Door Opens to Bright Future for Brian’s Cabinets

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(Brian’s Cabinets new production area | Photo by Cascade Business News)

Leading Central Oregon manufacturer Brian’s Cabinets has unveiled its new home in the shape of a 42,000-square-foot state-of-the art custom facility on Sockeye Place in Bend’s North East industrial sector.

The project, designed by locally based STEELE Associates Architects and built by Empire Construction & Development, has been in the works for some two years, after the cabinetry specialist outgrew its former 33,000-square-foot location off American Lane.

Brian’s Cabinets has garnered a reputation for crafting products of exceptional quality and value since its relatively humble beginnings as a two-person shop in 1977, and has evolved to become a prime manufacturer with cutting-edge production capabilities that has strived to stay at the forefront of its industry’s design and construction technology.

As one of the largest cabinet shops in the region, it is also one of the area’s more sizeable employers, with a current workforce of around 65 and an expanded capacity to potentially add ten more at the new facility, as needed. 

Named for the original founder, Brian’s Cabinets was purchased in 2003 by current owner Todd Hakala, who has strong roots in Central Oregon as a resident of Bend since early childhood. 

Since taking over the helm, Hakala has overseen expansion of product offerings, adding the proprietary Evergreen line of kitchens, closets and garages (also manufactured in Bend), invested significantly in the latest equipment and developed relationships in the Portland, Seattle and Bay Areas, to foster further growth.

He added, “As a full-line cabinet manufacturer that specializes in custom designs with the ability to provide a comprehensive selection and price for any project in the home, we can offer countless options to personalize virtually any design concept, with even wider scope to cater to specifications engineered for an exact fit from the new facility.”

The majority of the new space is occupied by the main production area, featuring 40 foot ceiling height and voluminous natural light, thanks to elevated windows throughout the manufacturing facility, flanked by a showroom and offices on the ground level and a partial upper mezzanine overlooking the shop floor.

Other amenities include conference and meeting rooms, and an employee kitchen/break room featuring a glass-paneled overhead door leading to a generous outdoor patio.

Hakala said, “Our primary focus is on custom work, exclusively in the residential sector, and we have developed strong long-term relationships with a number of clients, including shipping to major customers in Northern California.

“We undertake around 30 to 40 projects a month in a wide range of sizes, and our people worked with the design team and Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP) who specialize in promoting a ‘lean manufacturing’ operating philosophy, to come up with the optimal layout and function for the new building to best meet our needs. Local OMEP consultant Dave Slavensky was also very helpful in this process.

“We went from 33,000 square feet to 42,000, but the former space had evolved into something of a ‘hodge podge’ fitting in to two previous existing buildings, so the new facility feels even more spacious due to the greater efficiencies that were built in.

“We have a strong core group of employees, many who have been with the company for ten to 15-plus years, and they are very happy with the new facility and expanded amenities.”

Hakala also paid tribute to Empire Construction & Development owner Kevin Spencer, who identified the 3.5-acre site and navigated several land use issues with the City of Bend towards the final outcome.

He said, “Originally, Sockeye was earmarked to be continued all the way to Lower Meadow Drive, but in the current day and age it didn’t really make a lot of practical sense, and Kevin was able to work with the City, whose flexibility in this case we appreciated, to satisfy modified requirements such as providing bike paths and so forth, so we could come up with a workable compromise.

“Kevin and his company were also very responsive every step of the way, and receptive to dealing with a number of challenges, including changing tack to accommodate sizeable spray booths and an extensive, sophisticated dust collection system.

“They also had to remove some 3200 yards of rock that were able to be re-used to flatten out the site, and along with Empire Construction as general contractor, we had a great group of subs that cared a great deal and it was a rewarding experience all-around that delivered an excellent facility.”

Project architect Adam Stephen observed, “Todd and his team were very well organized and the end results of how things made sense spatially were reflected in their preparation. They went through some 38 different iterations and the floor was taped out to scale regarding placement of equipment etc., so the final plant transition from the old to new facility was made as seamless as possible.

“There were a number of interesting dimensions to this project, including the electrical aspect which was a critical component of the overall layout.

“Todd engaged OMEP as the consultant to study function and flow – assembly being everything in a cabinet shop – and they were heavily involved in equipment and its positioning as part of optimizing the production line, which is as an integral part of the design.

“Elite Electrical then had to coordinate to ensure power connections synchronized with each piece of equipment with the flow, as part of a very sophisticated mapping program. The purpose of the facility also required more power than in a typical industrial warehouse.

“Another important component was the extensive dust collection system fabricated by CSL Systems out of Eugene. It is a sophisticated process which pulls dust particulate from every corner of the plant, and actually Larry Scharf with mechanical engineers CEA Engineering hit upon pursuing Energy Trust incentives to re-use heat generated by the friction of the system, meaning Todd can heat the space virtually for free.

“The dust collection system is also much more efficient than the previous location, which had two relatively antiquated pieces of equipment for that purpose.

“Another important piece of the project is the showroom that ir currently being finished out, which will give a great opportunity to bring clientele and showcase the product – cabinetry often being one of the biggest line items in any project.”

Hakala added, “We tried to do our homework as thoroughly as possible, including, for example, concentrating nosier equipment at one end of the building, and maximizing production line flow efficiency, and thanks to good preparation and the assistance of Keeco Crane, we managed to minimize downtime and move the entire plant inside a week!”

Energy Trust of Oregon was also involved in incentives for promoting energy efficiency in the plant, with sustainable elements including recycling waste materials for secondary wood products use, and utilizing dust collection friction return air for heating and cooling balance.

Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) CEO Roger Lee added, “We have worked with Todd over the last 13 years regarding trying to help figure out room to expand. 

“There have been a lot of twists and turns including economic fluctuations, but Todd has persevered, which is a testament to his intuitiveness. Bend Business Advocate Ben Hemson was also helpful in liaising with Kevin and the City on the planning front.

“We were glad to be able to assist with the new project, including navigating Enterprise Zone incentives, and are proud to have been involved in helping a great local traded-sector manufacturing company successfully stay and grow in Bend.

“The Brian’s Cabinets’ team has also embraced efficiency and effectiveness practices such as those espoused by OMEP through David, which is essential to maintain competitiveness and the ability to grow through lowering operating costs and improving productivity.”

About OMEP

OMEP draws on its team’s significant depth and breadth of real-world manufacturing experience bringing a thoughtful problem-solving approach to eliminating obstacles companies face. With roots in lean as a business operating philosophy, OMEP leverages these methodologies to provide solutions in Manufacturing Operations, Business Financials & Strategy and Organizational Development to be a source for growth and prosperity for Oregon manufacturers.

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Simon Mather — CBN Feature Writer

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