My shop has always made its own cabinet doors, but we are considering buying the doors to speed up production.
We have two concerns:
1. We always make an effort to match grain on panel glue-ups and also try to use interesting grain patterns for panels. We feel we will lose this quality control if we outsource.
2. We always (partially) pre-finish our panels prior to glue-up. How do we avoid showing unfinished wood when panel shrinkage results?
I make my own doors for quality concerns. I tried a local door manufacturer and found it more profitable, but the quality wasn't what I wanted. They didn't match any grain, and the copes all had tear-outs. Doors seem to be the bottleneck in my shop, but since we're after quality, we have to cope with it.
Personally, I feel that there is a middle ground in the grain/color selection process that抯 important to shoot for. Building a kitchen is different than building a one-off piece of furniture. In the furniture piece, with probably no more than a 6 or 8 doors, it抯 usually no problem to go the extra mile grain and color-wise. When you抮e faced with 40 or more doors to build, it becomes important to homogenize the look a bit, spreading minor variations throughout the kitchen. I抦 not really recommending that you relax your standards, just that you spread the standard over the whole job somewhat.
We were once in your position. In order to satisfy production demands, we looked at outsourcing doors and finishing. A visit to the door maker showed me machines that I could never afford to own: straight-o-planes, optimizing cut-off saws, hi-speed moulders, profile sanders, and 3-head, 42 inch widebelts. While those machines don抰 guarantee high quality, they make getting it an efficient process. My next visit was to a custom finisher. He was a wood finishing specialist using sophisticated systems that turned out near-bulletproof, piano quality finishes. I gave them both a try卆nd never looked back.
There are many qualified door makers listed in WOODWEB's Components Directory.
This could be a short-term solution that will help you get into better numbers and allow you to grow your business to a better level of production. It will also build your understanding about the value of outsourcing for the most important person you work with--you! People outsource mostly as a matter of convenience to themselves. People leave outsourcing for the main reason of a desire to control their own production and lead times. It's not what's right or wrong, but what's right for you and your company. And things change, based on where you and your company are at any given moment.
Jon Elvrum, forum technical advisor