2011

Meet Our Readers: Ben Hager, Custom Engineer, Library Furniture

What are your time constraints?

It depends on the job. All jobs are given six weeks in production. Sometimes that cuts our time down, depending on when the dealer gets the information to our project managers, and then sometimes it helps when it is all standard. Jobs which are all standard items go quicker. You bring the items into Inventor, produce the cut sheets and drawings, and out to production they go. We have books of standard drawings in all areas of Production. Each style of furniture has its own book. Our layout and CNC guys have their books with drawings pertaining to their needs. Our Top department has their part drawings, and Assembly has both part and assembly drawings. Our other plant has copies of assembly drawings showing where all the different hardware is attached.

Custom is totally different. The time has to be adjusted to the size and scope of the project. Some are a couple years in design before they even get turned into a purchase order. On rare occasions, the job will wind up having to be squeezed in due to foot-dragging, but that just makes it more fun.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

I love to see the end result.  When we did the library in Statesville, NC (our local county library), I worked in all areas of it at the time. I was doing estimating and engineering, even installation.  I even wound up getting involved more with local politics.  My daughters were five when we did the job in 2004, and they love going in now and working on “Dad’s” furniture.

There are a few pieces from a line of children’s furniture I designed that we donated to the library after they let us photograph it there. I like seeing it used and knowing that it will be there for many years to come.

What do you think is the most exciting development happening right now with engineering? Have things changed?

The choices of 3D software have changed the way engineering operates. The ability to create a product and never have to cut a single piece of wood or metal to show the customer what they are getting, and how it operates, is very cost efficient.  I have worked with Cabinet Vision, Pattern Systems, trained a little on Solidworks, and now work with Inventor. There are free downloads and other 3D software for purchase that anyone can use, and some work for basic layouts and presentations, but don’t give all the bells and whistles.

Now a customer doesn’t have to wait a couple of days for the paper work to be sent, then reviewed, then sent back in a few days. PDF files can be sent to them in a few seconds. If the customer wants something changed, maybe a little taller or shorter back panel, we make the change, and in a few minutes have the approval.  There is still a little time involved, but the ability to connect with the customer through their computer monitors can cut that down also.

I thought when I started with AutoCAD that I would keep my drafting table at home available to do hand drawings.  Now, I have a computer with a CAD program installed sitting on my drafting table.

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