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Stickley Furniture Operations Management

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    After changing management current Stickley Furniture managers were able to turn the company around, growing and generating a steady demand for their products. They produce fine cherry, white oak, and mahogany furniture with a prestigious line of mission oak furniture. Stickley Furniture has a production facility outside of Syracuse, New York but has various showrooms in New York State, Connecticut and North Carolina.

    Employing 1,350 employees, Stickley Furniture has been able to gain report with local customers and gain a large market share in the north eastern part of the country. Using a continuous process paired with batch and job shop processes, they are able to maintain a level production schedule. This enables them to continuously produce furniture during times of low demand and have enough furniture in stock to handle the high demand times of the year. Seasonality paired with their level production keep Stickley Furniture in constant production. Introduction

    Stickley Furniture manufacturers fine cherry, white oak, and mahogany furniture with a prestigious line of mission oak furniture. Stickley Furniture has a production facility outside of Syracuse, New York but has various showrooms in New York State, Connecticut and North Carolina. Employing 1,350 employees, Stickley Furniture has been able to gain report with local customers and gain a large market share in the north eastern part of the country. With continued growth and technological advances, they have the opportunity to increase production and streamline production processes.

    Explanation of Various Processes used in Production Stickley Furniture uses a variety of processes to complete each piece of furniture. They have developed a way to utilize their seasonal demand to their benefit. Utilizing slower production times of the year enable Stickley Furniture to stay on top of production during the busy times of the year. The Continuous Process The majority of the production of furniture uses a continuous process. A continuous process consists of a very high volume of output (Stevenson, 2009). Most output is highly standardized and very low variety in the output.

    This non-standardization does not require significant flexibility of machines and production equipment. Worker skill levels vary from low to high depending on the complexity of the item to be produced (Stevenson, 2009). Stickley Furniture employs a variety of skills levels, from low to high. This variety is needed to keep production running at a consistant rate, as well as; having the highly skilled employees work on more intricate pieces. These highly skilled employees are able to aid the company in customization and inspection processes.

    The lower skilled employees are essential to the everyday production of furniture and play a crucial role in the finishing of the furniture. In the beginning of the production process, large and numerous pieces of lumber are sawed in various ways depending on the current process or desired end result. These pieces of lumber are sawed into smaller more manageable pieces to continue in the process. Implementing technology whenever possible has enabled Stickley Furniture to take these cut pieces of lumber and run then through a computer controlled “optimizer” saw.

    This saw improves productivity and helps to eliminate some waste (Stevenson, 2009). This technological addition is aided by workers who manually mark any major defects in the lumber and then feed the lumber through the optimizer. The computer recognizes the defects and determines the ideal cut for the desired results. Additional sawing operations are sometimes necessary for specific jobs, but that is included in a different process. After the sawing process, the unfinished wood is glued together and pressed with large presses that are able to hold 20 to 30 pieces at a time. The next ontinuous production process is the sanding operation. This process removes any excess glue and evens out the wood to prepare for further processing. After the pieces are sanded then Stickley Furniture utilizes another piece of technology, a CNC or numerically controlled router that makes grooves or specialty cuts. The pieces are then assembled to their various components and stamped with the date of production. These items are moved into “white inventory”, which is storage of all unfinished pieces. These pieces will eventually move to the finishing department, but this is upon final order for specifications.

    The Batch Process Although the majority of the processes of production for Stickley Furniture are continuous in nature; there are various elements of batch processing. Batch processing is where there is a moderate volume of goods produced with moderate variety in products (Stevenson, 2009). There is less variety in the production of the goods so the skill level is also at a moderate level. Batch processes in the Stickley Furniture production process are the more detailed work that may be done in moderate volume, such as an order for 20 dining sets all with a required design on them.

    This process would require deviation from the original processing, but the meat of the entire process is still in place. Batch processing allows for more detailed or specialized order, but still in larger quantities. The Job Shop Process The final process that is also included in the Stickley Furniture production line is job shop processing. Job shop processing often works on a smaller scale (Stevenson, 2009). The high variety of end products is usually low in volume. There is not a continuous cycle for job shop orders.

    They are not consistent or regular, but when they do come in, they require different processing and more specialized tasks. With the advent and usage of new technology, specialization has become easier for manufacturers (Baytos & Kleiner, 2010). Since Stickley Furniture has their own tool shop, or a place to repair broken machines and tools, they are able to serve specialized orders because of the flexibility of the tools used. Stickley Furniture also uses their highly skilled employees on more specialized orders such as a job shop order.

