The system then generates an email which is analysed and the order quickly goes into production. For regular orders the lead time is 10-15 days and for non-standard orders it can be 20-25 days. Delivery is made by our own means of transport or by courier, after the order is carefully packed and palletised in the factory. The courier has been chosen with great care, after they found out that they have among their customers one that processes and transports glass.

They have customers that, although they have so far received over 10 orders (substantial, not just a few doors), they have not met. The online collaboration went so well that they didn't need to meet to work out the details of the contract.

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Dressing doors
Future plans

In addition to the project to implement mechanized grinding they have another project this year, one related to collections of fronts. Alongside the premium fronts they will be preparing a series of furniture fronts dedicated to children. For them they will use special finishing products and a new series of colours, pastels, especially for this project.

For the future they want to expand abroad. They know what the requirements are because they have participated in international fairs. They are also convinced that they can deliver quality products at a better price. They want people who want special furniture to no longer have to go to other countries to find what they want. They know that here in the country there is the will and the ability to do anything and partners like Nika Utilaje are there to help them get quality products.

With what they've achieved in less than a year of transitioning to a new production direction, I'm confident they'll be able to do everything they set out to do.

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Living bookcase

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About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.

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