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Weinig Combats The Skills Shortage

Clare Hollister

If you’re running a traditional joinery company, you’re looking at ways to expand your offer but think a CNC machine isn’t a viable option for a smaller business, maybe it’s time to think again. 

Meet Chris Holland, owner of Bespoke Wooden Luxury and the driving force behind his company’s ambitious growth plans. Purchasing his very first CNC machine in 2022 from leading machinery manufacturer, Weinig, the solid wood door and window company has increased his production five-fold in just six months and he is now set to launch his very own e-commerce website as the company continues to modernise its Bridgnorth-based workshop.  

“Every joinery workshop in the UK is experiencing the effects of the skills shortages and we are no different,” says Chris, a joiner of 20 years. “Following the pandemic, two of our most experienced joiners left the company and 18 months later, we were still unable to find suitable replacements. Our options were limited. We either needed to adapt our manufacturing methods and invest in new technology or admit defeat and eventually shut up shop.”

The latter was not an option for the pioneering businessman and after securing a grant through Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Growth Programme, which is intended to help businesses in the local area grow, Chris began his quest for change. 

“My idea was to invest in machinery that could improve our manufacturing efficiency and reduce our reliance on skilled workers. After a lot of internet research, I thought I knew what we needed. It wasn’t until I picked up the phone to get some quotes that I realised a miniature window line would not streamline my business or offer me the flexible machining I needed to replace two experienced joiners and assist my existing team in producing a wide range of hard wood doors and windows.

“It became increasingly obvious that the business needed a CNC machine but I thought CNC’s were for large-scale manufacturing companies with deep pockets and a lot of floor space. How wrong was I? After a few calculations, I quickly realised owning a CNC wasn’t an unattainable pipe dream for a small business like mine.” 

After talking to several manufacturers, Chris was sold on Weinig’s ProMaster 7125-495 5-axis CNC machine. “The adaptability of the ProMaster blew us away and it was surprisingly affordable. Not only could it help us produce solid wood and engineered wood window and door frames more quickly and with a higher level of accuracy, it would also allow us to move away from traditional mortise and tenon joints to engineered, drill and doweled construction and other contemporary joining solutions, by simply changing the tooling.”

The CNC’s generous working dimensions (up to 5420mm x 1350mm and machining height of 210mm) meant working with different profiles was also possible. Chris says, “We didn’t want to be restricted by material lengths or thicknesses, which is why we chose a bigger machining table with intelligent suction cups and stops at front and rear. Although we currently produce frames no deeper than 120mm and 4600mm in length, we wanted to future proof our investment. Trends change, which means our designs do too and we needed a CNC that could keep up. The ProMaster offered us the perfect solution and could produce precision-milled workpieces flawlessly whilst still fitting in our modest 8,000sqft workshop.” 

The machine’s technology needed to be flexible and easy to learn and the integrated CAMPUS NC Hops package and versatile macros on the ProMaster didn’t disappoint: “Depending on who is programming the machine, we have the option to work remotely or directly on the machine’s 21.5″ monitor so both our operator and technical designer can create the required plans and component lists. It’s a really adaptable piece of software and this appealed greatly to me. We can also add a WI-FI dongle into the machine if we want engineers to access the machine remotely, eliminating an engineer call-out and saving valuable time and costs.”

Describing himself as a CNC novice, Chris and his team were trained on the ProMaster at Weinig UK’s facilities in Abingdon. “Our trainer left no stone unturned but it was presented in a manageable format. He got to understand our business so our training was unique to us and with a background as a CNC wood machinist, he was easy to relate to,” says Chris. 

“For any joiner looking to take their first tentative steps into CNC machining, my advice would be never to underestimate the process and to expect the odd stumbling block. We were realistic in our thinking and knew it would take a little while to get to grips with the new technology. After all, we were used to creating everything by hand and our only experience of working with machinery was traditional spindle moulders, thicknessers and planers. We needed to adapt the way we were thinking and approach projects differently. Weinig helped us with that. 

“Take the way we cut-out espagnolette locks as an example,” says Chris. “When we first got the machine, we were cutting the multi-point locks to their exact measurements, but they kept catching. We tweaked the machine so it left an extra 0.5mm at the back of the lock – a tolerance even the most experienced joiner would struggle to gauge – and now each lock is cut perfectly every time. These little adjustments take time to get your head around but we’re now flying through our orders and it saves us hours every week.” 

From the raw material being cut to the parts being assembled, Chris’ team can now have a door assembled in 1.5 hours instead of the two days it would have taken before the ProMaster arrived. “We were completing two to three hand-made doors a week,” he says. “With the introduction of the CNC, we tripled this number in a single day, increasing production five-fold and there is still room for growth as we don’t run the machine to its full capacity.”

Its cutting and drilling accuracy has also slashed installation time on-site and reduced material waste throughout the production process. “We allow over-length on the machine but we can minimise this on each component we cut. Engineered wood lengths are also very accommodating which, when teamed with the CNC, have helped us reduce waste considerably. It’s this, plus the ProMaster’s speed, that has helped us see a return on our investment within eight months. It has given us the confidence to take on more orders and remain competitively priced.” 

But the benefits of the Pro-Master are not just in the present day, as the forward-thinking company continues to explore new ways to grow and diversify. “Later this month, we’re set to launch a brand-new e-commerce door company which will allow us to maximise the machine’s running capacity. We’re also looking at some commercial projects too. It’s certainly a long way from where we were in 2020 when we were faced with a staffing shortage. Without making the leap and modernising our production methods, I’m certain we wouldn’t be in business today. At best, we’d have been running at a seriously reduced rate. Now, we’re pumped to see what the future will hold as we continue our ambitious five-year growth plan. One thing is for certain though, we couldn’t have achieved any of this without the guidance and support of Weinig UK’s team and we couldn’t produce our range of solid and engineered wood products at this level without our robust ProMaster CNC. For those people looking to take the next step, talk to Weinig. Their advice really was a game-changer for us and I couldn’t recommend them more highly.”