“We call ourselves a high tech company that makes kitchens,” said Luke Elias, president of Muskoka Cabinet Co.
With 70 employees in an 18,600 square foot workshop, the Ontario-based manufacturer produces three times the industry average, per square foot and per employee. “We’ve put a lot of volume into this small plant, and it won’t be long before we’re four times the industry average – that’s one of our goals. “
Elias credits the company’s success to its “great team of people who embrace my vision for technology and automation”.
It was a request from his mother for a kitchen makeover that gave Elias his start as a cabinetmaker. He not only created a revolving door system, but Elias also produced the glossy acrylic cabinets. “I thought that was pretty cool.”
Soon after, in 1989 during his final year of business school, Elias saw an ad for sale for a cabinet maker. Knowing he was interested, “My wife said, ‘Just go buy it.’ ” He did it.
Under Elias’ leadership, the company has become renowned for its use of technology and the tailoring of production to lean. He is frequently invited to speak at events and share the journey. “I love to talk about what we’ve done in Muskoka and the breakthroughs we’ve made. I am proud of the fact that other people in the industry are asking me to find out more about what we have been doing at the company. Recent additions to the company’s lineup include an RFID robotic panel processing cell and an RFID-enabled finishing line.
Along with the continuous improvement of the production process, another goal of Elias is employee empowerment. “If you do it right with automation, you can actually increase your employees’ salaries and attract better employees. “
Recruiting new workers into the industry is a key concern and a priority that Elias shares with others. “We need to let students of all ages know that manufacturing wood products can be a rewarding career choice – financially and otherwise. “
Elias is actively involved in promoting the industry and sits on the board of directors of Canadian Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers. He is also involved in community projects and the company donates funds to the YMCA and other organizations, including approximately $ 20,000 per year to Christie Lake Kids, a camp for underprivileged children.
Outside of work, Elias enjoys traveling, training and spending time with his family. “Because I have a great team, I have the time to do these things.”
• Education: Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa
• Number of years in the company: 32 years
• Number of years in the industry: 32 years
• Word that best describes you: Persistent – I never give up.
• Commercial mantra: where there is a will, there is a way. I learned this from my parents and I think it helped shape everything I did.
• Best Advice: If you’re not in business to make money, you shouldn’t be in business. I was taught that at a very young age.
• Who have you tried to emulate: There are two. Walt Disney was a visionary on steroids – he was a master of experiments and an extraordinary visionary. The other is Henry Ford. An industrial entrepreneur in the production line, and he also introduced the concept of paying employees good wages.
About the market leaders in the wood industry: This is the 13th year that the Woodworking Network has honored exceptional men and women who have made an impact, not only in their businesses, but within the various wood products industries. Since 2009, more than 85 industry professionals have shared their influencers, ideas and strategies. Learn more about the 2021 and past winners at WoodworkingNetwork.com/Market-Leaders.