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  • Thomas Russell

Chaddock invests in domestic production

A worker distresses the surface of a dining table.A worker distresses the surface of a dining table.
Morganton, N.C. - Ask any custom furniture manufacturer and they'll tout their ability to produce in small lot sizes tailored to the needs of specific clients. Such capability has created a niche for many domestic producers.
     Chaddock, home of the Guy Chaddock line and the Chaddock line that until recently was known as Ferguson Copeland, is no exception. For years, the company has attracted designers and retailers due to its ability to manufacture product with custom finishes, sizes and fabrics.
     Today, through investments in new equipment and technology, the company is continuing to improve its custom capabilities. It also is shifting some of its emphasis to larger production runs of up to about 25 pieces, which is helping it grow its business with more brick and mortar retailers.
     The result, company officials say, is a line that can be produced in small and large quantities alike, without sacrificing any of its core quality standards.
     Just as importantly, the company said, it has been able to cut production costs through new equipment and the bui
Workers assemble a footboard on a bestselling bed.Workers assemble a footboard on a bestselling bed.
lt-in efficiencies of larger cuttings. Those savings are passed along to retailers in the form of sharper price points.
     While he did not provide specific figures, company President and CEO Tom Powell said Chaddock has invested in the "seven-figure range" in equipment in the past two years. This includes new routers and other machining equipment that is allowing the company to make use of CAD technology to engineer its product.
     The investments, Powell said, also have included less expensive equipment such as small "nimble" sanders and other small-scale equipment that "eliminates multiple hand operations," reducing the amount of time it takes to complete a task.
     "As a result, we have moved light years ahead in efficiency and precision in the machining of our wood and upholstery products," Powell said, adding, "We have eliminated tremendous amounts of waste and we have tightened our tolerances to thousands of an inch, whereas before we were all over the block when hand-cut."
     He added that the company also has gained efficiencies by changing the layout of its main Morganton plant and redirecting the flow of the product to the new equipment.
The company added this second five-axis router to its manufacturing line last year.The company added this second five-axis router to its manufacturing line last year.

     "Having everything lined up in its proper sequence is like having open heart surgery," Powell said. "We could not have survived without it. For companies that may not be able to afford new equipment right now, you sure can get a huge bang for your buck by looking at how your plant is laid out. Realigning plant flow can be huge."
     This is indeed having an effect on pricing. During a tour of the Morganton plant, Powell pointed out a dresser in the Larry Laslo part of the Chaddock line that was priced 30% less at wholesale due to the increase in efficiencies. Such shifts in pricing can be found across the line.
     "We can deliver an incredible level of quality at an incredible value, and at retail, that is totally what you have to have," Powell said.
     To understand some of these dynamics in its manufacturing process, it helps to know some of the company's history relating to both the Guy Chaddock and former Ferguson Copeland lines.
     Originally, the Guy Chaddock line was made in Bakersfield, Calif. It moved to Morganton between late 2004 and early 2005, after former chairman Darrell Ferguson acquired the assets of the company when he heard it was about to close after 48 years in business.

Chaddock line
These chests are part of the Chaddock line. They used to be made in Vietnam, but are now able to be produced at competitive price points in the U.S. plant thanks to new equipment such as a profile shaper.
This chest is part of the Chaddock line. The shaping on the drawer fronts and sides of the piece are done in-house at the company’s Morganton, N.C., plant with a profile shaper. The work was once done in Vietnam, but the company was able to move the work back to the U.S.
Morganton, N.C.
A worker DistressesA worker distresses a chair in the Guy Chaddock line. This is an example of the hand craftsmanship that continues to go into the line.

     The Ferguson Copeland (now Chaddock) line used to be made mostly in the Philippines and Vietnam. In the past five years, it has moved back to Morganton, and today 85% of the line is made there. For a line that was once 90% imported, that has been a huge shift that also helped identify and correct many inefficiencies in production, Powell said, noting that all upholstery and nearly all the wood products, including those in the Guy Chaddock line, continue to be made in Morganton.
     "As that (domestic) component continued to grow, the inherent inefficiencies of on-off production became more problematic from a value-to-retail-sale equation, so we knew that to be competitive, we had to make these changes," Powell said. He said the company has cut its lead times from 14 weeks about 16 months ago to about 6-8 weeks currently on the wood side of the business. Custom upholstery can be produced in four weeks, down from nearly 10 weeks a year ago.
     Due to the custom nature of the business, there are still many workers' hands on various products, particularly in hand-rubbed finishes. A typical finish, for example, involves 20-25 steps, Powell said, adding that there are 100 finishes and more than 500 fabric options in upholstery.
     The challenge, he said, is to find and maintain a balance between the machine-made and hand-made nature of production.
     "No two pieces are the same," Powell said of pieces that are custom made. "That's the beauty and the beast, maintaining the custom side as we grow the production side."
     He did not specify how the customer base was growing or expected to grow across various channels. He did say that the company's "expectation for growth across all channels is very aggressive." This includes retail, both domestic and international, as well as designer business, which he said is a large component of current volume and "certainly our future (volume).... Custom will always be the linchpin of our success."
     In October, the company launched more than 200 new items, which included pieces in the Larry Laslo and the new David Easton collections. Powell said the response was "terrific," and that the largest area of growth was in the wood division.

This is a dresser that is part of the Larry Laslo line for Chaddock. It is made with solid alder.
Larry Laslo
Guy Chaddock lineA worker finishes a buffet in the Guy Chaddock line. The average finish involves 20 to 25 steps.
A product engineer works with the company’s new computer-assisted design technology in the Morganton plant. The company invested in this technology in the spring of 2013.
Morganton Plant

     "We already have the dealers in place," Powell said. "Now we just have to feed them. With the machining and equipment we have in place, we can be nimble."
     Dealers already buying from the company have been impressed with what Chaddock has been able to accomplish.
     "We are very big fans of Chaddock, and we had a very good year with them in the last year and are adding settings in every store," said Steve Lush, president of Fort Myers, Fla.-based Robb & Stucky International, noting that the company has doubled its number of settings per store in case goods and upholstery. "We have one foot in the retail world and one foot in the design world and their new strategy speaks to both sets of customers."
     Lush said the strategy has indeed reduced the price points on pieces, especially on beds, dining tables and occasional tables. This, he said, has resulted in a lot of Chaddock's pieces fitting into the upper end of the retailer's better assortment, ($2,499 to $3,999 for a king bed, dining table or sofa) whereas in the past, Chaddock was only in the best pricing category of ($4,000 and above).
     Michael Uvanni of Michael J. Uvanni Interiors in Rome, N.Y., said he has bought the line for a number of years, adding that "It is a line that I really connect with."
     "I think they do a super job," he said. "Since they have had these new initiatives, the line has grown really well, and I am impressed with it.... They are still on top of their game."

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