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Thomas Russell

Harden Furniture investing $3 million in plant improvements

MCCONNELLSVILLE, N.Y. — High-end case goods and upholstery manufacturer Harden Furniture said it will spend as much as $3 million on a previously announced upgrade of its plant here.

The multi-phase project, announced in April, will install woodworking equipment including a new Holtzner CNC machining center. It also will replace its rough mill with a new Weinig optimizing system that improves its raw lumber yield.

The first phase, to be completed later this year, will convert various production lines to a lean/just-in-time manufacturing process. This will enhance the company's custom capabilities including and its ability to offer Cabinet Makers Cherry in new wood species such as solid walnut, officials said.

The second phase will install the Weinig system. Company President and CEO Greg Harden said the company is analyzing how to best utilize that system.

The company said it already has lean manufacturing processes in place for its upholstery frame and some dining table production. The installation of new equipment and software will expand its lean and custom manufacturing capabilities to more product segments, and also is expected to improve lead times and reduce operating costs.

The entire conversion process will take time, Harden told Furniture/Today.

"We are looking at a three-to-five year conversion from a fairly traditional manufacturing process to one that is state of the art and lean," he said. "We want to take our time with it and make sure we do it right. The last thing we want to do is make it unreliable for dealers.... In the current environment you can't afford to disappoint anybody.... It is absolutely critical for us to be delivering on a consistent basis and with the shortest lead times. We don't want to compromise any of that service."

The announcement follows Harden's sale of some 10,000 acres of company-owned timberland to Georgia-based Timber Investment Resources at the end of the first quarter.

Harden did not reveal the sale price, but said the deal allowed the company to cash out remaining shareholders and to recapitalize the business by paying off debt and funding the plant improvements.

The investment, he said, will "establish Harden as one of the few furnishings manufacturers worldwide that has ‘one-off' and true custom capabilities. This will significantly leverage our existing product line while providing dramatic improvements in all aspects of our operations."

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