Photos: Distinctive Wood Products
Distinctive Wood Products has nearly doubled its production space and number of employees in the past two years.
Alec Huynh is the President of Distinctive Wood Products of Kitchener, Ontario, and he is proud to talk about the recent growth they have been able to achieve through a carefully planned expansion of their plant and product offering.
Distinctive Wood Products now operates from two buildings – having expanded in early 2020 – totaling “just over 35,000 total square feet with 53 employees, 38 of whom are in manufacturing.
“It’s really a great story,” says Huynh. “Two years ago, I was the 24th employee hired, so we were very fortunate, even in these difficult times, to be able to grow the business significantly.”
Manufacturing is roughly split with a drawer box manufacturing facility and the new door production facility.
“We have strategically split the production of our two core products and although we have had to increase the size of our fleet, we have not had to duplicate equipment as the two business units use different types of equipment for manufacturing and assembly.
“It was part of our plan to grow and to find efficiencies.”
Joe Duimering and his wife Sue launched Distinctive Wood Products in 1992.
“As a cabinet maker, Joe was not very happy with the quality of the doors he received from his suppliers and he began to investigate making his own dovetail doors and drawer boxes, which which ultimately led him to start his own company to make a better product,” says Huynh.
“And so he started to focus on making quality cabinet components rather than cabinet work, and business took off and he refocused all of his efforts on building better components. .”
Then in 2019 Duimering was looking for investors and/or partners to further develop the business and that’s how AnnexPark got involved.
AnnexPark Capital was founded by Alan Lever and Stephen Luengo to invest in and grow a small portfolio of leading Canadian private small and mid-sized companies. The company is based in Toronto and founded on the guiding principles of trust and integrity.
“So Stephen and Alan came on board on July 1, 2019, Joe continues on the board,” Huynh explains.
Distinctive Wood Products specializes in providing quality fashion products including MDF cabinet doors, primed ready-to-paint components, as well as dovetail drawer boxes and custom wood components and accessories.
Huynh says the company has experienced a period of incredible growth over the past two years as “we are riding this unprecedented wave.
“We have almost doubled our production space and the number of employees and our sales increases have kept pace, so we are very lucky. It was truly remarkable, especially considering the short period of time. Alan and Steve have made significant investments to make growth possible.
“Just recently we invested in a fully automated Venjakob flat finishing system that goes into a seven stack oven, increasing our added value with consistent product quality in priming our MDF doors versus doing it manually.
“And that has already made a huge difference for us. We are also planning to start the finish coating. »
Huynh says they have several customers who have joined in and are willing to work with them as they slowly introduce topcoat options to their lines.
“Our approach has always been that we want to be good at something before we go into the mass market, so we’re working with those customers to dial that in and then we’ll offer it to all of our customers.
At this stage, the topcoat line is solvent-based, but Huynh says some customers request a water-based option “and we are testing with our suppliers to introduce a universal water-based primer option that allows primer to meet both solvent and waterborne topcoat preferences.
“We are excited about this new opportunity and how it could provide our clients with another opportunity to sell to their respective end customer.”
Looking ahead, Huynh says they continue to plan for further growth.
“Since I arrived in September 2019, we have added four CNC machines, automated with a flat line and an oven to the finishing department, and we just placed an order for two more CNCs and that’s right on the door side and additional capital from investments in our infrastructure to support our growth plans.
“On the drawer side, we added an assembly machine and a dovetail to support our two main lines. Maple which is our premium line and we have the birch line but we also offer other species such as walnut and white oak but these require a little longer lead time but if it’s is something anyone wants, we can provide it. For some customers, we have also just started a plywood line which has been well received to complement their project work offerings. »
Distinctive Wood Products deliver most of their products to customers in Ontario and the majority are small woodworking shops, but they also have large accounts and “we’ve only just started to expand into Western Canada. and in Quebec.
Additionally, through relationships and word of mouth, they have recently started adding new customers in the United States as well.
And again, Huynh says it’s the same kind of philosophy for their clientele, some large accounts, but the majority are cabinet makers who complete a kitchen or two a week.
“Of course, part of our growth is a result of this wave of renovations that we’re seeing across the industry, as people sit in their homes all day and spend money on upgrades,” he said.
“Having said that, I think it has mostly to do with our quality, the way we build our doors for example. It brings so much value to our customers and more and more people are seeing it.
“Joe has put us in a position of innovators, the way our two-piece door is constructed, and we’re taking full advantage of that now with careful planning and strategic investment.
“One of our key selling features is the quality of our products and the premium materials we use,” says Huynh.
“As a cabinet maker, you can certainly buy a door cheaper than ours, but people are realizing that they can add a lot of value to their kitchens by using our high quality products and at the same time reduce their cost. of respective in-house manufacture. We understand our customers and that’s part of why we’ve been able to grow through their trust in our product.
And Huynh says the company is seeing additional growth now because its customers are increasingly asking for that extra added value and ordering more finished products, “because their problem is hiring finishers and opening up their capacity.
“We have now automated our painting process, so this is the biggest breakthrough we’ve had in nearly three years. That and other automation, like rotary sanders, and we used those extra efficiencies to help us grow.
You can’t grow a business without loyal customers and a reliable supply chain, “which has been a big factor for us, especially in these tough times. For example, we are not experiencing significant supply chain issues despite the well-known challenges in this area at the moment.
“Our suppliers are very supportive of us and our plans and I truly believe that is another critical key to our success.”
“Exponential growth comes with challenges as we expand our business. Adding new teammates and supporting their development to our best manufacturing and quality principles is a big part of our future success. During these periods of expansion, our delivery times were certainly stretched beyond our standards, especially during this busy period,” says Huynh, “but they were able to ‘meet delivery commitments that remain well within industry standards.
What is the difference?
“Simply put, we believe we make a better product using higher quality materials and we carry that through to the finish.
“Our experience and loyalty to our customers and supply chain ensures our customers can trust our ability to maintain supply and improve products for their customers,” says Huynh.
“We also have a top notch customer service team so we don’t lose that strength and at the end of the day I think we’re just selling a better product.