Local franchise deploys innovative Industry 4.0 Technology to Streamline Material Handling and Production for its Custom Storage Products
California Closets Indianapolis Franchise
California Closets in Indianapolis operates the brand in Indiana and also serves communities in Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky.
California Closets® pioneered custom storage solutions in 1978 beginning with residential closet systems. In the decades since, it has grown into a major industry with more than 100 locations worldwide. Much of the company’s growth has been powered by franchising, and Indiana franchisee President Marcus Hall and his two partners, both of whom are long-time friends and mentors, are similarly part of the Threefold group. Threefold is a long-term private equity organization that currently includes 6 companies, each with its own president and operating partner. Marcus previously was with Exact Target, a Salesforce acquisition. “Scaling a tech organization and then manufacturing, while similar in some respects, has been a humbling experience,” Marcus acknowledged. “But it’s been amazing. I think there’s a way to love, care and support our workforce, and the tech industry does a great job of that. I think we can do better in manufacturing.” The franchise growth over the past 18 years has validated that belief.
Marcus considers himself an entrepreneur even though his company was not a start-up. “I became part of an existing organization, but manufacturing has been an awesome process to be a part of. We’re producing a tangible product every day that has an impact.” Because it’s a franchise, it came with guidelines to follow; however, there is what Hall calls “freedom within a framework.” The California Closets franchise system affords me the opportunity to operate my business as an independent business owner and to be innovative within our business “leaning out over our skis a bit. ”The equipment purchase supported by the Manufacturing Readiness Grants award was one example of that.“ It’s a unique solution with software that supports the actual hardware and equipment.
More than just simply moving materials: The smart manufacturing technology combines software, hardware and material handling equipment to increase customer satisfaction and enhance production efficiency.
“We had outgrown our previous two facilities,” Marcus explained. “Anyone in manufacturing knows that operating a manufacturing line out of two buildings is a recipe for disaster. You don’t want to be under two roofs. We were able to move and consolidate last March into one facility.” A complete rehab of the building created tenant spaces, offices, meeting and conference rooms and the plant facility. Part of that move was an investment in new equipment and smart technology pieces. One of those investments was ‘Store Tech’, which was supported by an MRG.
“The purpose of the new equipment and software was to move large panels of material that we had moved by forklift or by hand previously. It was very laborious, and there was waste involved in moving large items. This software-enabled an automation solution that allows us to safely store more material and reduce the number of damaged parts and pieces. What was a manual material handling process is now fed into the Store Tech solution where very powerful suction cups grab one board at a time and put it in its proper place. The machine remembers all of the specs and builds a catalog of real-time inventory. It then grabs those sheets and feeds them to an operator to saw or cut the parts and pieces that make comprise our custom solutions.”
“The new equipment maintains the product in pristine condition, eliminating the bumps and scratches and surface damage that invariably happen with a multi-touch manual system. “Anytime we can reduce touches in a pre-finished product, we’re going to maintain the quality of the finished product installed in the customer’s home,” Marcus explained.
The company’s culture is designed to foster workforce growth and innovation.
The California Closets Indianapolis Franchise team and the Threefold group philosophy are both steeped in a culture that not only accepts change, but actively wants and recommends smart technology. “From the jump,” Marcus said, “our team was over the moon about this. They felt it was an investment in them, not a risk.” It wasn’t difficult to get buy-in for a system that eliminates wrestling big, heavy sheets of raw product and the wear and tear that creates on a body. The team is empowered to learn and recommend new systems and products that enable better operations in any area.
Industry 4.0 technology adoption increases production efficiency.
There are financial performance gains and cost reductions we expect from this investment and, while the cultural gains are less measurable, they are just as important. We can continue to invest in the future and stay ahead. We can serve more customers, which means we’re growing and adding more people, jobs and scale. “The ability to scale the local organization, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and make it safer for our team just made it obvious that this was the right tool for our long-term vision.” Marcus believes his local franchise has only begun to scratch the surface of what the new equipment can do.