“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 manufacturer produces three times the industry average, per square foot, per employee. “We’ve put a lot of volume into this small factory, and it won’t be long before we have 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 renovation that gave Elias his start as a cabinetmaker. He not only created a drum-rolling system for the doors, Elias also produced the high-gloss acrylic cabinetry. “I thought that was pretty cool.”
Shortly after, in 1989 during his final year of business school, Elias saw a sales ad for a cabinet maker. Knowing he was interested, “My wife said, ‘just go buy it.'” He did.
Under Elias’s leadership, the company became known for its use of technology and lean manufacturing. He is frequently invited to speak at events and share the journey. “I love talking about what we’ve done in Muskoka and the breakthroughs we’ve made. I’m proud that other people in the industry come to me to learn more about what we’ve done in the business. Recent additions to the company’s lineup include an RFID panel processing robot cell and an RFID-enabled finishing line.
Along with the continuous improvement of the production process, another Elias objective is the empowerment of employees. “If you do it right with automation, you can indeed increase your employees’ salaries – and attract better employees.”
Recruiting new workers into the industry is a key concern and goal that Elias shares with others. “We need to get the message out,” to students of all ages, that wood product manufacturing 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 the 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 annually to Christie Lake Kids, a camp for underprivileged children.
Outside of work, Elias enjoys travelling, working out and spending time with his family. “Because I have a great team, I have 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.
• Business Mantra: Where there is a will, there is a way. I learned that from my parents and I think that helped shape everything I’ve done.
• 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 did you try to imitate: 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 of the production line, and he also introduced the concept of paying a good salary to employees.
About the market leaders in the wood industry: This is the 13th year that 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.