Made in Kingman: American Woodmark makes cabinets, lots and lots of cabinets

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<BR>
From left, American Woodmark employees Nate Winchell (foreground) and Dennis Begay put the finishing touches on kitchen cabinets that are ready to be boxed and shipped. Woodmark has assembled more than 13.5 million cabinets in Kingman since 1986.

JC AMBERLYN/Miner<BR> From left, American Woodmark employees Nate Winchell (foreground) and Dennis Begay put the finishing touches on kitchen cabinets that are ready to be boxed and shipped. Woodmark has assembled more than 13.5 million cabinets in Kingman since 1986.

KINGMAN - The numbers for the American Woodmark plant in Kingman Industrial Park are staggering.

Built in 1986, the company located at 4475 E. Mohave Airport Drive has assembled 13.5 million cabinets since its inception. Its 425 hourly and 33 salaried fulltime employees work hard to put together cabinets from parts shipped in by manufacturing plants in Kentucky and West Virginia.

From 4 a.m. to midnight, doors, drawer fronts and frames are unloaded, stored in racks, pulled, inspected, sanded, painted, wiped, sealed, inventoried and put together as finished cabinets on four assembly lines before being boxed and loaded onto trucks. From there, they are sent to 14 western states, including Hawaii and Alaska, and sold to home improvement centers, builders, distributors and independent kitchen dealers. They include Lowes, the Home Depot, Ameritage and Richmond American.

The company offers five brand names of cabinets - Potomac, Shenandoah, Waypoint Living Spaces, American Woodmark and Timberlake Cabinetry - that feature about 550 cabinet lines in a wide variety of woods, from cherry to maple, as well as painted and stained finishes. The cabinet hardware, such as knobs, pulls and hinges, is imported from Europe.

Plant Manager Robert Batty said that while the parent company has been in business for 30 years, its origins date back to the late 1950s, when a company called Raygold produced cabinetry for dental and medical offices in Virginia. It was purchased by Boise-Cascade, and in 1980 a group of its managers made a leveraged buyout of the company and named it American Woodmark.

Now, the parent company, which is the third-largest cabinetmaker in the nation, runs nine manufacturing and assembling plants, with the Kingman site being the only facility west of the Mississippi River. Batty said the assembly facilities are located in smaller communities with good access to transportation. For Kingman, it's I-40 and close proximity to Las Vegas and southern California.

But for Batty, who took over operations two years ago, the reason behind the company's success is not only its superior product, but its attention to the company's guiding principles - customer satisfaction, integrity, teamwork and excellence. In fact, American Woodmark's slogan is "Creating Value Through People."

"The main distinction for me is our attention to people and how we treat them," said Batty. "Our slogan is not just a saying hung on the wall. We actively adhere to our principles. As our chief executive officer says, we are a values-based and vision-driven organization. And we want to create a superior vision for our customers."

Batty said that vision starts with paying attention to detail, being proud of the work, providing training opportunities, ensuring a good work environment, being environmentally friendly and focusing on safety. Batty said the parent company creates a new vision every six years and sets annual goals to achieve its vision and better serve customers and employees.

Batty said the company recently hired 20 new employees and will continue to hire more as they are needed. At least half of the new hires are family members or friends of those already employed, said Batty. Employees range in age from 17 to 70 years old and are provided with a full array of benefits, including bonuses.

And because most of the building isn't air-conditioned during the hot summer months, the company provides free ice and popsicles to employees, and supervisors encourage their workers to stay hydrated and take breaks. Also, employees participate in two stretching exercises each day that take place before their shift and midway through it. Batty said employees have a peer recognition wall and are constantly updated about pertinent information, including cost, performance, quality, safety and delivery, .

Jim Ilgenfritz, a 26-year employee who is team leader in the salvage department, said he appreciates receiving a steady paycheck that allows him to indulge his passion of playing music on the weekends. Ilgenfritz said the company provides a good product and a good work environment.

"Working here has enabled me to buy a house and keep it," said Ilgenfritz. "In light of the economy, the company has survived because it has stayed with the times.. Others have failed but we keep in step with what the customer wants. If you achieve success and then you rest, you may not be here next year. It's a surviving company."

As for customers, said Batty, they receive a product that is well-built and has a lifetime warranty on many of its lines. Batty said the cabinets are made of good, solid material and have an attractive design and finish.

The Kingman plant also plays a silent but important role in the community, said Batty, through its 501C3 organization, the American Woodmark Foundation. A local board composed mostly of hourly employees hands out thousands of dollars in grants each year to worthy causes, from food pantries to women's shelters, as well as to sports teams, Relay for Life and others.

"We are more involved in the community than people think, but we're low-key about it because we don't want any publicity," said Batty. "Our new company vision hasn't been released yet, but I know one of the key points is being a good corporate citizen in the community where we are located. That's really important to us."

He said the company's future in Kingman looks bright, especially as the housing market recovers, which means more cabinets, more employees and more financial assistance to the community.

"If the housing market continues to improve, we could get back to higher volume," said Batty.."We may never return to where we were before the crash, but it would be nice for this community to have more jobs."

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