    This may include hand carving a piece of wood to meet the specifications of the order. Tracking Job Status and Location during Production Stickley Furniture holds a large inventory during the slow cycles of the year. Tracking the progress of the jobs and how much inventory they are holding is essential to ensure they are able to make production during the busy months. They are able to make more partially finished products then currently needed. These items go into “white storage” to wait for further processing.

    Before the unfinished pieces of furniture are moved to “white storage” Stickley Furniture utilizes a barcode system. This barcode system tracks the entire progress of the unfinished pieces of furniture. The furniture is tagged with a specific bar code enabling managers to track the progress and keep full track of the movement of inventory throughout the shop. Planning for a Large Order Aggregate planning for large orders is important for Stickley Furniture. Understanding and having a developed plan to schedule and process any job is essential to the success of the production process.

    They must determine when jobs are processed, whether it is based off of the order it was received, the due date or the quantity of the order (Stevenson, 2009). If Stickley Furniture were to receive an order for 40 mission oak dining room sets they would need to employ various plans and schedules to ensure the proper plan of action. First, they would need to insure there is enough wood in stock to complete the job. This would include the jobs in process now and the jobs before the 40 mission oak dining room sets.

    If there is not enough wood to complete the project then the manager must be in contact with the proper ordering team who would inform the supplier of the need for more oak wood. Once it is confirmed that the order can be started they must determine if there is enough time to complete all 40 pieces by the due date. This could possibly include using previously made unfinished dining sets if they are available. This availability would be determined by accessing the computer system that houses the information obtained from the bar code entry system.

    The job is then started and the process would be best completed if all of the dining chairs were completed. This would enable to workers to keep the machines and tools in the same position, without having to adjust to produce a table. As the chairs are completed they are moved into the finishing room. Once the last chair has begun to process then the workers are able to begin to repair and change any mechanisms that are needed to produce a dining table. The tables are moved through the process as the chairs were. The order is officially complete when the furniture is boxed and ready to be shipped.

    The progress of the job will be monitored for errors as the job moves along with the help of the barcode system. Level Production Process Stickley Furniture has a level production policy. This means that they are in constant production at a steady level. This steady production is paired with the company’s seasonal demand patterns. The seasonal demand pattern is that during their slow times of the year, excess product is placed in inventory. This additional inventory aids in making demand during the busy times of the year. Job sequence is determined by this remaining inventory and the job processing time.

    There is flexibility in sequencing which allows similar jobs with similar setups to be produced together (Stevenson, 2009). The benefits of a level production policy are the ability to utilize and take advantage of the low demand. Often, low demand results in production down time which costs money. Stickley Furniture is able to use that low demand time of the year to their benefit. They keep a level production and then store the pieces in inventory. When there is a peak in production they are able to supplement with items in inventory rather than pushing production, and risking lower quality items.

    Another benefit is the ability to produce similar jobs together which reduces setup time and lowers costs (Stevenson, 2009). Also, with a level production policy Stickley Furniture is able to ensure the safety of their workers and the quality of their products. This is done by not pushing the equipment or the workers to their limit (Stevenson, 2009). Although there are many benefits of a level production system; there are a few problems that may occur. Stickley Furniture cannot predict the future, so they do not know exactly what inventory may be needed during busy times.

    They are able to forecast based off of previous years, but this may not be accurate. With this being said there is a possibility for over producing and having too much excess inventory. They run the risk of those items not being sold. Also, with no set down time in production, they would risk being behind if they must shut the production line down for serious repairs. If a job comes through that is rushed, it may push the other jobs aside, if this is the case it would case a ripple in the continuous production style.

    Beneficial Changes

    I feel that Stickley Furniture has done an excellent job using their time effectively. Keeping level production has allowed them to take advantage of low demand times as well as produce efficiently during times of higher demand. If Stickley Furniture wants to implement a TQM (total quality management) approach to their production process, it would require continual improvement of the quality of the projects. For Stickley Furniture their workers inspect as they go, which is a good way to keep on top of issues and the final inspection is done my quality control.

    To implement a TQM strategy they must provide a greater emphasis on customer satisfaction, insuring deadlines and others are met appropriately (Smith, 2010). No large manufacturing changes are recommended.


    1. Baytos, K, & Kleiner, B. (1995, February).
    2. New Developments in Job Design. Business Credit, 97(2), 22. Smith, J.. (2011, July).
    3. Enhance Your Quality Culture. Quality, 50(7), 18. Stevenson, W. (2009).
    4. Operations Management (10th ed. ). New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Irwin Companies, Inc.

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